Say Goodbye to Tape Delay! ESPN Snatches Wimbledon Rights from NBC

by Staff | July 5th, 2011, 12:56 pm

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.’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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26 Comments for Say Goodbye to Tape Delay! ESPN Snatches Wimbledon Rights from NBC

Cherry Says:

Thank you for this article. Whether it is NBC or ESPN, what’s important to me is we get to see the games on TV.

nickp Says:

NBC learned its lesson: Wimbledon prefers its event covered live

RZ Says:

This is GREAT news! ESPN does a fantastic job of covering all competitive matches, not just matches with a marquee name (like NBC). They also have Darren Cahill, one of the best commentators.

Kimmi Says:

ESPN should only stop chatting too much. it could then be a good coverage.

dari Says:

yes, kimmi-less time chatting and less time “in the studio” and with montages, etc. ha!

jane Says:

Kimmi, 100% agree. :)

scoreboard66 Says:

ESPN’s coverage is along the lines of a sports desk format and not for the actual broadcasting of the matches being played. The purpose of the desk is that of analyses, interviews and discussions. ESPN does feature a few matches and they switch back and forth between those so as to facilitate their commentaries. Due to the dsk and commentators role in ESPN coverage it’s the reason they have set up for only match viewing. I’ve heard the commentators state many times that all of the matches are being shown on ESPN3 for those who want to see them. That said, I don’t think we can expect ESPN to show matches in their entirety as it will defeat the role or purpose of the ESPN commentators’desk.

billyboy512 Says:

Thank god no more John McEnroe. He sounds like the rambling drunk at the end of the bar who won’t shut the f+ck up. Good riddance!

Trilby Says:

Hooray for ESPN! NBC’s commentary team drives me to turn off the sound part way through every GS final. I agree with RZ – Darren Cahill is terrific. Now if ESPN will just retire Dick Enberg and leave Hannah Storm at home, I will be one entirely contented tennis addict. But I worry about this increasing move to shift match coverage to We can’t get this in Canada, probably because the ESPN feed comes through TSN -and as a Mac user I don’t seem to have the option to subscribe to a package to receive the matches directly on line.

joe Says:

Word Trilby. Word.

RZ Says:

Trilby, you’re right about Hannah Storm. I don’t remember her being so bad during her NBC days, but she was certainly embarrassing this time around, calling Michael Russell “Michael Young” repeatedly and saying that Caroline Wozniacki was from Germany (at least she corrected herself on that latter point).

Kimmi, I agree that they talk too much but sadly that’s the way any American network will cover any sport. At least with Darren Cahill and Brad Gilbert we get a bit more about the game and strategy and less gossipy stuff, and those guys are willing to take a break from talking unlike John McEnroe and Mary Carillo.

What I’m most looking forward to is seeing different matches being played. I like ESPN’s format of switching to courts that have some excitement going on rather than NBC’s strategy of sticking with a marquee name routing a lesser player.

Mike Says:

Oh come on! ESPN? really guys? Remember when the us network had french and us open. Everybody loves the carrilo robinson and mac team… now it appears thats gone. IS this gonna be on ABC? I mean they are losing viewership! In canada, we get bbc coverage once n a while its awesome. Heheh anyways thats my rant…. its not too bad i guess

Mike Says:

By the way what happened to Mal Washington

Wheeler Says:

Good riddance. Any broadcaster that doesn’t show a tennis grand slam live and especially finals should have no right to broadcast one ever.

funches Says:

Cahill is a shill for the players who share the same shoe company as he does, compromising his commentary. If he were American, everyone would jump on him for that, but since he’s an Aussie, no one notices.

John McEnroe is the best commentator I’ve ever heard in any sport. Although I’m glad more tennis will be on live, I’m sad that we’ll be subjected to the yackety-yack style of ESPN. NBC actually showed more tennis per hour than ESPN.

RZ Says:

Mike, I’d prefer the BBC but we don’t get it here in the states, so ESPN is as good as it gets.

