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Melbourne Court Proceedings Open Grand Slam Season

Australian Open Singles Finals Attract 4.82 Million U.S. Viewers

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Social Media
February 28, 2023
February 28, 2023
 min read

Melbourne tennis fans must be starting to expect history every time they arrive on the Australian Open grounds. In 2017, they watched Serena Williams defeat her sister Venus to surpass Steffi Graf for the most women’s singles major titles in the Open Era. The following January, Roger Federer won Down Under to become the first man to boast 20 career Slams. Now, one year removed from Rafael Nadal setting a new Grand Slam standard among men’s singles players with 22, Novak Djokovic has matched the mark by triumphing on the same Rod Laver Arena court in a straight-sets victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas. The match lacked some of the suspense present in the previous record-setters – though Tsitsipas pushed Djokovic to two tiebreakers – but the elation and accomplishment were nevertheless magical. And as the Djoker was adding to his trophy case, Aryna Sabalenka began hers by claiming the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup in her first career Grand Slam final. The pair of champions seemed to be top draws for the year’s opening major tournament – both on social and broadcast media – so we explored their reach using MVP’s omnichannel platform. Our analysis examines U.S. viewership figures from the semifinal and final matches as well as social media metrics among the men’s and women’s semifinalists throughout the two-week tournament. We found broadcasts of the singles’ finals drew domestic household viewers numbering 4.82 million, but the total suggests interest waned slightly from last year’s event.

Tournament Audiences Experience Decline

Of the four grand slam tournaments, none are more inconvenient for the majority of U.S. viewers to watch live than the Australian Open. A sixteen-hour time difference between Melbourne and the East Coast ensures many matches begin while tennis fans in the States are typically asleep – including all four singles’ semifinal matches and both finals. Broadcast partner ESPN combats this issue with encore telecasts of the finals beginning after daybreak in the east, but those who wish to watch the action live must do so in the middle of the night. For each of the past two years, coverage of women’s semifinals and finals matches as well as men’s finals have begun at 3:30 a.m. ET. To guarantee enough time for matches to complete at a reasonable hour locally, the men’s semifinals have begun at 10:30 p.m. ET and 3:30 a.m. ET. Despite the schedule creating challenges for Americans’ circadian rhythms, live coverage and encores of the singles semifinals and finals in 2022 collectively attracted 9.03 million viewers. That figure dropped by 13.5% in 2023 to 7.81 million. And while the men’s final encore was the most watched broadcast of both tournaments, its annual decline was 24.3% to 1.7 million.

Audience figures for the men’s final encore exceeded those of the women’s final encore by 34.1%, but an 8 a.m. broadcast of Sabalenka’s three-set victory over Elena Rybakina was one of only two telecasts in our study that experienced a year-over-year increase in viewership. With 1.27 million households tuned in, the encore coverage eclipsed last year’s total for a replay of Ashleigh Barty’s victory over American Danielle Collins by 7%. Notably, the live broadcast of this year’s women’s final experienced a 42.6% decline from last year’s window.

In addition to overall viewership figures, we examined DMA totals for each finals broadcast. Unsurprisingly, Los Angeles and New York traded places for the top spot based on time windows. The City of Angels boasted the most viewers for live coverage of each final, netting 70,658 household viewers for the men’s showcase and 48,644 for the women. New York topped our rankings for both encores, drawing 111,917 for a replay of Djokovic’s triumph and 80,516 for Sabalenka’s comeback win. Other markets to rank in the top 10 of all four broadcast windows included Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Tampa-St. Petersburg.

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Novak Aces Social Media in Melbourne

His play on the court was not the only way Djokovic dominated the Australian Open competition. Although he was not overly active on social media throughout the two-week tournament, his content made far-reaching impressions as he led all men’s and women’s semifinalists in total and average post value, engagements, and impressions during the two weeks ending January 30. Over that span, Djokovic generated $811.6K in total post value while earning 2.46 million engagements and creating 36.4 million impressions. But even more extraordinary than the totals were his metric averages relative to his fellow semifinalists. In each category, Djokovic exceeded all of his competitors by at least 4x, including surpassing men’s runner-up Tsitsipas in average engagements by 4.06x and average post value by 4.72x. Djokovic’s top post, a tweet featuring an image of himself kissing the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup while wearing a jacket with a Lacoste-branded “22” emblazoned on the right breast, created 13.2 million impressions on its own – roughly 91.3% of Tsitsipas’s total for the fortnight, which was second overall among men’s semifinalists.

Sabalenka’s title – which also helped elevate her from fifth to second in the WTA world rankings – and resulting content across her owned social channels enabled her to lead the women’s semifinalists in average post value, engagements, and impressions. By the event’s end, her social content had generated $14.8K in value per post while averaging 45.7K engagements and 743.5K impressions. But Sabalenka shared the women’s social crown this year with surprise semifinalist Magda Linette, an unseeded 30-year-old who had never advanced past the third round of a Grand Slam. Linette finished with the second-highest total post value and second-most impressions – $351.3K and 19.1 million, respectively – of all Australian Open semifinalists in either singles draw. Furthermore, she earned 410.3K total engagements to lead all women’s semifinalists.

Clay Court Season Is on Deck

As spring approaches in the northern hemisphere, top tennis tournaments on the horizon include events in Indian Wells and Miami before the clay court season begins in earnest in April. A month later in Paris, the red clay of Roland Garros will await the world’s best for 2023’s second major, as Rafael Nadal will attempt to retake the men’s Grand Slam record by winning his 15th career French Open. But he will face opposition from the likes of Djokovic, rising star and recent U.S. Open champion Carlos Alcaraz, and a host of others vying for the title. Meanwhile, the women’s draw is expected to be equally competitive with a powerhouse field featuring World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, American Coco Gauff, and Sabalenka seeking to prove Melbourne was just the beginning of her reign. Stay connected with MVP throughout the spring and summer for continuing tennis coverage.

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