ESPN Acquires Wimbledon TV Rights for Next 12 Years

NBC had rights for 43 years

Last Updated: July 5, 2011 @ 4:33 PM

ESPN has acquired the exclusive U.S. television rights for Wimbledon for the next 12 years, ending 43 years of NBC airing the Grand Slam tournament.

ESPN announced Tuesday that the All England Club, which presents the tournament, had granted it the rights. The network promised, "Comprehensive coverage from start to finish across a variety of platforms will result in more tennis for fans and all of it live."

Also read: NBC Wins Olympic Games TV Rights Through 2020

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

ESPN already had the rights to air the early rounds of Wimbledon. NBC played "Breakfast at Wimbledon" broadcasts of the finals. 

The deal was the second long-term, major agreement for sports TV rights in the last month: NBC lost Wimbledon after outbidding ESPN and Fox to keep the rights to the Olympics through 2020.

The announcement had been expected since NBC said in a statement Sunday that "while we would have liked to have continued our relationship, we were simply outbid."

In this year's tournament, which ended Sunday, Novak Djokovic (above) beat Rafael Nadal in the men's final.

More to come. Here's the release.

ESPN has acquired the exclusive U.S. television rights to live action from The Championships, Wimbledon, including both the Ladies' and Gentlemen's Singles Finals, in a 12-year agreement with the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club beginning in 2012.  Comprehensive coverage from start to finish across a variety of platforms will result in more tennis for fans and all of it live.

ESPN will present Wimbledon on its multimedia array of platforms, including both ESPN and ESPN2 simultaneously the second Monday-Wednesday.  This will allow for expanded coverage of the Round of 16 and live telecasts of all quarterfinals.  ESPN will televise the semifinals and finals.  ESPN on ABC will broadcast a three-hour highlights show on the “middle Sunday” of the tournament, and will reair the finals on a same-day basis at 3 p.m. ET.

In addition to the newly acquired rights, all of ESPN's existing coverage will continue — television, broadband, mobile, and other rights in the U.S., Latin America and Canada (through 2021).  Since 2003, ESPN networks have aired approximately 100 hours annually – with another 650 on ESPN3.com, primarily on weekdays and capped by one Ladies’ and one Gentlemen’s semifinal.  Through 2023, the television schedule will increase to more than 140 hours, including full live national coverage of the semifinals and finals.  ESPN3.com's schedule will expand to 750 hours, also with the semifinals and finals presented live.

Ian Ritchie, Chief Executive of The All England Lawn Tennis Club, said:  “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.  This new agreement will bring increased live coverage of The Championships and ensure that the huge international audience for Wimbledon can now enjoy all the drama and colour of the Fortnight through a sustained narrative delivered with clarity, continuity and consistency across a wide range of platforms.”

George Bodenheimer, president, ESPN and ABC Sports, said, "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."