On an historic day at Wimbledon, ESPN recorded the best Nielsens in its almost 33 years of covering tennis.
With Roger Federer defeating Britain's hope, Scot Andy Murray, to win his seventh Wimbledon crown and tie Pete Sampras and Willie Renshaw for the most ever gentlemen's singles titles, ESPN aced a 2.9 coverage rating, 2.87 million households and 3.93 million watchers, according to Nielsen fast national data. ESPN first presented tennis - a U.S. Davis Cup tie versus Argentina that featured Cliff Drysdale on the call of now fellow commentator John McEnroe action - on Sept. 14, 1979, a week after the service bowed.
The July 8 telecast -- Murray was looking to become the first Brit to win the prestigious grass tournament since 1936, as Federer extended his best-ever Grand Slam total to 17, reclaimed the No. 1 ranking and next week will surpass Sampras for the most weeks atop the sport -- easily surpassed ESPN's previous marks of a 2.3 for Sampras-Andre Agassi at the 1995 Australian Open men's title and the 2002 women's Aussie title match between Jennifer Capriati and Martina Hingis.
Sunday's telecast peaked at a 4.1 rating in the 1 p.m. (ET) half-hour, when Federer sealed the Slam triumph in the fourth set.
ESPN's coverage of Serena Williams' win over Agnieszka Radwanska in three sets to match her sister Venus' total of five ladies' crowns averaged a 2.3 coverage rating on Saturday morning.
Measured nationally, ESPN's July 7 telecast of women's final earned a 2.0 U.S. mark, up 5% from the corresponding three-hour window on NBC in 2011. The men's final netted a 2.5 national mark, surpassing the 1.9 for NBC's final telecast from the All England Club, Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal, by 35%
In its 10th year at Wimbledon Village and the first of 12 years of U.S. exclusivity with The Championships, ESPN/ESPN2's presentation drew an audience 65% higher than ESPN2's 2011 delivery of 596,000. The average U.S. rating was up 40% to a 0.7 from 0.5.
The ESPN/ESPN2 rating, across 140 live hours, equaled last year's NBC/ESPN2 0.7 rating, but the key male demographic groups enjoyed strong double-digit increases: guys 18 to 34 were up 37%; males 18 to 49 moved ahead 37%; and men 25-54 advanced 28%.
Digitally, consumption soared 182%, with ESPN3/WatchESPN registering 126 million live minutes of viewing across various platforms. WatchESPN and ESPN3 enjoyed its best day of the fortnight with hte Federer-Murray match --nearly 23.6 million total live minutes were generated across all platforms. The next best day was Friday, July 7, with 16.2 million.
All told, broadband service ESPN3 showed some 800 hours of match coverage during Wimbledon 2012.