ESPN Signs 12-Year Deal with Wimbledon

July 6, 2011

After 43 years, Wimbledon is leaving NBC and will be covered by ESPN. ESPN’s new 12-year agreement with the All England Club will include complete live coverage of the Grand Slam tourney from start to finish—more than 140 hours.

In acquiring the U.S. television rights, ESPN will present the tournament across a variety of platforms — with all the coverage shown live. ESPN on ABC will broadcast a three-hour highlights show on the middle Sunday. Matches also will be available on and the Watch ESPN mobile app. There also will be some taped coverage on ABC on weekend afternoons.

In a statement, NBC said, “While we would have liked to have continued our relationship, we were simply outbid.”

ESPN had owned the rights to televise early rounds of Wimbledon, with NBC picking up coverage as the tournament progressed, culminating with the “Breakfast at Wimbledon” broadcasts during the final weekend. With the new deal, live Wimbledon coverage will be on the cable network only.

ESPN’s current cable deal with the All England Club had two years remaining. The Tennis Channel’s share of Wimbledon cable rights have also expired, but it is looking to renew.

This 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.

Months into its new partnership with Comcast, NBC is losing a marquee event. The network did keep an even bigger one when it outbid ESPN and Fox recently for four Olympics.