Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Tennis: Kiwi Wimbledon fans may be starved for choice

Tennis fans in New Zealand may have to tune in to the new online "Watch&Bet" service being launched by the TAB today to watch Wimbledon this year.

No television provider in the country currently has the rights to the historic Grand Slam that gets under way in England on June 25, which has worked in favour of the TAB.

Previously, Sky Television and TVNZ have shown the grass court tournament, while spokespeople from Maori Television and TV3 said they hadn't acquired the rights either.

TV One broadcast the event up until last year via the international feed but they copped criticism from the public as they didn't show replays during the day and would cut out their coverage during the middle of a match if they had to switch to scheduled programming.

A spokesperson for TVNZ said their bid for this year was "still under negotiation" but it's understood they found it challenging to broadcast the event previously due to the restrictions around timing, while a Sky TV spokesperson said they put in a bid for the rights but it was rejected.

The TAB say they have reacted to trends, both here and abroad, with the introduction of their new product, and have secured the online streaming rights to numerous sports from around the world.

It will show up to 8500 events per year from lower league English football to snooker and Wimbledon as part of their new service that will run on their website.

Customers who have a TAB account with credit can log in and watch an event on a split screen, which also features the live odds of the event, allowing punters to bet on the contest. Viewers do not have to make a wager to watch the footage.

The picture won't come through in high definition and the TAB have stressed they're not trying to compete with Sky Television.

TAB bookmaker Mark Stafford said it was good luck rather than good management that saw Wimbledon included in their service.

"It was just part of the package; so we've bought this service and Wimbledon was part of it and our negotiations started ages ago and we didn't specify 'we must have Wimbledon', it was just in there and we thought 'that's pretty cool'. Then it came to light that it looks like none of the other major networks are going to broadcast it so it's a bit of an accidental coup."

Stafford said customers preferred to bet on live options, although figures were hard to track.

"We've got nothing exact because it differs across all sports," he said.

"But I know in rugby games ... we turn more over in live betting in the head-to-head market than we do in the whole five days selling prior to the game and it can be beaten within the first 15 minutes of the game."

The service won't broadcast events such as Super Rugby, NRL or major cricket tests involving New Zealand, although there will be the odd double-up with Sky Television on coverage in sports such as darts and snooker.

Football fans will also be able to see All White Winston Reid in action this weekend when West Ham United meet Blackpool in the Championship playoff decider with a spot in the lucrative English Premier League on the line.

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