Technology and tennis fans’ habits have evolved a bit since the 1970s. Now Evert returns from working at a Grand Slam and people say to her, “Are there like two or three different networks doing it? Because I get confused.”
“They don’t know what’s going on, so they turn off the TV,” she said last week.
All England Club officials set out to ensure that all matches would be broadcast live and by the same company in the United States under their new television contract. They agreed to a 12-year deal with ESPN last summer, ending a 43-year run on NBC.
The move to cable means the finals will air in fewer homes. But it does away with tape-delayed matches and makes the tournament easier to follow in the middle rounds.
ESPN had owned the rights to extensively televise the early rounds since 2003, with NBC picking up coverage as the tournament progressed. NBC, often criticized for not showing all the action live in every time zone, would have ditched the tape delays starting in 2014 using cable partner NBC Sports Network under its bid.
“We got bombarded with emails over the last four, five years of, ‘Why can’t I watch this match live?’” said Mick Desmond, commercial director at the All England Club. “I think that was a frustration for us because in nearly every other territory with our broadcast rights, people are watching live. In this day and age, you’ve got to provide a live proposition.”
Live is especially crucial in the age of social media, when a casual fan may read on Twitter or Facebook that a match is in the 13th game of the fifth set or that Novak Djokovic is facing match point and decide to tune in.
“There’s this unofficial promotional edge that’s going, because sports is social currency,” Jamie Reynolds, ESPN’s vice president for event production, said. “If you’re in the moment, you’re in the know. You know exactly where there’s a tipping point where somebody has to get involved and engage.”
The network’s coverage starting next Monday will include simultaneous airings of quarterfinals on ESPN and ESPN2, the return of the “Breakfast at Wimbledon” moniker, and all televised courts shown on ESPN3.com.
Oudin wins first WTA title
The 20-year-old came through qualifying and won eight matches to claim her first tour title at the Wimbledon warm-up event. She also earned a wild card to compete at the All England Club next week.
“It was like this came out of nowhere,” said Oudin.
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