Big drop in US Open audience amid competition from other sports
Domestic viewership for tennis’ US Open dropped by almost 50 per cent this year despite the tournament having to be played behind closed doors.
The grand slam in New York averaged 700,000 viewers on sports broadcaster ESPN, down 45 per cent from 1.28 million last year.
The tournament was played in a secure bubble, and with no fans in attendance, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As well as facing unusual competition from the playoffs in both basketball’s NBA and ice hockey's NHL, as well as the first weekend of the NFL season, the tournament also lacked a number of star players, notably Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, while world number one Novak Djokovic was disqualified in the round of 16 after accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball.
Saturday’s women’s final, in which Japan’s Naomi Osaka beat Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, averaged 2.15 million viewers, down 46 per cent from last year’s clash between Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu, which drew an audience of 4 million.
This represented the lowest viewership figure for the women’s final since 2017.
Sunday’s men’s final, in which Austria’s Dominic Thiem won his first grand slam by beating Germany’s Alexander Zverev, averaged 1.48 million viewers, a drop of 46 per cent from Nadal’s victory over Daniil Medvedev in 2019, which attracted 2.75 million, and down 29 per cent from 2018.
Thiem’s five-set win was the second least-watched men’s final on record, slightly above the final between Nadal and Kevin Anderson three years ago, which averaged 1.47 million.
It was the first men’s US Open final since 2014 without Federer, Nadal or Djokovic. That year, Marin Cilic’s win over Kei Nishikori on CBS averaged 2.19 million.
Despite the lower numbers, the men’s final was Sunday’s top non-NFL sporting event in USA, beating the NBA playoff clash between the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets.
ESPN holds US Open rights until 2025 in a 10-year deal worth around $825 million.