July 14, 2024

Enough With the Delays: Why Wimbledon Switched to ESPN

“We felt it was important to have a single narrative across the two weeks,” Ian Ritchie, the club’s chief executive, said on a conference call Tuesday. He added, “We felt very positively that we wanted to put it into one arena.”

ESPN has had the cable rights to Wimbledon since 2003, but the new deal gives it everything NBC has had, including all of the semifinals and finals.

In talks last weekend in London, ESPN outbid Comcast’s NBC-Versus partnership, which could not guarantee a fully live plan until 2014.

After 43 years as the tournament’s lead broadcaster— after decades of “Breakfast at Wimbledon” and announcers like Dick Enberg and Bud Collins — NBC’s run had ended.

ESPN will begin broadcasting its live telecasts next year on ESPN; ESPN2; its broadband channel, ESPN3; and its mobile apps. It will also rebroadcast the men’s and women’s finals on ABC at 3 p.m. Eastern on the day of those matches.

“Live is pre-eminent,” Ritchie said. “Live is the nature of the game now on sports around the world, not just for tennis, but for other ones.” He added, “I’m sure there is a place for tape delay and highlights, but the sports viewer wants to see things live.”

Ritchie said that he had had conversations in the past with NBC about changing its tape-delay policy, but gave no details.

“You understand from my comments that live is important,” he said.

An NBC spokesman declined to comment on Ritchie’s remarks.

NBC has stuck for many years to a policy of not pre-empting the highly profitable “Today” show to carry Wimbledon in the early morning. So although it carried some matches live in late morning to the Eastern time zone, it showed them on tape elsewhere.

The network’s adherence to rigid time slots also led to chaotic incidents like one in 2009 when ESPN2’s live coverage of a Tommy Haas-Novak Djokovic match was cut off at 10 a.m. Eastern, when NBC’s window of coverage began. It carried the Roger Federer-Ivo Karlovic match on a two-hour delay, then showed the rest of Haas-Djokovic.

ESPN’s estimated $40 million annual rights fee exceeds the combined total of the $10 million it paid under its previous contract, and the $13 million NBC was paying.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=d8fe13d19230b425558d9e51bd89fe6e

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