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Why NBC Lost Wimbledon

By 07.06.11

ESPN’s new 12-year, nearly $500 million deal to carry Wimbledon (all of Wimbledon, including the semi-finals and finals that were stuck on NBC) was caused by one simple thing — Simona Halep’s breast reduction. NBC Universal President Steve Burke was heard to remark “what is this, this is bullsh**” before throwing down his remote and resting his head in his hands for 40 minutes. “I just wanted to see her play, I don’t even know who this is.”

No, it was because NBC can’t get off their own jock about tape delay, and the All England Club wants their sporting events aired live. That’s all it took. NBC was so dedicated to taping things, then showing them slightly later that they lost one of their biggest and most storied sporting events, at least in terms of sports people don’t really watch. They tried to do it with the Olympics, and now they’ve done it with tennis. In a funny aside, the All England Club felt a live presentation would allow them a “single narrative”.

“We felt it was important to have a single narrative across the two weeks,” Ian Ritchie, the club’s chief executive, said on a conference call Tuesday. He added, “We felt very positively that we wanted to put it into one arena.”

I’m guessing the previous narrative, “these tennis players really want to win at tennis”, wasn’t getting through clearly enough on tape.

“Live is pre-eminent,” Ritchie said. “Live is the nature of the game now on sports around the world, not just for tennis, but for other ones.” He added, “I’m sure there is a place for tape delay and highlights, but the sports viewer wants to see things live.”

Ritchie said that he had had conversations in the past with NBC about changing its tape-delay policy, but gave no details.

“You understand from my comments that live is important,” he said.

An NBC spokesman declined to comment on Ritchie’s remarks.

Either that or he made a comment, and we have to wait five minutes to hear it.

I expected Ritchie to add a “did you see what I did there” or a “do you realize live” before he stopped talking, but here we are with the totality of Wimbledon on ESPN and chances of controversial wind-driven upskirts up 2000%. Sadly chances of Simona Halep nip slips are way, way down.

[via NY Times, with a h/t to Matt Ufford]


TAGSESPNNBCSIMONA HALEPTENNISWimbledonWOMENS TENNIS

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