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Primetime Tennis in the City That Never Sleeps

Nightly US Open Broadcasts Collectively Draw 33.7 Million Viewers

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Social Media
September 29, 2022
September 29, 2022
 min read

Hypnotizing rallies, pinpoint shot precision, and extraordinary points contested before thousands of hushed spectators are hallmarks throughout the annual tennis circuit. But the intensity of each is raised to another level for the season’s final Grand Slam event, as the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY plays host to the US Open and the promise of electric evenings, primetime splendor, and legacy-making matches. This year’s event did not disappoint, as fans in the stands and those watching on the ESPN family of networks were treated to a changing of the guard of sorts. The opening week was highlighted by Serena Williams, who made a surprise run to the third round after strongly suggesting this would be her last time competing in the tournament she has won six times. But the fortnight closed with 21-year-old Iga Swiatek cementing her status as a star after winning her second Grand Slam of the year and 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz securing the men’s World No. 1 ranking by winning his first career major. We used MVP’s omnichannel platform to explore how tennis fans consumed the abundance of concurrent storylines throughout the 2022 US Open. It was evident that broadcast viewership was crucial to keeping track of the matches, as a total of 33.7 million household viewers watched the tournament’s primetime programming on ESPN and ESPN2.

New York Market Is Flush With Tennis Fans

Training complexes in Florida may be where myriad hopefuls lay foundations for professional tennis careers, but New York City is still the tennis capital of the U.S. For it is in the Big Apple that the USTA complex resides and welcomes players from all over the world for a glorious two-week showcase at the end of every summer. However, excitement for the spectacle expands beyond the tens of thousands who watch the action from inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. MVP’s examination of daily broadcast viewers in primetime – and the late afternoon window for the men’s and women’s singles finals – revealed an average of 2.41 million viewers per telecast. The local New York market was responsible for 12.2% of them and enjoyed a high daily share of 14.2% for the second round’s second night. The Los Angeles market finished second in viewership share with 7.3% and Atlanta rounded out the top three with 3.7% of the total US Open viewers on ESPN and ESPN2. But interest was plentiful throughout the country, as three nights during the event surpassed 3 million total viewers. The women’s final between Swiatek and Ons Jabeur drew the largest audience, 3.39 million. It was followed by the men’s final between Alcaraz and Casper Ruud, which attracted an audience of 3.23 million, and Friday night of the first week, when 3.16 million watched Williams get ousted.

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US Open Aces Social Media

While tennis is consumed broadly by watching full matches on television, many pairings can be distilled into highlight reels that display pivotal points and crowd-pleasing shots. Such content is ideal for social media, as are updates regarding winners, schedule information, and more. We monitored the US Open’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts from the tournament’s opening round through a day after the men’s final to gain an understanding of its online presence. During the event, the US Open shared 2,669 total posts, generating $10.09M worth of post value. Of the total, 64% was earned on Twitter. However, Instagram was the event’s engagement leader, as it was responsible for 66% of the 15.55 million engagements earned from August 29 through September 12. Overall, the tournament’s social content created 517.2 million impressions, which proved to be promotionally significant as the US Open’s social channels, including YouTube, gained 396,395 followers throughout the tournament – a 4.18% increase.

Alcaraz Makes Immediate Impact

As tennis legends of the past two decades approach their career sunsets, the sport’s popularity will soon hinge upon fresh faces on the scene. If the US Open is any indication, the future is bright. The all-time men’s career Grand Slam leader, Rafael Nadal, bowed out of the 2022 US Open in the Round of 16 to American Francis Tiafoe. It marked just the second time since 2005 that a Grand Slam quarterfinal round would not include at least one of Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic. But that helped pave the way for Nadal’s Spanish compatriot, Alcaraz, to take the reins. En route to his first career Grand Slam title, Alcaraz shared 94 posts chronicling his journey, generating $2.17M worth of post value in the process thanks to 5.43 million total engagements. His post value total was at least 2.28x more than any other competitor amassed and his engagement total was at least 29% higher than any others earned, with Williams finishing second and Nadal placing third in both categories. Notably on the women’s side, Swiatek and Coco Gauff averaged $16,488 and $16,257, respectively, in post value throughout the tournament, foretelling the game will continue to maintain fans’ interest even after Williams hangs up her racket for the final time.

Tennis’s Generational Shift Has Begun

Two weeks in the Big Apple exhibited much of the greatness tennis has represented during a generation of legends that includes Williams and Nadal while also embracing the potential of up-and-coming superstars such as Swiatek and Alcaraz. The zealous interest in Serena’s swan song coupled with peak viewership numbers for singles finals matches featuring four players who had a combined two Grand Slam titles – both by Swiatek – proved the new guard is in a prime position to propel the sport forward. Stay connected with MVP for continuing tennis coverage when the next Grand Slam season commences in Melbourne in January.

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