US Open Audience up 50% from 2021, ESPN’s Third Best Ever

Tennis

US Open Audience up 50% from 2021, ESPN’s Third Best Ever

Alcaraz-Tiafoe Semifinal Averages 2.96 Million Viewers: 

ESPN’s Best-Ever Tennis Semifinal from any Event

The 2022 US Open on ESPN averaged 1.21 million viewers over the two weeks and nearly 168 hours of wall-to-wall live coverage, up 50% from last year and the third-best for ESPN since it gained exclusivity for the last of tennis’ four Majors each year in 2015.  The audience was boosted during the first week by the widespread attention to Serena Williams – who was featured three times in prime time plus in a doubles match with her sister Venus – who most believe was playing her final tournament and in the second week by matches with Frances Tiafoe, Coco Gauff and eventual men’s champion, Carlos Alcaraz. (See individual match viewership notes below.)   

The semifinal between Alcaraz and Tiafoe on Friday, Sept. 9, averaged 2.96 million viewers – peaking at 3.6 million – for the five-plus hour telecast that started at 7 p.m. ET.  That is up 66% from the equivalent telecast in 2021 and ranks as ESPN’s ninth biggest tennis audience on record.  It is also ESPN’s sixth best from the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. (coverage began in 2009).  It is ESPN’s biggest tennis audience for a match from a Major event that did not include the legends of the last 20+ years – Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams.  Not only is it the only semifinal in ESPN’s top 10 tennis audiences, but when combined with the afternoon semifinal, Casper Ruud over Karen Khachanov, the 2.2 million average audience is the biggest for the penultimate round of any tournament ESPN has televised.   

Did You Know? 

The 167.7 hours aired is not only ESPN’s most ever from the US Open, but it represents an increase of 27 hours from the scheduled 141 hours – an increase of 19% of “bonus” coverage.  

More Notes on Individual US Open Audiences:   

Monday, Aug. 29  

  • ESPN registered its best-ever opening day and opening day prime time audiences (started in 2009).  
  • The afternoon window on ESPN (noon – 7 p.m.) averaged the second-best ever for opening day, trailing only 2015, the launch of ESPN’s exclusivity and first-ball-to-last-ball coverage (680,000 viewers) with 626,000 viewers, up 44% from 2021.   
  • ESPN broke its first-day record with 1.7 million viewers for PrimeTime at the US Open presented by IBM (7 p.m. – 12:03 a.m. ET), an increase of 279% — nearly four-fold – over last year and up 40% over the previous high in 2019.    
  • Combining the afternoon and prime-time windows, the total-day average of 843,000 viewers is ESPN’s best ever for day one, again starting with 2009, and 4% better than the previous best, 809,000 in 2019.  
  • The audience for Serena Williams vs. Danka Kovinic averaged 2.7 million fans and peaked in the last quarter-hour (9 – 9:15 p.m. ET) at 3.2 million.  

Wednesday, Aug. 31 

  • The entire 5.5-hour prime-time telecast averaged 2.3 million viewers, up 289% over last year’s equivalent telecast.  It is ESPN’s most-watched Early Round (Rounds 1-3) telecast in its US Open history and ranks ninth on the list of ESPN’s most-watched US Open telecasts ever (at the time).  
  • The Serena Williams vs. Anett Kontaveit match averaged 3.6 million viewers and peaked in the last quarter hour (9:30-9:45 p.m.) with five million viewers.    
  • Williams vs. Kontaveit helped ESPN lead all networks – broadcast or cable – among Men and Adults among 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 in prime time.  ESPN ranked as the second most-viewed network among households and P2+.  

Thursday, Sept. 1 

  • ESPN’s most-watched Day Four of the US Open ever (1.0 million viewers).  
  • ESPN2’s prime-time telecast including the Williams sisters’ doubles match was the third most-viewed Third-Round telecast ever on ESPN networks.  
  • The entire telecast averaged 1.5 million viewers, up 131% from the same night a year ago.  The Williams Sisters’ match averaged 2.2 million.  

Friday, Sept. 2 

  • The Serena Williams vs. Ajla Tomljanovich third-round match was the most-watched tennis telecast on record in ESPN’s 43-year history: an average of 4.6 million viewers (P2+).  (The previous record of 3.9 million was for the 2012 Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Championship, when Roger Federer defeated Andy Murray).  
  • The prime-time telecast was the most viewed telecast of the day for broadcast and cable networks in total viewers and all key male and person demos.  
  • Focusing on the exact time of the match, it averaged 4.8 million viewers from 7:15 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. ET and peaked with 6.9 million viewers in the 10:15 p.m. quarter-hour.  

Notes from Week Two 

  • Monday afternoon’s upset victory by Frances Tiafoe over Rafael Nadal. earned an average audience of 2.4 million fans, peaking at 3.4 million.  The entire 11 a.m. window of nearly eight hours delivered an average audience of 1.7 million viewers, up more than double – 113% – over the same telecast last year.  
  • Tuesday’s prime-time telecast on ESPN averaged 1.8 million people, 75% higher than the same night in 2021. The Day Nine audience peaked at 2.6 million in the late stages of Coco Gauff dropping a quarterfinal match vs. Garcia.      

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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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