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The Wimbledon championship, one of the tennis Grand Slam events, will be exclusive to ESPN in the U.S. through 2035, thanks to a new rights agreement between the Disney-owned sports giant and the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
ESPN first secured exclusive rights to Wimbledon in 2011, and that deal had been slated to end in 2023. The new deal covers the U.S., Canada (via TSN and RDS), Latin America, the Caribbean and Brazil.
The deal brings with it a few critical changes, both of which play into Disney’s larger corporate strategy. For starters, ESPN+ will have live streaming from all of the courts, and exclusive live coverage of the qualifying rounds. It will also be the only place to see the full match replays.
In addition, the deal will bring additional matches to the ABC broadcast network during the middle weekend of the tournament, bringing more live sports to Disney’s over-the-air network. The full lineup of matches will continue to air on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek and ESPN chief Jimmy Pitaro have said that all new rights deals will give the company streaming optionality and that the company continues to use ABC as a place to drive viewership for certain key sporting events. Disney’s new deal with the NFL, for example, adds ABC to the Super Bowl rotation and gives ESPN+ streaming rights to Monday Night Football. ESPN’s new deal with MLB also includes expanded streaming rights.
Wimbledon, meanwhile, is underway in London, with top players like Novak Djokovic still in contention on the famed grass courts of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
“Wimbledon is a tentpole event on the global sports calendar and the ESPN schedule, and we will continue to use all our resources to present the drama, tradition and stories of Wimbledon to fans in all ways possible,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN president of programming and original content.
Magnus was promoted to his new role at ESPN just last month, overseeing all programming and rights deals.
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