ESPN Drives Open Championship Audience Marks

ESPN opened up new audience records with its coverage of The Open Championship this past weekend.

According to Nielsen Fast National data, ESPN holed a 3.1 U.S. rating for its 8 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. (ET) live presentation of Sunday’s final round, matching the 2012 tourney's last-round telecast. With Phil Mickelson scoring a come-from-behind win to win the Claret Jug at Scotland’s Muirfield Golf Links, the telecast, averaged 4.37 million viewers, topping last year’s mark of 4.23 million and setting a cable mark for the event.

The July 21 airing ranks third-highest among all golf telecasts on cable, behind only ESPN’s coverage of the 2008 U.S. Open playoff in which Tiger Woods beat Rocco Mediate and the first round of the 2010 Masters, when Woods returned to golf.

The 9 a.m. – 2:47 p.m. Saturday telecast earned a 2.7 U.S. rating, averaging 3.78 million viewers, ahead of the 2.6 U.S. rating and 3.55 million watchers ESPN notched  for third-round coverage in 2012. It ranks as cable’s highest-rated and most-viewed telecast of the third round of the Open Championship and ninth all-time.

ESPN’s telecast of the opening round on Thursday also attracted more viewers than last year, with the 7 a.m. – 3:45 p.m. telecast averaging 1.39 million viewers, edging up from 1.34 million last year, with both telecasts earning a 1.1 rating. Friday’s 7 a.m. – 3:39 p.m. coverage dipped to a 1.3 rating with an average of 1.66 million viewers, from a 1.4 rating and 1.77 million  year ago.

Saturday’s Open encore airing on ABC from 3-6 p.m. was up in metered market ratings, earning a 1.4, versus a 1.3 last year. Sunday’s presentation earned a 1.6 metered market rating, the same as last year.