Ratings Roundup: Serena’s Swan Song – ESPN’s Most-Watched Tennis Telecast on Record

Ratings Roundup is a rundown of recent rating news and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, Serena’s Swan Song – ESPN’s Most-Watched Tennis Telecast on Record.

Serena’s Swan Song – ESPN’s Most-Watched Tennis Telecast on Record

Friday’s US Open Third Round match on ESPN – apparently the last in the remarkable career of Serena Williams, as she lost to Ajla Tomljanovich of Australia 7-5, 6-7, 6-1 – is the most-watched tennis telecast on record in ESPN’s 43-year history. An average of 4.6 million viewers (P2+) tuned in for the telecast from Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. The previous record of 3.9 million was for the 2012 Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Championship, when Roger Federer defeated Andy Murray, in ESPN’s first year with exclusivity and first-ball-to-last-ball coverage from London.

The Primetime telecast on ESPN was the best ESPN tennis telecast on record and was the most viewed telecast of the day for broadcast and cable networks in total viewers and all key male and person demos. Serena’s match 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.

Through the first five days of the US Open, an average of 1.1. million viewers tuned in to ESPN networks, up +101% versus 2021. These are the most-viewed first five days of the US Open on record on ESPN networks.

On ESPN+, US Open coverage has to date delivered 622,000 unique viewers and 58.6 million minutes, up +65% and +72% versus 2021 through Day 5.

Day Four

  • ESPN2’s prime-time coverage of the Williams sisters’ doubles match was the third most-viewed Third-Round telecast ever on ESPN networks
  • The match averaged 2.2 million viewers

Day Three

  • On Wednesday, Aug. 31, Williams’ second-round victory over Anett Kontaveit averaged 3.6 million viewers and peaked with five million.
  • The entire prime-time telecast averaged 2.3 million, up 289% from last year and is No. 10 on the list of ESPN’s most-watched US Open telecasts of all time.
  • That night, ESPN led all networks – broadcast or cable – in delivering both Men and Adults in the demo groups 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54. The network placed second for households and P2+.
  • That day’s entire 12.5 hours of matches averaged 1.4 million people, the largest for any ESPN US Open early round (Rounds 1-3) telecast.

Opening Day

  • Monday, Aug. 29, was ESPN’s most-watched opening-day and opening day prime-time US Open telecast ever. The evening doubleheader averaged 1.7 million, up 279% from 2021 and 40% higher than the previous high in 2019.  The first match in that window, Williams defeating Danka Kovinic in the first round, averaged 2.7 million fans.
  • The audience that day for the entire 12 hours of coverage was ESPN’s largest for a US Open opening day, an average of 843,000 viewers.

ESPN Delivers Its Most-Viewed College Football Kickoff Weekend Since 2016 – Notre Dame/Ohio State Scores 10.5 Million Viewers on ABC

ESPN networks registered its best kickoff weekend since 2016 and second best since 2009. Across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, 17 games accounted for nearly 82 percent of all college football viewing this weekend across linear networks. A dozen of those 17 games recorded more than a million viewers and nine were above two million viewers.

ABC and ESPN Score Record Viewership
ABC and ESPN aired the top five games of Week 1 across P2+ and P18-49 viewers, and the 17 games across Nielsen-measured networks during Labor Day Weekend averaged 2.9 million viewers in Week 1. On Saturday, the combined audience across ABC and ESPN in primetime was 13.4 million viewers.

ABC and ESPN each aired their best Kickoff Weekends in six years. ABC’s quartet of games averaged 7.1 million viewers, up 12 percent from 2021 and ABC’s second most-viewed Kickoff Weekend on record behind only 2016. ESPN’s seven games averaged 2.7 million viewers, up 69 percent over 2021.

Primetime Play Produces Powerful Audience Figures
Notre Dame at Ohio State, arguably one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the season, recorded 10.5 million viewers on ABC Saturday Night Football Presented by Capital One (7:30 p.m. ET), up 16 percent from last year’s Clemson vs. Georgia showdown and becoming the network’s most-viewed regular season game since FSU vs. Alabama (2017). 10.5 million is the second largest audience for a Week 1 Saturday game on record.

Sunday’s Allstate Louisiana Kickoff featuring Florida State and LSU drew 7.6 million viewers, ranking as the third best Opening Week Sunday game on record. Monday’s all-ACC clash between Clemson and Georgia Tech at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff scored 4.9 million viewers, the most-watched weekday game on ESPN in three seasons and up 57 percent over 2021.

Announced earlier in the week, the Backyard Brawl between West Virginia and Pittsburgh registered 3.15 million viewers, the most-watched ESPN Thursday game since 2017.

GameDay Goes Big and ABC Afternoon Action Shines in Week 1
Saturday also saw viewership victories with both College GameDay Built by The Home Depot and the Chick-fil-A Kickoff featuring defending national champion Georgia and Pac-12 powerhouse Oregon. GameDay notched 2.1 million viewers Saturday morning on ESPN and ESPNU, up 13 percent over 2021 and going down as GameDay‘s most-watched pre-November episode since 2016. The afternoon ABC showdown between the Dawgs and the Ducks registered 6.2 million viewers to become Week 1’s most-watched ABC 3:30 p.m. game since 2017.

A Final Week 1 Look – By The Numbers

  • Total minutes streamed of live college football games was up nine percent over 2021 in Week 1
  • From Thursday to Monday, unique visitors to college football digital content were up 8% and total CFB video starts were up 15% from 2021’s comparable Week 1 period
  • 26 million unique visitors consumed college football digital content throughout Week 1
  • From noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday, approximately 9.5 million viewers were watching college football in the average minute across ESPN platforms, including ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the ESPN App.

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