Wimbledon will once again be interactive this year on the BBC, with the addition of live streams on the web and highlights available through the BBC iPlayer. DIRECTV is also doubling up with ESPN to provide interactive Wimbledon coverage. Viewing figures suggest that those using such interactive services tend to watch longer and more often as a result.

For the first time, the BBC multiscreen service will be available around the clock, rather than just during live coverage and evening highlights. There will be simultaneous coverage from up to five matches on satellite and cable, and up to four on terrestrial television, including those on the main channels.

British tennis hope Tim Henman is also guaranteed a place at Wimbledon — in the commentary team, alongside John McEnroe and Boris Becker, with the live coverage hosted by Sue Barker.

There will also be live streams available on the BBC web site and coverage of previous matches will be accessible on the BBCi player.

Those outside the United Kingdom will be able to go to the All England Lawn Tennis Club official site which is operated by IBM. It provides live coverage of up to nine courts and a video-on-demand service available for a year for $25.

In the United States, DIRECTV is once again partnering with ESPN to provide nearly 200 hours of live interactive coverage from Wimbledon.

“With DIRECTV’s coverage of the French Open last month, Wimbledon next week and the US Open later this summer, we are securing our role as the pre-eminent provider of interactive TV services for Grand Slam events and the destination for tennis fans who want to get the most out of their viewing experience,” said Eric Shanks, executive vice president of DIRECTV Entertainment.

“We are pleased to work with ESPN2 because with matches being played simultaneously on as many as nine televised courts, DIRECTV Interactive viewers can stay on top of all the action while tracking their favourite players as they make their way through the early rounds and watch the top seeds battle upset-minded opponents.”

As with other interactive sports coverage on DIRECTV, it will include a mosaic mix showing six channels, all of which can be expanded to full screen. Other features include a lower-third overlay that displays scores from matches on each of the channels, a results summary of real-time scores of other in-progress and completed matches, and the schedule for forthcoming matches.

Usage data from coverage of the French Open confirms that interactive viewers watch longer and more often than non-interactive viewers. More than a third of all interactive-capable viewers used the interactive application. Those who used the interactive service watched the French Open for 44% percent longer than those that did not.

Last year, DIRECTV broadcast more than 5,000 hours of live interactive sports programming, with nearly 2 million homes using one or more their interactive sports applications. DIRECTV is expected to deliver more than 6,000 hours of interactive programming in 2008.

The Olympics this year will particularly benefit from interactive television, with the BBC providing around 2,450 hours of extended interactive coverage of over 300 events over the 17 days. Again, the coverage will also be available over broadband with highlights on the BBC iPlayer.

Wimbledon and the Olympics have been among the most popular applications of interactive television, allowing viewers to immerse themselves in comprehensive coverage. With the growth in usage of online video, this year will see even more viewing options, from mobile to broadband to high-definition television.