Sky retains Wimbledon exclusivity in Germany, nets non-exclusive Austrian rights
By Jonathan Rest
Sky Deutschland, the pay-television broadcaster, has retained exclusive rights in Germany to the Wimbledon tennis championships for the next four years following a highly competitive auction, Sportcal can reveal.
Sky has also acquired non-exclusive rights for the 2019 to 2022 cycle in Austria, having held the rights on an exclusive basis in the previous five-year contract, meaning a package of rights remain on the market in the country.
Sportcal reported in early July that the bidding had gone to a second round, with the emergence in recent seasons of Germany’s Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber (pictured), the reigning women's singles champion, along with Austria’s Dominic Thiem, sparking interest in the rights from pay-TV and free-to-air market players alike.
An invitation to tender run on behalf of the All England Lawn Tennis Club by the IMG agency was issued in the middle of May, attracting requests for the bid documents from 10 broadcasters and subsequently five bids by the original 26 June deadline.
The second round had a bid submission deadline of 11 July,
Sky was known to face strong competition from DAZN, Perform’s OTT service, and Eurosport, the Discovery-owned sports broadcaster, while free-to-air broadcasters in both Germany and Austria pursued the rights, especially for the closing stages of the tournament.
IMG was understood to have created a great deal of flexibility in the invitation to tender so that offers could be lodged for either Germany and Austria (or both) and either free-to-air or pay-TV rights (or both).
Sky paid an increase on its rights fee in the last ITT process in 2014 as it looked for multi-feed summer content that it could offer across different channels, but at the time was not seriously threatened by bids from free-to-air (or pay-TV) broadcasters.
Sky was highly likely to have to commit to a greater increase this time around if it wanted to retain the contract after first-round bids showed a significant rise on the value of the current contract given the heightened competition.
Ahead of this year's women's singles final, Sky sub-licensed rights to the match to German public-service broadcaster ZDF, which drew an average audience of 2.3 million viewers for Kerber’s win over Serena Williams.
ZDF’s viewing share for live coverage of the match from 5.15pm onwards came to 13.6 per cent as Kerber became the first German to win a Wimbledon singles title since Steffi Graf in 1996.
The broadcaster’s audience peaked at 3.3 million (a 20.9-per-cent) in the last five minutes of Kerber’s victory over the 23-time grand slam champion Williams.
Sky’s decision to sell on non-exclusive rights to the Wimbledon final resulted in a ratings fall for the pay-TV broadcaster as only 190,000 subscribers (a 1.9-per-cent share) watched the match.