ESPN scored a ratings coup on Saturday, thanks to the first US Open Women’s Championship tennis battle in years between young American women.
The match between unseeded Sloane Stephens and No. 15 Madison Key saw Stephens triumph by 6-3, 6-0 sets. The match earned a 1.9 overnight rating in the metered markets for the match portion of the three-hour telecast, 36 percent higher than last year’s women’s final from New York. It was the highest overnight rating for the championship match in the three years ESPN has had the rights.
The rating for the match peaked at its conclusion, which spotlighted the crowning of a new Major champion. From 5:15 PM to 5:30 PM, ESPN had a 2.2 rating. Despite the dimming of traditionally strong tennis markets in Florida because of storm evacuations, ratings scored strongly in Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News (3.3), Washington, DC (3.2), Birmingham (2.9), West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce (2.8), and New York (2.7). The match out-rated two college football games on Saturday on Fox, Nebraska-Oregon and Stanford-USC.
The three components of streaming the match were also significantly higher than previous efforts. The total number of unique viewers was up 71 percent, the total minutes watched was up 15 percent, and the average minute audience was up 38 percent to a new high for 2015-2017.
The total average audience for ESPN’s exclusive coverage of the US Open from New York through Thursday, Sept. 7, was up 11 percent to 952,000 viewers on average, compared to 856,000 for the first 11 days of last year’s event. The increase includes a 50% rise in the audience for streaming.
The US Open has a history of strong television draws for women’s tennis featuring Americans. A showdown between sisters Venus and Serena Williams in 2001 scored 22.7 million viewers when it aired in prime-time on CBS.