ESPN Nets Wimbledon Accord

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It’s finally game, set and match for ESPN on a six-year contract extension with The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, under which the sports programmer will continue to provide multiplatform coverage of Wimbledon.

The agreement, terms of which were not disclosed, provides for coverage across an array of platforms during the fortnights, notably with ESPN2 serving as the primary linear vehicle for the prestigious Grand Slam grass tourney. ESPN, ESPN Classic, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes, ESPN International, ESPN.com, broadband service ESPN360.com,  ESPNDeportes.com and ESPN Mobile Properties, as well as rights to ESPN On Demand and interactive TV, are also covered under the package.

The deal should cover approximately 100 hours of annual coverage – almost all of it live and topped again by presentations of one women’s and one men’s semifinal matches. ESPN2 has supplied an extensive Wimbledon schedule since 2003

Last July, ESPN, according to sources at the network, had reached an agreement in principle for a renewal with the All England Club.

At that time, NBC re-upped its Wimbledon commitment through a multiyear deal that will push the Peacock’s coverage of the tournament past the 40-year mark.

Tennis Channel, meanwhile, is at the other side of the court. Last July, it too reached a multiyear agreement for 100 hours of coverage and some multiplatform rights that will begin this year.

Working together through a deal exchanging rights and production responsibilities for the Australian and French Opens, both ESPN2 and Tennis Channel cover three of the sport’s Grand Slam events.

USA Network’s cable rights to the U.S. Open, long covered by CBS on the broadcast side, are set to expire upon the conclusion of the 2008 tourney. ESPN, Versus and Tennis Channel, which is minority-owned by the United States Tennis Association, the tourney’s rights-holder, are presumed to be in the hunt.

Across the Pond, ESPN will tap its Wimbledon rights in a variety of fashions. ESPN may provide Wimbledon matches or content live or taped via ESPN360.com or any ESPN platform, including ESPNDeportes.com in Spanish. This includes ESPN’s television coverage, other matches on Centre Court or Court One during ESPN’s telecast windows, and press conferences;Internationally, ESPN’s rights include television and the above-mentioned online rights in all of Latin and South America (except Brazil) and the Caribbean, in English, Spanish and other relevant languages.

Hosted on ESPN.com, Wimbledon Central will feature interactive and content-rich applications from which users can access real-time Wimbledon scores, video highlights & stats.

ESPNMobileTV will stream live more than 50 hours of ESPN2 coverage. Additionally, Verizon wireless customers with access to ESPN MVP can follow all the action throughout the championship via a dedicated sideline icon giving fans instant access to Wimbledon-related news, scores, columns, blogs and video. 

“Wimbledon is a special place in the sports world, and we are proud to extend and expand our terrific relationship with the All England Club,” said John Skipper, ESPN executive vice president, content, in a statement. “We believe tennis fans will actively pursue and enjoy the offerings that this new agreement makes possible on ESPN’s growing multimedia and wireless platforms.”

Noted Ian Ritchie, chief executive of The All England Lawn Tennis Club: “We are delighted to be extending our association with ESPN.  With this wide-ranging agreement, the huge international audience of Wimbledon and sports fans will continue to enjoy ESPN’s creative approach to bringing alive the stories and the colour of The Championships, while the development of multimedia and wireless platforms will allow fans an improved choice of how to access all the on- and off-court action and drama.”

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