NEW YORK — Basic cable is getting its first crack at the most prestigious of all tennis tournaments, the Wimbledon Championships, thanks to a new three-year deal by Turner Sports’ TNT and CNN/SI for 89 hours of coverage a year, starting in June.
For the last 25 years, HBO has cablecast Wimbledon, allowing pay TV to ace out basic cable. HBO declined to bid on the new contract, deciding the high license fees didn’t justify the limited number of new subscribers generated.
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Simultaneous with the Turner Sports agreement, NBC renewed its contract for another three years with the All England Club, which negotiates for Wimbledon. The NBC deal is no surprise, as the network has held exclusive broadcast rights to Wimbledon since 1969.
NBC and Turner Sports declined to discuss prices, but sources say the combined deal is worth upwards of $30 million a year to the All England Club. That’s a substantial increase over the previous contract, caused mainly by price-escalating cable bids submitted by ESPN, Fox Sports and the USA Network.
Between June 26 and July 9, NBC will carry 35-1/2 hours of Wimbledon on weekend mornings and afternoons. During that same period, TNT will do 61 hours of weekday-daytime coverage, and CNN/SI will chime in with 28 hours, encompassing the 9-11 slot each night of the tournament.
Wimbledon is the third major sports partnership into which NBC and Turner have entered, joining the contract they share for broadcast and cable rights to the National Basketball Assn. and to a partial season of NASCAR auto racing.