Like a Taylor Dent serve, the 2009 U.S. Open got off to a fast start for ESPN2 with the Nielsens.
Through the Grand Slam event's first four days, ESPN2 scored a 13% gain with its inaugural coverage of the event, compared with USA Network's final go-round with the tourney in 2008. From Aug. 31 through Sept. 3, ESPN averaged 658,000 households for its average of 10-plus hours daily, versus 584,000 for the "characters network" over the comparable span a year ago, according to Nielsen Media Research data.
Over 43.5 hours, ESPN2 averaged a 0.6 U.S. household rating, up from USA's 0.5 mark last year. Among men 18 to 34 and 18 to 49, ESPN2's coverage was ahead 30% and 36%, respectively, according to ESPN officials.
ESPN2 has been stronger in primetime, posting a 33% improvement to a 0.8 household rating from a 0.6. with homes growing at 35% clip to 918,000 from 680,000. With men 18 to 34, the "Grand Slam" network grew 24%, while it recorded a 41% advance with guys 18 to 49.
Compared to ESPN2's programming for the same week last year, the daytime audience between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. (ET) jumped 125%. In primetime (7 p.m.-11 p.m.), the U.S. Open served up a 175% increase, according to network officials.
After presenting the Open action on Sept. 4, ESPN2 returns to the courts at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens on Labor Day, Sept. 7, ESPN's 30th anniversary, at 7 p.m.
CBS and Tennis Channel, with its exclusive windows on Saturday and Sunday nights, provide the bulk of the Labor Day weekend coverage.