Wimbledon Championships Surge on ESPN


Wimbledon Championships Surge on ESPN

Ladies’ & Gentlemen’s Championships up 5%, 39% from 2011
Federer-Murray — ESPN’s Best Tennis Rating Ever

The all-new, all-live and all-ESPN Wimbledon concluded with the network’s best tennis rating in history for the Gentlemen’s Championship on Sunday, a 2.9 coverage rating, according to Nielsen fast national ratings. The total U.S. ratings of 2.0 and 2.5 for the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s matches over the weekend represent increases of five percent and 39 percent, respectively, over last year’s broadcasts (1.9 for equivalent three-hour window on Saturday, 1.8 for equivalent five-hour window on Sunday).

Over the fortnight of the 126th Championships, the single narrative provided by ESPN’s exclusivity – distinguished by unprecedented live matches – saw numerous notable achievements beyond its best tennis rating. The ESPN/ESPN2 Wimbledon audience grew, the Wimbledon TV audience grew younger, and ESPN posted the top five most-watched Wimbledon telecasts in its 10 years at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. In addition, usage of digital properties to watch Wimbledon rose dramatically.

ESPN’s Best Tennis Rating
The 2.9 coverage rating for the Gentlemen’s Championship – Roger Federer over Andy Murray in four dramatic sets – was ESPN’s best ever for tennis. The previous record, 2.3, was achieved twice:  the 1995 Australian Open Men’s Final (Andre Agassi – Pete Sampras) and the 2002 Australian Open Women’s Final (Jennifer Capriati – Martina Hingis). The 2.9 rating represents an average of 2,876,000 households and 3,925,000 viewers (P2+), also tennis records for ESPN. The rating for Sunday’s final peaked at a 4.1 for the half hour starting at 1 p.m. ET.

The Ladies Championship on Saturday – Serena Williams defeating Agnieszka Radwanska in three sets – earned a 2.3 coverage rating for the match and a 1.9 for the five-hour scheduled window (a 1.6 U.S. rating, equal to last year). The household and viewer impressions for the 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. program were also statistically even. The average number of homes viewing was 1,849,000 (1,865,000 a year ago) and the audience was 2,234,000 (P2+; 2,249,000 a year ago). As play continued, ESPN chose to stay with live tennis for an additional four hours to show the Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ Doubles finals and the entire nine-hour telecast delivered a 1.4 coverage rating (1.2 U.S. rating).

Compared to Wimbledon 2011
With the addition of exclusivity, the audience for this year’s ESPN/ESPN2 presentation was 65 percent larger than ESPN2’s audience in 2011, an average of 981,000 viewers (P2+), up from 596,000.  The average rating was up 40 percent, from 0.5 to 0.7 (U.S. ratings).

The ESPN/ESPN2 rating is equal to last year’s NBC/ESPN2 coverage with a 0.7 U.S. rating, but the key male demographic groups enjoyed strong double-digit increases in impressions: Men 18-34 up 37 percent, Men 18-49 up 37 percent, and Men 25-54 up 28 percent. 

ESPN’s Biggest Wimbledon Audiences
The household audience for five telecasts in 2012 (listed below) top any previous ESPN/ESPN2 Wimbledon telecast going back to when ESPN networks began televising the event in 2003. The previous best had been an average of 971,000 homes for the 2007 Ladies’ Quarterfinals on ESPN2 on July 4, 2007 (based a 1.0 rating).

Date Time (ET) Event HH imps Coverage Rtg
Sun, July 8 8:56 a.m. – 11:13 a.m. & 11:49 a.m. – 2:15 p.m. Gentlemen’s Championship 2,876,000 2.9
Sat, July 7 8:58 a.m. – 6 p.m. Ladies’ ChampionshipGentlemen’s Doubles ChampionshipLadies’ Doubles Championship 1,373,000 1.4
Fri, July 6 7:58 a.m. – 2:18 p.m. Gentlemen’s Semifinals 1,298,000 1.1
Sat, June 30 8 a.m. – 6:11 p.m. Early Round Action 979,000 1.0
Wed, July 4 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. Quarterfinals 978,000 1.0

Digital Viewing Surges; Peaks with Gentlemen’s Championship
On the digital front, consumption across ESPN’s digital platforms nearly tripled from last year. ESPN3/WatchESPN registered 126 million live minutes of viewing across all platforms, up 182 percent from 2011. 

