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ESPN acquires US television rights to all of Wimbledon; NBC loses tournament after 43 years
All of Wimbledon will be televised by ESPN starting next year, ending NBC's 43-year run broadcasting the Grand Slam tournament.
ESPN and the All England Club announced a 12-year contract Tuesday that gives the cable network the U.S. TV rights to all matches at Wimbledon. ESPN had owned the rights to extensively televise early rounds of Wimbledon since 2003, with NBC picking up coverage as the tournament progressed, culminating with the "Breakfast at Wimbledon" broadcasts of the finals.
ESPN networks will air the quarterfinals and semis live in all time zones, something NBC had been criticized for not doing. NBC would have started showing every match live starting in 2014 under its bid.
"In my mind, live is pre-eminent," All England Club chief executive Ian Ritchie said on a conference call.
NBC had said Sunday it was losing one of its marquee events, saying in a statement, "while we would have liked to have continued our relationship, we were simply outbid."
Ritchie said organizers no longer wanted to split the tournament between two companies. NBC could have used Versus, its new cable partner after the Comcast acquisition, to air additional matches.
Wimbledon is the latest major sporting event to move from the traditional four over-the-air networks to cable. College football's Bowl Championship Series title games are on ESPN, and NCAA basketball's Final Four will be on TBS in alternating years starting in 2016. ESPN runs ABC Sports but does not plan to broadcast live Wimbledon matches on the network.