The marketing power of Serena Williams, explained

World News

New York (CNN Business)Serena Williams’ loss last week at the US Open, likely her final match, made history for ESPN.

The roughly three-hour match averaged 4.8 million viewers, making it ESPN’s most-watched tennis match in its 43-year history. Ratings peaked during the match’s final set in the 10:15 pm quarter-hour, garnering 6.9 million viewers.
Thanks to her popularity, the primetime event was ESPN’s most-watched program of the day for both “broadcast and cable networks in total viewers,” surpassing several college football games.

    Williams, a 23-time grand slam singles champion, lost last Friday to Australia’s Ajla Tomljanović in the third round. Following the match, Williams was asked whether she would reconsider her retirement from tennis: “I don’t think so, but you never know,” she said.

      ESPN notes that that the Williams-Tomljanović showdown smashed its previous record tennis ratings, when 3.9 million tuned in to its 2012 finals match between Roger Federer and Andy Murray at Wimbledon.

      Williams’ presence had a halo effect for ESPN’s US Open first week ratings. Ratings for ESPN and ESPN2 rose more than 100% compared to 2021 during the first five days of the tennis grand slam, which heavily featured Serena and a doubles match with her sister Venus.
      Her first two matches during the US Open’s first week also garnered higher-than-usual ratings for ESPN. Her second-round victory over Anett Kontaveit averaged 3.6 million viewers and her opening night match, where she defeated Danka Kovinic, averaged 2.7 million viewers.

          “These are the most-viewed first five days of the US Open on record on ESPN networks,” it said in a press release.
          Following her match, Williams’ sponsors paid tribute to her. Nike released a 60-second ad celebrating her legacy narrated by Zendaya and Michelob Ultra created a limited-edition pack of cans to “toast the G.O.A.T.”
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