Tennis: Wimbledon's TV options

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The Independent Online
WIMBLEDON are not making any promises about their television and radio contract with the BBC, which is due for renegotiation, writes John Roberts. The current five-year deal ends after next year's Championships. "We are keeping our options open," Ian Edwards, the All England Club's television marketing director, said yesterday.

Cricket's pounds 103m transfer to Channel 4 means that Wimbledon, the Open golf championship and the Grand National are the only major sports events that remain in the BBC's locker.

"We are actively thinking about the new contract," Edwards said. "It's important for us to try to capitalise on competition between networks because of the obligation we have to the Lawn Tennis Association."

Wimbledon's pre-tax profits, largely from world-wide television fees, go to the LTA for reinvestment in the sport. The LTA received a record pounds 31m last year. The profit from this year's tournament is due to be announced next month.

Although Wimbledon's viewing figures were affected by the World Cup in France, Tim Henman's semi-final against Pete Sampras peaked at 8.8m. The women's final between Jana Navotna and Nathalie Tauziat reached 8.6m, but the men's final between Sampras and Goran Ivanisevic peaked at 7.1m.

The All England Club are aware of a feeling in the sports industry that the BBC's style of coverage is old-fashioned. The advent of digital television and possibilities offered by the internet are also high on Wimbledon's agenda for improving the presentation of the world's best-known tennis tournament.