Come late June, ESPN will be serving up tennis coverage
ESPN has reached a comprehensive four-year deal, terms of which were not
disclosed, with The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.
The pact will provide for 120 hours of original coverage on ESPN and ESPN2, culminating with one men's and one women's semifinal match, and it also
paves the way for presentations on ESPN Classic, ESPNews and ESPN.com.
Additionally, the sports giant has secured rights for video-on-demand,
interactive TV, broadband, ESPN Deportes and ESPN HD.
In succeeding Turner Sports -- which had presented Wimbledon on Turner Network Television and the now-defunct CNN/SI -- ESPN now holds cable rights to three of the sport's Grand Slam
events: the Australian and French Opens are already on the total sports network
USA Network has long held rights to the U.S. Open.
All told, ESPN will program more than 500 hours of tennis coverage in 2003 --
an increase of 18 percent over 2002.
"Rarely has ESPN been this extensively involved in an event with the history,
pageantry and tradition of Wimbledon," ESPN and ABC Sports president
George Bodenheimer said in a prepared statement.
"With this most venerable and storied Grand Slam, we have increased our
commitment and stature within tennis to a level unprecedented in our industry," he added.
The long-anticipated deal precedes a scheduled press conference Tuesday from
The Tennis Channel, when the fledgling service is finally expected to announce
its launch date.
Although the schedule has not yet been finalized -- relative to what time the
first ball will be tossed up on its daily coverage -- a spokeswoman said that with
primetime reairs, ESPN and ESPN2's coverage could total more than 150 hours for
the upcoming fortnight.