The BBC has secured the rights to Wimbledon until 2014 in a deal designed to overhaul its coverage of the event for the digital age. The BBC, which paid about Â£40 million a year for its last deal with the All-England Club, where it has broadcast every championship since 1927, is understood to have offered Â£50 million a year as long as the rights were not put out to tender.
Last week the BBC paid an estimated Â£160 million for the rights to Formula 1 after ITV dropped the sport in order to secure live Champions League football until 2012.
Now the BBC director of sport, Roger Mosey, has secured long-term rights to Wimbledon which, like F1, provides a combination of high-rating peaks and a large volume of coverage that can be exploited on digital services.
Rival broadcasters expected the All England Club to put the rights out to tender for the first time and had held informal talks. However, the BBC moved quickly to secure the rights to a tournament it has covered since 1927.
With Six Nations rugby also signed up until 2013, the BBC will argue it has an impressive spread of elite sport despite the lack of regular live top-flight football from next year. It did not bid for the live rights to Champions League matches and has lost the rights to the FA Cup and England internationals to ITV and Setanta.
The new five-year Wimbledon deal with the All England Club will allow the BBC to show matches on demand up to seven days after they have been played. Viewers will also be able to watch via broadband and, for the first time, on mobile phones. The BBC said it was negotiating to offer the iPlayer catch-up service from this year.
“We’re determined to make the event an even bigger part of our national sporting life through the use of new technology and working with the club to innovate across digital platforms,” Mosey told The Guardian. The deal also includes exclusive radio rights.
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