Where to Watch Wimbledon Online

WimbledonThis is a big week for NBCSports.com (s GE). After a rain-delayed U.S. Open Golf Championship spilled over into a live-streamed Monday finale, the sporting world now turns its eyes to Wimbledon, where the grand-pappy of tennis tournaments kicks off this week (watch it here).

Note: If you’re trying to find out where to watch the 2010 Wimbledon Tournament, details are here.

And for the first time in the U.S. this year, coverage of Wimbledon will be available via free, live online streaming, including the men’s and women’s finals (hat tip to MediaPost).

From the NBC press release:

NBC Sports will present more than 38 broadcast hours of coverage over nine days from Wimbledon beginning this Saturday at 3 p.m. ET, and includes live coverage of the Gentleman’s and Ladies’ Finals. All matches televised by NBC Sports are available online at Live at Wimbledon via NBCSports.com and Wimbledon.org.

This marks a shift for Wimbledon, which last year only offered live-streamed coverage via a $25 subscription (and only to Windows users). Despite that fee, the tournament generated 1 million live and 4 million on-demand streams last year. From the Wimbledon.org site, it looks like there is still a subscription for U.K. residents. (Since we’re in the U.S., it blocked us from getting too far into the subscription process.)

Also of note is the breadth of coverage. For the recently concluded U.S. Open, NBC only offered live coverage of “marquee” players in the early rounds during the week, and of just two holes over the weekend. Offering the finals online for free is a nice bonus and change of pace for the network, which is usually so protective of its televised sporting events.

The NBC Sports stream is powered by Microsoft Silverlight (s MSFT), which was the technology NBC used for last year’s Olympics. IStreamPlanet.com is coordinating and managing the content acquisition and encoding of the live-streamed video. But NBC isn’t locking itself into one streaming solution. Earlier this year, the network signed a deal with Conviva to power some of NBC’s streaming.