Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dollars & Sense: ESPN Serves Up 2013 Australian Open

If you did not know, the 2013 Australian Open began this past Monday.  I’m not sure how many of you I-95ers are tennis fans, but it is a big deal in the sport.  The first of the ATP’s four majors, the Australian Open takes to the warmer climate of the Land Down Under while North America is left to defrost as quickly as possible. 

ESPN is carrying the Australian Open for the 29th straight year, its longest running annual broadcast.  The World Wide Leader will be broadcasting 600-plus hours of coverage on ESPN3 and over 100 hours of coverage on ESPN2.  The women’s finals will be on Saturday January 26th, while the men’s final will be on Sunday January 27th.  Both the women’s and men’s final will air live at 3am and re-air at 9am. 

Television ratings are typically thrown around when talking about a sport’s popularity, and unfortunately for tennis and the Australian Open, the television ratings have been less than ideal.  The men’s final that featured Novak Djokovic versus Rafael Nadal earned only a 0.6 overnight, while the women’s final of Maria Sharapova versus Victoria Azarenka earned a mere 0.4 overnight.  Ratings in Australia were extremely good: “When the presentation of the trophy was aired at 1.45am a staggering 1.67m viewers were still glued to the telly.

Of course there is a major time difference between the United State and Australia making it tough to broadcast (ask NBC about their handling of the Olympics). 

Also not helping the Australian Open’s case this year is the omission of Nadal’s name from the tournament bracket.  Nadal has been battling multiple lingering injuries over the past few years, this one bad enough to keep him out of the major.  Nadal’s absence clears an easier path for Djokovic to win his third straight Aussie Open title.

Even without Nadal, the Aussie Open is poised to give away the most prize money that they have ever given away.  Coco Vandeweghe made $29,100 for losing in the first round!  And no, she did not make that much because she is former NBA player, coach, and GM Kiki Vandeweghe's daughter.  The winner on both the women's and the men's side will receive a whopping $2.56 million for their victory!  Yes, tennis majors have equal prize money on both the women's and men's sides.

The Australian Open, though it may not be a huge ratings earner, still has appeal for sponsors.  Kia Motors is the tournament’s sole major sponsor.  ANZ, Rolex, and Jacob’s Creek are the Australian Open’s associate sponsors.  IBM rounds out the highest spending sponsors as the tournament’s official IT partner.

Tennis typically gets a bad reputation for being boring while also being a bit demographically skewed towards higher earners.  The people that do not watch tennis because they think that it’s boring (and probably have not watched in years because of their thoughts) are missing out on quite an era in tennis.  Men’s tennis is as strong as ever with Djokovic, Nadal (though injured), Roger Federer, and Andy Murray.  Also, Serena Williams is worth the price of admission all on her own. 

Even though the Australian Open is off to a relatively quiet start, flip to ESPN2 or click to ESPN3 and check out what you’re missing.  You may just enjoy what you see.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

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