NBC renews Wimbledon deal

Network keeps rights for another four years

NBC Sports has renewed its rights to the Wimbledon tennis tournament for another four years, starting in 2008, ponying up $12 million a year vs. $13 million in the current contract.

The license fee dropped by $1 million a year at least in part because the Wimbledon ratings tumbled in 2006 by 20% from the previous year’s average.

This week the 2007 event hit a network milestone: The partnership with Wimbledon is the longest running in the history of NBC Sports at 39 straight years. But it’s also trapped in rain-delay purgatory, suffering through the stormiest English weather in 25 years.

Under the new deal, NBC Sports continues to retain digital rights to the tourney, including live online coverage at NBCSports.com and rights for cell-phone and other wireless platforms.

NBC this year has scheduled more than 37 hours of coverage. Wimbledon began Monday, June 25 and, rain permitting, culminates in the gentlemen’s final Sunday, starting at 9 a.m. ET.

ESPN2 is supplementing NBC’s coverage this week with lots of men’s quarterfinals and a women’s semifinal. The sports cabler’s contract, like NBC’s, is up this season. ESPN is negotiating for a renewal of the current four-year deal, which funnels $6.4 million a year to Wimbledon rights holder the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.

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