WatchESPN and ESPN3 had its top day of the Tournament on the final day. Nearly 23.6 million total live minutes were generated across all platforms for the Federer-Murray match. The next best day was Friday, July 7, with 16.2 million.

A Championship Weekend of History
ESPN’s exclusive presentation of Wimbledon culminated with four compelling championship matches, all of historical import. 

  • In the Ladies’ Championship on Saturday, July 7, concluding a two-year comeback from injury and illness, Serena Williams captured her 14th Major title and fifth at Wimbledon. It was her first Grand Slam event victory since Wimbledon two years ago. 
  • ESPN continued to air live from Centre Court (totaling nine hours) with both the Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ Doubles Finals. First, Great Britain saw its first Wimbledon male champion of any kind when unseeded Jonathan Marray and his Danish partner Frederik Nielsen proved victorious in a stirring five-set affair.
  • The telecast concluded with Serena Williams returning to the court alongside her sister Venus to take their fifth Wimbledon Doubles title together.
  • Sunday’s Gentlemen’s Championship was sure to provide headlines regardless of the outcome. Andy Murray stepped onto Centre Court with the sporting hopes and dreams of the United Kingdom on his shoulders. It has been 76 years since Great Britain cheered their own as Wimbledon champ. In the end, Roger Federer raised the golden trophy for a record-tying seventh time on the sacred sod and extended his unmatched tally to 17 Grand Slam events titles. It was the first time the Wimbledon Championship had been decided with the roof closed (middle of third set).

ESPN and Wimbledon
The new schedule for ESPN’s 10th Wimbledon – exclusive and all-live – is the result of a 12-year agreement between ESPN and the All England Lawn Tennis Club announced just after the conclusion of the 2011 Championships. 

ESPN and ESPN2 combined to televise more than 140 hours live from Wimbledon (131.5 had been scheduled) with 800 more on ESPN3. The television coverage was distinguished by the ESPN / ESPN2 “Cross Court Coverage” – an unprecedented approach whereby ESPN focused on Centre Court matches while ESPN2 offered fans a “grounds pass” with action from Court 1 and other courts in all-day marathons on the second Monday – Wednesday, July 4. All the action on ESPN and ESPN2 was also available through WatchESPN online at WatchESPN.com and on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app. ESPN 3D televised matches from Centre Court starting Wednesday, July 4, including the Semifinals and both Championships live.

ESPN – All Four Slams, All In One Place
Tennis has been part of ESPN since its first week on the air and provided many memorable moments, but it has never been as important as today, with the US Open joining the lineup in 2009, giving ESPN all four Grand Slam events, something no other U.S. network has ever done, let alone in one year. ESPN has presented the Australian Open since 1984, the French Open since 2002 (plus 1986 – 1993), and Wimbledon since 2003, with exclusivity for live television with all other rights extended in a 12-year agreement starting in 2012.

ESPN debuted September 7, 1979, and the first tennis telecast was exactly one week later, September 14, a Davis Cup tie, Argentina at U.S. from Memphis with Cliff Drysdale on the call and John McEnroe playing.

In addition, broadband network ESPN3, now in nearly 72 million homes, carries thousands of hours of tennis annually, including all four Grand Slam events, plus ATP 1000 and 500 tournaments and WTA Premier Events, and season-ending championships for both tours. Also, ESPN Classic shows great matches from the past and the sport receives extensive coverage on SportsCenter, ESPNEWS, Spanish-language ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio, ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. ESPN 3D aired its first tennis at Wimbledon in 2011. 


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