BBC sign up Wimbledon for five years

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The Independent Online
THE BBC and the All England Club have signed a new deal giving the corporation exclusive broadcasting rights for Wimbledon for another five years.

The new deal, which runs from 2000 to 2004, covers television, radio and some internet rights to the world's most famous tennis tournament. The BBC has covered Wimbledon for more than 60 years, making its first radio broadcast in 1927.

Neither the BBC nor Wimbledon organisers would reveal how much the deal has cost the corporation, but insiders have talked of a figure of pounds 50m over the five years.

The BBC has been under intense pressure to hang on to the Wimbledon broadcasting rights after losing a series of flagship sports events to competitors such as BSkyB.

The deal was announced at a press conference at Wimbledon hosted by John Curry, the All England Club chairman, Will Wyatt, chief executive of BBC Broadcast, and Alan Yentob, BBC director of television.

Mr Curry told reporters he was particularly glad the BBC had fought off "numerous" other bids, although he would not name the rivals.

"It adds to the long and loyal relationship we have had with each other for more than 60 years," he said.

Mr Yentob called it "a deal for the digital age", and promised the latest in interactive technology for viewers.

But he denied the BBC had re-captured Wimbledon at the expense of other sports, saying the demise of the corporation's sports coverage was "much exaggerated".

"We have no intention of giving up our commitment to other sports," he said. Whatever the price agreed, "it is good value for the BBC and for Wimbledon, and for viewers and listeners."

The BBC executives also announced that testing of interactive digital television coverage of Wimbledon could begin as early as next week, and that within a couple of years viewers could have options such as a choice of matches at the touch of a remote-control button.