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Serena Williams returns a shot to Romania's Simona

Serena Williams returns a shot to Romania's Simona Halep during their match at Wimbledon. (June 23, 2011) Credit: AP

The era of tape-delayed sports already was in its death throes after last month's announcement by NBC that it would begin offering all Olympic events live on one platform or another.

But it suffered another blow this past week when ESPN secured a new 12-year contract with the All England Club, expanding its previous role and ending NBC's 43-year association with Wimbledon.

NBC long has had to juggle Wimbledon (and French Open) coverage with its reluctance to mess with the lucrative, highly rated "Today" show.

That's over now. Ian Ritchie, the club's chief executive, said the decision to go with ESPN was driven in part by having a "single narrative" on a single, primary network.

It also was driven by recognition that tape delay is a 20th-century anachronism. "Sure, there is a place for highlights," he said. "But there is no question the sports viewer nowadays wants to see things live."

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