Now in its third year of exclusively covering The Championships, ESPN – and tennis fans – have to be rooting for a little more tradition.
The worldwide leader’s Wimbledon ratings took a hit last year with the early exits of many of the sport’s notables: Rafa Nadal lost in the first round, while 2012 defending champion Roger Federer departed in the second, his record 36 consecutive quarterfinals or better performances in a Grand Slam dispatched on the grass he loves.
Serena Williams’ defense of her 2012 crown ended in the fourth round to eventual finalist Sabine Lasicki, while Victoria Azarenka didn’t make it to the second, losing in her opener against the comely Italian, Camila Giorgi, 5-7 in the third.
Minus the star power, ESPN2/ESPN averaged 835,000 viewers in 2013, down 10% from 981,000 during the first year the worldwide became the sole U.S. rights-holder. Despite Andy Murray becoming the first Brit to win the gentleman’s singles title since Fred Perry captured the title in 1936, the Scot’s triumph over Novak Djokovic netted a 1.7 rating, versus the 2.9 for Federer-Murray in 2012, the worldwide leader’s best ever tennis mark.
The women’s final – Marion Bartoli took the measure of Lasicki and then retired from the sport weeks later – drew a 0.9 rating, compared with the 1.7 for Williams’ three-set win over Agnieszka Radwanska as she captured her fifth title at The Big W.
This year, ESPN’s exclusive coverage of The Championships, Wimbledon – from the first serve to the presentations of the hardware – begins Monday, June 23, from the All England Lawn Tennis Club and includes an expanded schedule of 1,000 hours on ESPN3 and the return of complete television coverage including “Cross Court Coverage” on three days to start the second week.
With the 2014 FIFA World Cup in full swing, ESPNEWS will join ESPN and ESPN2 in presenting 140 hours of TV coverage. The fortnight culminates with the women’s and doubles championships on ESPN on Saturday, July 5, and the men’s final on Sunday, July 6.
The following are coverage highlights:
- The first four days of the tournament, ESPN will begin at 7 a.m. ET for daylong coverage that transitions to ESPNEWS at 11:30 a.m., with ESPN2 simulcasting from 2 – 3:30 p.m. On Friday, June 27, ESPN will have all the action, and also on Saturday, June 28, beginning with Breakfast at Wimbledon from 7-8 a.m.
- “Cross Court Coverage” will return the first three days of the second week, with ESPN2 focused on Centre Court all day while fans will enjoy a “grounds pass” with matches from Court One and elsewhere on ESPN (transitioning to ESPNEWS at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, June 30, and Tuesday, July 1).
- Starting Thursday, July 3, all the action is on ESPN, beginning each day with Breakfast at Wimbledon hosted by Hannah Storm.
- On the “middle Sunday,” June 29, a scheduled day off as is Wimbledon tradition, ABC will broadcast a three-hour review of the first week at 3 p.m. ABC will also present encore presentations of the finals on the day they take place, July 6 and 7 at 3 p.m.
- ESPN3 has increased its multi-screen offering to 1,000 hours – all available TV courts (up to nine) presented from first ball to last ball each day, with action available on demand afterwards. Also, ESPN3 will add AELTC’s daily Live@Wimbledon. For the first time, Wimbledon.com will host the ESPN3 video offerings, greatly increasing its reach.
- WatchESPN will deliver all ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS programming, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the award-winning WatchESPN app, and streamed on televisions through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV to more than 92 million households nationwide via an affiliated video or internet provider.
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