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.”
ESPN and Wimbledon
Currently, in addition to an already extensive TV schedule, ESPN’s Wimbledon rights include live matches on ESPN3.com (with the semifinals and finals available on delay), ESPN Mobile TV, ESPN Interactive TV, the WatchESPNApp, ESPNNetworks.com and Spanish-language ESPN Deportes, as well as distribution to 30 million homes in Latin America via ESPN International and in Canada via TSN. In addition, ESPN.com has extensive reporting with news, analysis and video from Wimbledon, ESPN The Magazine previews the competition while ESPN Classic shows great matches from the past and ESPN 3D aired its first tennis at this year’s Championships.
ESPN and Championship Tennis
Since 2009, ESPN has aired all four Grand Slam events, something no other U.S. network has ever done. ESPN has presented the Australian Open since 1984, the French Open since 2002 (plus 1986 – 1993), Wimbledon since 2003 and the US Open since 2009.
ESPN debuted September 7, 1979, and the first tennis telecast was exactly one week later, September 14, a Davis Cup tie, Argentina at U.S. from Memphis with Cliff Drysdale on the call and John McEnroe playing.