After a quarter-century of coverage, Home Box Office will
not renew its contract to carry Wimbledon tennis after this year.
The network is in the final year of a five-year, $40
million deal for early round, weekday cable telecasts from the prestigious international
tennis tournament. NBC owns the final-round games.
HBO executives were attending the event in England and not
reachable for comment. But network sources said HBO wanted to refresh its current
The event has performed consistently over the its 25-year
history, averaging around a 1 to 2 rating. This year's first-week coverage generated a 2.1
rating, up from a 2 in the same period last year.
The Wimbledon cable rights are sure to be a hot property
for a number of networks.
Fox Sports said it has already expressed an interest in
obtaining the cable portion for Fox Sports Net, while ESPN said it would be interested in
obtaining the cable package if it is indeed available.
USA Network admitted that the Wimbledon cable package was
attractive programming, but it would not comment on whether it would make a bid. USA
currently carries early round coverage of the U.S. Open and French Open tennis