Wimbledon to go to BTSport
For over seventy years, the BBC has broadcast the Wimbledon Championship tournament on free view television in the UK, starting in 1937. The matches covered are split between its two main terrestrial channels, BBC One and BBC Two with the BBC holding the broadcast rights for Wimbledon until 2017 distributing its commercial-free feed to outlets worldwide. The UK government has a mandate that says that the Wimbledon Finals are obliged to be shown live, and in full, on terrestrial television so on either the BBC Television Service or ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5. Highlights of the rest of the tournament must be provided by terrestrial stations, whereas live coverage, excepting the finals, may be sought by satellite or cable TV. Furthermore, since 2007, Wimbledon matches have been transmitted in high-definition, originally on the BBC’s free-to-air channel BBC HD, with continual live coverage during the tournament of Centre Court and Court No. 1 as well as an evening highlights show “Today at Wimbledon”. Since the closure of BBC HD, coverage has been shown on BBC One HD and BBC Two HD.
In recent days though, the BBC has held talks about allowing pay television to share its rights to screen Wimbledon tennis matches live. The commercial executives have floated the prospect of sharing the live broadcasts with BT in a deal that would bring the prestigious tournament to pay-TV subscribers in Britain for the first time, industry sources said. The reason behind this is rumoured to be that the tournament is believed to cost the corporation between £30 million and £40 million a year, which is a significant proportion of the tournament’s £150 million revenues.
How the BBC can be thinking of relinquishing the exclusivity it has held of the oldest tennis tournament in the world, and widely considered the most prestigious, is unheard of.
Wimbledon has been held at the All England Club in London since 1877 and is one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments alongside the Australian Open, the Roland Garros (French Open) and the US Open. In 1988 the Australian Open moved to a hard court surface leaving Wimbledon as the only Major still being played on grass, the game’s original surface, hence the name of “lawn tennis tournament”.
If this deal goes through, it would see BT Sport take control of yet another important piece of sport coverage, having taken Champions League football away from ITV, an is now attempting to taking away another TV institution such as the BBC’s Match of the Day, as the rival channel prepares a large bid for a Saturday night football highlights show of its own.