Lack of Stars at Wimbledon, Olympics Costs Networks

    • BBC first broadcast Wimbledon in 1937.
    • This year’s competition will be missing a number of big names.

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With Wimbledon underway and the Tokyo Olympics coming up, July should be a high point for tennis fans — but, as we learned in the pandemic, nothing is guaranteed.

A number of tennis’ biggest stars, including Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Simona Halep, Serena Williams, and Naomi Osaka will be absent from at least one of the events due to mental health, family obligations, injuries, or COVID-19 protocols. 

The absence of big names could lead to a colossal waste of broadcast opportunities.

  • NBC is paying roughly $8 billion for Olympics broadcasting rights.
  • ESPN struck a 12-year deal for U.S. Wimbledon rights in 2011 after NBC’s $13 million, four-year deal expired.
  • BBC announced in 2016 — the year Andy Murray’s second Wimbledon win reached 13.3 million viewers in the U.K. — an extension to broadcast Wimbledon into 2024. 

Osaka and Williams — the world’s highest-paid female athletes — averaged 1.41 million viewers on ESPN2 during their most recent match at the Australian Open. The entire telecast was the most-watched Australian Open window of any kind since 2017.

Wimbledon will receive $141 million in insurance for last year’s canceled tournament, though for the last 17 years it has paid a $1.9 million insurance premium. This year’s total prize purse was cut by 5% to $49.4 million.