ESPN wins Wimbledon rights in blow to NBC/Comcast

ESPN has bought the live US media rights to screen Wimbledon tennis in a $400 million deal, becoming the first non FTA to win the rights to the tournament.

The 12-year deal ends NBC’s 43-year run of broadcasting the Championships in the US. ESPN’s winning bid will be a big blow to Comcast, NBC’s new owner, which has been aggressively buying sports rights to build up Versus, its own sports cable channel.

The deal, which starts in 2012, will allow ESPN to show all matches live, irrespective of the timezone in the US. NBC has over the years been the focus of criticism for delaying broadcast of certain key matches, such as last week’s men’s semi-finals. ESPN will show all matches, with some re-aired in full later on ABC, Disney’s broadcast network.