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Wimbledon leaving NBC, appears headed to ESPN

By Rachel Cohen

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, July 3 2011 4:50 p.m. MDT

NEW YORK — Wimbledon is leaving NBC after 43 years and appears headed to ESPN.

NBC said in a statement Sunday that "while we would have liked to have continued our relationship, we were simply outbid."

A person with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed that ESPN was working on a contract with the All England Club to televise all of the Grand Slam tournament. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not ready to be announced.

The switch was first reported by SportsBusiness Journal.

ESPN had owned the rights to extensively televise early rounds of Wimbledon, with NBC picking up coverage as the tournament progressed, culminating with the "Breakfast at Wimbledon" broadcasts of the finals.

It would be the latest major sporting event to move from the traditional four over-the-air networks to cable. College football's Bowl Championship Series title games are on ESPN, and NCAA basketball's Final Four will be on TBS in alternating years starting in 2016.

Months into its new partnership with Comcast, NBC is losing a marquee event. The network did keep an even bigger one when it outbid ESPN and Fox last month for four Olympics.

This year was the 32nd anniversary of "Breakfast at Wimbledon," with coverage ending Sunday when Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal in the men's final.

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