In a blockbuster move announced today, sports cable leader ESPN ended NBC’s 43-year reign as U.S. righstholder for Wimbledon by swooping in and snatching the contract to the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. And it’s a win for American tennis fans.
Under the new 12-year-old deal which begins next year, ESPN will expand their current coverage to include middle and final weekend matches on live on their networks, and that includes ABC and the main ESPN network, not just ESPN2. That means no more tape delayed semifinal and final matches as NBC has scheduled for many years drawing the ire of fans, especially those on the west coast.
ESPN and ESPN2 will also air matches simultaneously during the men’s and women’s fourth and quarterfinal rounds allowing viewers to see many more key matches live.
“We are delighted to be extending our partnership with ESPN, in a move which will consolidate our U.S. media rights under the auspices of a single partner,” said Wimbledon Chief Ian Ritchie.
Said ESPN President George Bodenheimer, “We are proud to have been a partner of The All England Club the past nine years and are thrilled to be given continuing responsibility for honoring Wimbledon’s rich tradition. Over the next 12 years, we’ll work closely together to move coverage of this great event forward with live coverage on television and using all the latest technologies and screens.”
Through 2023, the ESPN schedule will increase to more than 140 hours, including full live national coverage of the semifinals and finals, both men’s and women’s. ESPN3.com’s schedule will expand to 750 hours, also with the semifinals and finals presented live.
Since 2009, ESPN has aired all four Grand Slam events. The network have televised the Australian Open since 1984, the French Open since 2002, Wimbledon since 2003 and the US Open since 2009.
With the NBC’s departure, John McEnroe will be without an American outlet during Wimbledon, unless ESPN picks him up as they did for the U.S. Open.
NBC, however, still has the rights to the French Open.
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