Funches, there are SO many conflicts of interest when it comes to tennis commentary that Cahill is just the tip of the iceberg: e.g., Mary Jo Fernandez is married to Roger Federer’s agent and is still allowed to weigh in on his matches and interview him; Patrick MacEnroe used to captain Davis Cup but that didn’t stop him from being allowed to commentate on Andy Roddick’s matches; Chris Evert used to be Martina Hingis’s WTA mentor but that didn’t stop her from being allowed to commentate on her matches, etc., etc., etc. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated has pointed out many, many examples over the years. I used to like John McEnroe when he first started doing commentary but now can’t stand him, mostly because he no longer has anything new to say and yet won’t stop talking.

Joel Says:

This is the best thing to happen to tennis in the US in a few years. NBC has done a horrible job bringing tennis to more and more American eyeballs.

grendel Says:

I like McEnroe as a commentator, we see a bit of him on the BBC. He doesn’t take kindly to being corrected. Tracy Austin was saying how Sharapova was being given a dose of her own medicine by Kvitova, and this was a new experience for her. McEnroe interrupted to say the Williams sisters had given Sharpie some torrid times. Austin dismissed this as irrelevant, Kvitova being a flat hitter, like the Sharp herself. Ensuing silence from McEnroe drowning out any other sounds…

I also liked McEnroe because he kept the ambitious pipsqueak Andrew Castle under control. No longer, alas. The other day, as Castle was lording it in the commentary box, McEnroe popped in, a bit late. Castle greeted him genially, congratulating him on his snappy attire with just a hint of condescension in his voice. McEnroe felt it, judging by his slightly grumpy response, but seemed a bit nonplussed. Castle continued as if he were the senior commentator, and McEnroe did once or twice quite sharply put him down, but you could see it was a losing battle.The oleaginous Castle is now the BBC blue-eyed boy, McEnroe an eccentric bit player. I am appalled, quite frankly.

Mike Says:

agreed mac is the best commentator in all sports.

Up there with Bill russell and that scottish guy on the pga tour. He’s fair and balanced. And he has fun with it , with a quirky sense of humour.

I remember back in like 00 he broadcasted a whole day at the french with no one else in the booth. It was so funny…he ended up singing willie nelson songs hahaha. Does anyone remember the time he went wild on the us open and starting walking around the sites interviewing people all afternoon. This guy brings the fun!

jane Says:

I like J-Mac too, always have, because he isn’t a slave to the latest narratives. He just calls it like he sees it based on his own experience as a player but also on his love of the game. The man loves tennis. He is cool too.

dari Says:

Ack! Didn’t think about the loss of Jmac. Bummer.

jack Lewis Says:

Conflicts of interests an issue in the world of Sports? WTF? This bread and games diversion stuff is not supposed to be taken that seriously.

tennismonger Says:

…hope ESPN brings Bud Collins out from the cold…

El Flaco Says:


Well said and I agree that McEnroe has nothing new to say although he doesn’t annoy me that much. I like his brother Patrick better. With JMac it’s always the string technology, the fitness, so and so needs to put in more effort or so and so is playing more aggressive today blah blah blah. For someone who has never played tennis or just follows it casually he is perfect. Those people probably don’t want to hear Martina Navratilova because she is much more technical. She is by far the best commentator in my opinion.

El Flaco Says:

I do agree with Jane that JMac does call it like he sees it and he does love the game. If a player doesn’t give 100% effort in a match JMac will definitely call him on it.

Diego Says:

First of all, this is a move to broadcast Wimbledon in the USA, so in that regard it is a perfect move. I love Johnny Mac and Mary Carillo, but I absolutely hate NBC’s coverage and their tape-delayed format. Memo to NBC, it’s the 21st Century not the 1980’s, where showing tape-delayed matches was at least acceptable. I hope they eventually lose the rights to the French Open as well. I did see when Hannah Storm called Michael Russell, Michael Young, but I must say that I wasn’t annoyed, but I was just laughing so hard because she said it more than once. And as far as ESPN’s team and their supposedly conflict of interest, I think all of their commentators call it like they see it, and so does Johnny Mac. Darren Cahill was Davis Cup Coach for Australia while he was working for ESPN, but he would comment on Lleyton’s Hewitt matches with no strings attached. Brad Gilbert is currently working with Kei Nishikori. They all do a great job of sticking to their job and putting their different career affiliations on the side while they are working for ESPN.

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