Will Wimbledon Be a Grand Slam Online?

Wimbledon starts today, and you can catch all the action online through the magic of livestreaming. Well, you can catch it if you run a Windows machine and if you want to pay $24.99 (though we have some free passes — keep reading). But will this grand slam event be a grand slam online?

Live sports is enjoying a banner year:

  • March Madness had an online audience of 4.8 million people and earned CBS $23 million in revenue.
  • Major League Baseball got off to a rocky start, but is hitting its stride as 1.5 million people watch a live game online every day.
  • And thanks to a down-to-the-wire finale, The U.S. Open dang near broke the Internet with 5.5 million streams in one day.

It’s been a long time since I strung up a racket (is Ivan Lendl still number 1?), but I don’t think tennis has the drawing power of a Final Four or a Tiger Woods. Plus, both the Open and the March Madness were free. It will be interesting to see what viewer numbers come out of this tournament, that is, if they are released. Data from the past two Wimbledons was not made public.

Sports online is nothing new, but better technology is presenting big opportunities for athletics, especially for events that happen when we’re at work and away from our TV sets. Big plasma TV screens are great, but as my colleague Paul Kapustka discovered, by watching the Masters online, he could view the tournament from whichever hole he wanted.

Companies like Jacked, which just signed a deal with Raycom Sports, augment the sporting experience online by providing additional information and stats to accompany the action.

And though Libery Media Chairman John Malone thinks it will be a bust, the Olympics could be a watershed moment for online video. Early reports indicate the Silverlight technology powering it is amazing, and a grand event like that is built for the web. A lot of the events are quick, and there are so many that you can bounce around them with the click of a mouse. If you don’t want to stream it, Wavexpress announced today that it will provide a download service for the games.

Want a taste of the sporting life online? MediaZone, which is powering the online video for Wimbledon is giving away fiftey free passes to watch the tennis tournament online. Just be one of the first fifty people to email mzwimbledon@gmail.com.

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