Summer's Hottest Reality Series, Part 3

June 2, 2005 06:11 PM

Further adding to the luster of the US Open Series lineup is the addition of a men’s event to the existing women’s Pilot Pen Tennis tournament in New Haven, creating the first-ever combined men’s and women’s event on the summer hard-court circuit, and only the first such event leading into a Grand Slam tournament. Pilot Pen Tennis will now be the final event for both men and women pros before they enter the US Open, making New Haven an even more significant summer stop.

Of course, most tennis fans follow the sport through television, and the heart of the US Open Series is an unprecedented TV package, providing a level of coverage—and a quality of coverage—not seen in tennis before the Series debuted last year. “What really connects fans and players is television,” says Kantarian. “And a unified Series with a consistent television platform benefits everyone.”

That benefit was obvious in last year’s rating numbers, as more than 40 million TV viewers tuned in for some part of the US Open Series. The easy-to-follow, consistent television coverage not only made viewing easier, but provided record visibility for the players and the sport itself, a fact not lost on the Series’ stars. “As a tennis fan growing up, it was always challenging finding tennis on TV,” says Andy Roddick. “The US Open Series, for the first time, provides fans with an easy way to follow the sport all summer. It’s a great way to develop a new generation of fans—and players.”

The first-year results for the US Open Series were better than even the most optimistic could have imagined, posting record numbers in attendance, TV ratings, and live broadcast hours for the sport. Overall attendance at US Open Series events was up 5 percent, while total television viewership for US Open Series events was up 50 percent, including coverage on ESPN, CBS, NBC and The Tennis Channel. Coverage on ESPN was up a whopping 75 percent from the prior year, and coverage on ESPN2 saw an increase of 43 percent.

“The US Open Series is a giant step in helping to grow the sport,” says Hall-of-Famer Billie Jean King. “Consistent television exposure will provide fans better access to the sport, which can only encourage more of them to attend a tennis match, pick up a racquet and make tennis part of their lives.”