Historic Wins by Serena, Federer Lead to Huge Weekend for ESPN at Australian Open


Historic Wins by Serena, Federer Lead to Huge Weekend for ESPN at Australian Open

  • Highest Overnight Rating for Men’s Championship since Move to Overnight Telecast in 2005
  • Overnight Rating for Women’s, Men’s Championships up 17%, 80%
  • WatchESPN’s Average Audience up 59% for Women; Men’s Minutes Viewed Triple 2016
  • Entire Australian Open – 1,400 Hours from WatchESPN – Available on Demand for a Month

The historic Australian Open Championships with legends on both sides of the net led to increases for ESPN’s overnight rating for both (final ratings will be available tomorrow, Tuesday) – including a record for the men’s championship since it moved to an overnight ET time slot in 2005.  In addition, on WatchESPN, the two finals – Serena Williams defeating her sister Venus for an Open Era record 23rd Major title and Roger Federer capturing his record 18th Major title by outlasting his fiercest rival, Rafael Nadal, in five sets – enjoyed healthy increases over the equivalent match a year ago, highlighted by the men’s match tallying 13.5 million minutes viewed – more than triple (up 215%) the minutes viewed compared to 2016.

Women’s Championship

The Williams Sisters match earned a 0.7 overnight rating for the live telecast on ESPN Saturday, Jan. 28, at 3 a.m. from Nielsen’s metered markets, up 17% from the 2016 Championship, Angelique Kerber over Serena in three sets (0.6).  The encore presentation at 9 a.m. on ESPN2 earned a 0.6 rating, up 20% from last year’s 0.5.

The leading markets for the live telecast of the Women’s Championship:

  1. Washington DC 7
  2. Richmond 4
  3. Myers 1.3
  4. Seattle 1

Memphis                       1.1

New York                      1.1

Atlanta                          1.1

Los Angeles                  1.1

The linear feed of the match drew more than 58,000 unique viewers (+35% vs. last year), with 3.4 million minutes viewed (+14%), and an average minute audience of 27,143 (+59%).

Men’s Championship

The five-set battle in the 35th meeting between Federer and Nadal posted a 0.9 overnight rating for the live Sunday, Jan. 29, 3 a.m. match on ESPN, up 80% from the 2016 final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray (0.5).  When the national ratings are available, this will likely be the most-watched Australian Open Men’s Championship aired by ESPN since the match was moved from Saturday evening (Sunday afternoon in Australia) to Sunday at 3:30 a.m. (Sunday evening on site).  It may also be the most-watched program at that hour in ESPN history.  The ESPN2 encore at 9 a.m. posted a 0.7 rating, up 75% from a 0.4 a year ago.

The leading markets for the live telecast of the Men’s Championship:

  1. Atlanta 8
  2. Washington DC 7
  3. Norfolk-Portsmouth 5
  4. Columbus OH 4

Los Angeles                  1.4

  1. New York                      1.3

Richmond                     1.3

West Palm Beach          1.3

Ft.Myers                       1.3

Of note, six markets are on both lists of top-rated markets:  Atlanta, Ft. Myers, Los Angeles, New York, Richmond and Washington, DC.

The linear feed of the match attracted more than 141,000 unique viewers (+174% vs. 2016), with 13.5 million minutes viewed (+215% — more than triple last year), and an average minute audience of 48,339 (+136%).

History Made DownUnder

  • In addition to breaking a tie with Steffi Graf at 22 Major crowns (many of Margaret Court’s 24 were before 1968), Serena reclaimed the No. 1 ranking she had lost last September when Kerber won the US Open. For the third time, Serena (turned 35 in September) set a new mark as the oldest Major champion in the Open Era.
  • After taking much of 2016 off to recuperate from injuries, Nadal and Roger Federer entered the first Major of 2017 seeded an unfamiliar 9 and 17, respectively, despite a combined 31 Major titles. Few expected either – let alone both – to reach the final Sunday.  Federer had not won a Major since Wimbledon 2012 and had not been victorious in Melbourne since 2010.

The “retro” championship matchups – each living up to their billing – concluded what has been called “the greatest tennis Grand Slam event in history.”  Both matches – in fact, the entire tournament – are available on demand on WatchESPN.  Over the course of two weeks, ESPN aired more than 100 hours of live television with 1,400 more on WatchESPN covering every match – men’s women’s, doubles, juniors and wheelchair – and each match is available for 30 days after its conclusion.

ESPN and Tennis

Tennis has been part of ESPN since its first week on the air, providing numerous memorable moments from around the world, but it has never been as important as today, with the unprecedented position of presenting three of the sports Major events from start to finish (Australian Open, Wimbledon, US Open, with exclusivity at the latter two).




Dave Nagle

As I write this on 11-11-21, it's now 35 years for me at ESPN, the only real job I’ve ever had. I joined merely to help with the America’s Cup for three months at all of $5.50 per hour. I like to say I simply kept showing up. I’ve worked on almost every sport, plus answered viewer calls and letters (people used to write!), given tours, written the company newsletter and once drove NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon to the local airport. My travels have been varied…I’ve been to Martinsville, Darlington, Indy and Super Bowls; the America’s Cup (all 3) in San Diego and College GameDay in the sport’s meccas such as Eugene, Auburn, Lubbock, Stillwater and more; the NBA Finals, Wimbledon (16 times and counting) and the “other Bristol,” the one with a race track in Tennessee. These days, my main areas are tennis, UFC, boxing, ratings, and corporate communications documents, including more than 30 of the Year in Review press releases.
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