It's another unforced error for NBC. One month after aggravating tennis fans by blacking out Roger Federer's thrilling come-from-behind victory in the French Open semifinals, the peacock network is once again keeping fans from watching a hotly-anticipated Grand Slam match.
As of 12 p.m. ET, NBC was showing a three-hour old replay of Federer's easy quarterfinal win at Wimbledon instead of live coverage of American Andy Roddick playing his quarterfinal match against former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt. At 12:10 p.m., the network is airing a Jimmy Roberts interview with Dinara Safina. It's about as interesting as an interview with a slightly-boring tennis player who speaks English as a second language can be. Now, at 12:15 p.m. NBC is back to showing tennis replays, this time between Tommy Haas and Novak Djokovic.
Meanwhile, Roddick and Hewitt are locked in a tense battle in the second set and nobody in America can watch it on live television. (You can watch it online here.) Brilliant. No wonder the network makes great decisions like dumping Leno for Conan and spending $10 million for one episode of 'Kings'.
During the French, we were critical, but understanding, of NBC's position. It was a contractual thing, which we get. But we're losing patience now. Re-write the contract, figure out a way to satisfy both the rights holders and fans. If it's all about money (and it always is), it's tough to figure out how not showing live tennis is better for the bottom line.
Whatever the reason is, this is a travesty and a slap in the face to all American tennis fans. The man we want to see most is playing live in London and NBC is showing highlights of a match that has been over for hours.
In an age where people on Twitter were talking about Michael Jackson's death 45 minutes before CNN reported it, preventing people from watching something live is insanely bad business.
Luckily, this farce will only last until 1 p.m. ET, when NBC stops coverage and ESPN begins its broadcast. Say what you will about ESPN, but I'd be amazed if it didn't instantly begin its coverage with Roddick-Hewitt.
Update: ESPN is showing the Roddick-Hewitt match live. Let's assume NBC's decision to not air the match was contractual. (This is most likely, although I can't find any contract details that explicitly mention quarterfinal matches.) Even so, that merely makes NBC's poor decision-making old news rather than new news. In order to generate interest in Wimbledon, matches need to be aired live so they can get the most buzz and, therefore, increase the attraction of the following matches.
Update x2: Confirmed. The contract is idiotic.