CITI Open generates record numbers

August 19, 2015

LOS ANGELES – Tennis Channel’s exclusive, wall-to-wall coverage of the Citi Open tournament in Washington, D.C., established an all-time ratings high for the network for the summer period between Wimbledon and the US Open. The channel’s weeklong live telecast of the men’s and women’s competition August 3-9 garnered an average 0.20 household coverage-area rating in Nielsen metered markets. This is an increase of 43 percent over last year’s 0.14 average, and makes the week the highest rated between Wimbledon and the US Open in Tennis Channel history.

The combination of ratings growth and significantly increased television hours resulted in a massive upswing for the Citi Open’s television reach in 2015, doubling the tournament’s overall viewership in the 56 metered markets to 19.9 million, compared with 10 million in 2014 (then on both Tennis Channel and ESPN2). Based on Tennis Channel internal estimates, nationwide this extrapolates to 33.5 million viewers in 2015 compared with 17.1 million in 2014.

Another record for the summer period between Wimbledon and the US Open, Tennis Channel delivered 623,867 unduplicated viewers in Nielsen’s 25 local people meter measured markets during the seven-day Citi Open, surpassing all previous highs. Total-day (6 a.m.-3 a.m.) ratings grew 30 percent last week as well, to 0.13 from 0.10 in 2014. Tennis Channel Live at the Citi Open, the network’s daily pregame show on the grounds of the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center, saw an 18-percent gain in tune in, to 0.13 from 0.11 in 2014, when the network showed encore matches of earlier tournaments in the same time slot.

Though Tennis Channel has covered the ATP 500-level Citi Open since the network’s first year on air in 2003, last week marked the first time the channel had exclusive on-air and online rights to the entire tournament. Similar to its format at larger events like the French Open and BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., Tennis Channel based its studio headquarters on the tournament grounds, with daylong programming blocks, late-night and early morning encores and Hall of Fame analysts. It more than doubled its coverage to 69 live television hours, and expanded the total television hours to 169. Tennis Channel Plus, the network’s digital subscription service, offered an additional 45 live hours of outer-court matches from the Citi Open, as well as on-demand archived competition.

The 43-percent ratings jump came across the entire week as opposed to just the final weekend, as Tennis Channel doubled the amount of overall matches this year. The sustained audience build through seven days indicates the effectiveness of the total-coverage model in 2015.

“Tennis Channel gave Citi Open the Grand Slam treatment, telling the complete story from beginning to end,” said Ken Solomon, chairman and CEO, Tennis Channel. “We set out to be event-building partners with the tournament, and to honor both its long history in Washington and its rich legacy with Arthur Ashe in our coverage. We’re happy to deliver for the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation, our advertising and distribution partners and, most importantly, for tennis fans who just want to watch their favorite sport on television the same as other sports fans.”

The men’s singles final between Kei Nishikori and John Isner Sunday, Aug. 9, was the highest-rated match of the week, with an average of 0.39 and 188,000 unduplicated households. The women’s final later that afternoon, in which American Sloane Stephens won her first WTA Tour title, generated a 0.33 rating in Nielsen’s 56 metered markets, with 108,000 unduplicated households. Sunday’s other match, the men’s doubles championship, featured twins Bob and Mike Bryan, who added another title to their ongoing Open Era record, now at 108. That contest delivered a 0.31 rating, the highest for a doubles match on the network since the Australian Open in January, and 133,000 unduplicated households.

The four men’s and women’s singles semifinals Saturday, Aug. 8, produced a 0.29 household coverage-area rating, with 262,787 homes in the 56 metered markets. The star-studded lineup featured a rematch of last year’s US Open men’s championship and a closely contested battle between Isner and fellow American Steve Johnson, in addition to Stephens’ win over former US Open champion Samantha Stosur on the women’s side.

To aid in-market awareness for the Citi Open, Tennis Channel created three outdoor jumbo-screen viewing centers throughout the Washington area with free, live telecasts. It also partnered with ABC-affiliate WJLA-TV Channel 7 to simulcast the men’s singles final broadcast free over the air throughout the television market. Ticket sales for this year’s Citi Open were the best in a decade.

The combination of a comprehensive, daily television schedule and heightened area exposure appears to have paid off in audience build as the tournament progressed. The average household-area coverage rating for the first day of play Monday, Aug. 3, was 0.17. Ratings each day from Tuesday, Aug. 4, through Saturday, Aug. 8, were 0.16, 0.19, 0.16, 0.18 and 0.26. Championship Sunday, Aug. 9, delivered the highest ratings day of the event, 0.36.

This year has been strong for Tennis Channel ratings. For each of the first 32 weeks, network audiences grew vs. the equivalent week in 2014, with one exception, a week that remained the same as its 2014 counterpart. In all, network audiences are up by an average of 30 percent in 2015.