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'Dramatically down': Aus Open viewership drops off a cliff as Nine's $500 million investment backfires

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30th January, 2023
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After enormous ratings throughout the 2022 Australian Open, viewing numbers for the 2023 tournament have declined dramatically.

Just months after signing a $500 million deal to extend its broadcast rights to the tournament until 2030, ratings have been ’30 to 40 per cent down’ throughout the fortnight at Melbourne Park, according to media analyst Steve Allen.

The 2022 tournament saw high-profile Aussies excel in a massive boost to viewing numbers: Ash Barty won the women’s singles, while Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis claimed the men’s doubles title and brought more eyeballs to the doubles event than at any time in history.

Their presence back-to-back on the night of the women’s final last year brought a peak of 4.261 million viewers; in contrast, just 1.437 million tuned in to watch Aryna Sabalenka win an epic final before lesser-known Aussie duo Jason Kubler and Rinky Hijikata won the men’s doubles.

The drop wasn’t as steep for the men’s final, with 1.32 million watching Novak Djokovic defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas for his record-extending 10th Australian Open title, down from 1.6 million that watched Rafael Nadal’s marathon win over Daniil Medvedev 12 months ago.

Overall, numbers were reportedly 3-4 million down on the record-shattering 12.5 million-strong audience from 2022 throughout the tournament.

Speaking to News Corp, Allen believes a lack of star talent, with Barty and Roger Federer having retired, Kyrgios withdrawing pre-tournament with a knee injury and Rafael Nadal being ousted in the second round, was to blame for the concerning decline.

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“There are so many of the global seeded players who do have star power not appearing here so it was always going to be lower ratings,” Allen said.

“Even so the ratings are a bit lower than I would have expected. It‘s dramatically down, 30 or 40 per cent down.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 29: Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a forehand in the Mens Singles Final against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece during day 14 of the 2023 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 29, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Djokovic’s return, having missed the 2022 season after his controversial deportation owing to his vaccination stance, didn’t help matters either, with TV expert Colin Vickery arguing the Serbian isn’t as compelling a drawcard as Federer, Kyrgios, Nadal or Barty.

“We know Djokovic really isn‘t a ratings drawcard in my mind so the fact of him being part of it this year, I think doesn’t make any difference,” TV expert Colin Vickery told the Herald Sun.

“The world of tennis is lacking TV ratings drawcards at the moment, it is in a transition phase. The drawcards who are reliable like Ash Barty, Federer… they have gone and there are very few coming through right at this moment.

“Nine have lost more than they would have thought, which is disappointing but they would be thinking they’re not going to be running into that same problem next year.”

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However, a spokesperson for Nine brushed off any concerns, saying the impact of Barty, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis’ wins last year made matching those ratings all but impossible for the 2023 tournament, while also pointing to the increase of viewers on streaming platform 9Now.

“The Australian Open is the most high profile and significant summer sport to launch the television year,” the spokesperson told News Corp.

“Coming off a year where Ash Barty and the Special Ks won, it was always going to be a tough act to follow.

“But this year we have seen a huge 9Now viewership, as viewers continue to migrate from linear to streaming. With a cumulative reach of 9.062 million viewers from day 1 to day 11, the AO has enthralled viewers.”

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