SBJ/April 30-May 6, 2012/Media

Wimbledon designs webcast to complement TV

Wimbledon this summer will produce a daily five-hour-plus webcast for online and mobile consumption, one of the most aggressive digital pushes to date among major sporting events.

Unlike the model often employed in the United States, the Wimbledon model employs only a smattering of live-event streaming. Instead, the focus for Live @ Wimbledon is on free, original shoulder programming.

The so-called “second-screen” experience is designed to coexist with TV broadcasts and compete instead with social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook that often engage fans during event hours. In outlining the new initiative last week, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon’s organizer, even appeared to at least indirectly take a swipe at those events that stream entire competitions: “Live @ Wimbledon will complement, rather than compete with, existing broadcast partners.”

The U.S. Tennis Association applauded Wimbledon’s efforts but said its research showed that streaming the entire U.S. Open did not detract from its broadcast partners. “Streaming doesn’t cannibalize TV; it reinforces,” said Phil Green, the USTA’s senior director of advanced media.

The U.S. Open does have limited shoulder programming during its event, but nothing compared with Wimbledon’s plans. Live @ Wimbledon will have its own studio on site and there will be two roving reporters who produce content from around the grounds.

Live @ Wimbledon will be available in the U.K. and the Americas and appear as a link on wimbledon.com as well as being accessible via mobile devices.

IMG, longtime commercial partner of the All England Club, is producing the digital offering. Any sponsorship would come from existing event partners and not from outside, a tournament spokesman said.

If Wimbledon succeeds with this second-screen experience, it will be unique among major sporting events, said Tom Richardson, president of Convergence Sports & Media.

“Most of the other events I am aware of are doing event apps to fill out non-viewing time,” he said. “This is really trying to capture the second-screen engagement.”

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