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Agassi Helps USA Net Tourney Gains

Andre Agassi’s final appearances at the U.S. Open helped USA Network serve up big ratings during its first week of coverage of the Grand Slam tennis tournament.

From Aug. 28 through Sept. 3, USA netted a 1.33 household rating and 1.6 million viewers on average for 20 hours of evening tournament coverage, respective jumps of 56% and 61% from the same period in the 2005 event, according to Nielsen Media Research data the network supplied.

USA also scored well during the Open’s first week among key demographics, averaging 600,000 viewers ages 18 to 49 and 700,000 25-to-54 watchers. That was up 53% among the group advertisers covet most, and 61% among the older set.

USA received a major boost on the tournament’s opening night, which featured the renaming of the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., in honor of Billie Jean King and Agassi’s defeat of Andrei Pavel in a first-round match. The Aug. 28 action attracted 2.2 million viewers on average, up 123% from the corresponding night a year ago.

USA pulled in even more watchers for Agassi’s five-set win versus Marcos Baghdatis on Aug. 31: His last tennis triumph attracted 3.1 million viewers as part of a full-night average of 2.5 million watchers, up 203% over a year ago.

Still, USA, per usual, took a step back in overall primetime ratings because of the tournament.

According to a Disney ABC Cable Networks analysis of Nielsen data, USA finished with a 1.3 household ratings average from Aug. 28 through Sept. 3, for a share of seventh place in basic cable. USA averaged a 2.4 household rating during the summer, good for first place in the category.

TNT, third this summer with a 2.1 rating, easily captured the week with a 2.6 average, benefiting from the 5.4 mark generated by the penultimate episode on Aug. 28 of the second season of The Closer.

Disney Channel and ESPN, aided by the return of football, tied for second, both with a 2.2.

MTV, despite a 27% falloff to 5.8 million viewers from the prior year’s soiree in Miami, still rode the Video Music Awards to fourth place, with a 1.6 average for the week.

Other networks in the top 10: Lifetime Television and Cartoon Network, both with a 1.4; Sci Fi Channel and Hallmark Channel, which knotted USA’s 1.3; and TBS, with a 1.2.