Australia’s favourite summer sporting event is being challenged for TV audiences, with viewing figures showing the Australian Open could soon lose its title.
The Big Bash League, a domestic Twenty20 cricket competition, is now rivalling the iconic tennis major for viewers, as 200,000 more Australian eyes watched the Melbourne Stars play the Brisbane Heat over the star-studded second day at the Open on Tuesday night.
Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal all took to the court on Seven’s broadcast, however viewing numbers still fell by 55 per cent compared to last year.
And according to experts it’s a significant coup for Network Ten’s Big Bash.
“It is absolutely significant, I wouldn’t argue otherwise,” media analyst Brett Hutchins said.
“In terms of these sort of figures, there’s no doubt the Big Bash has grown quite considerably in the last few years and is now a major presence on the sporting calendar.”
Seven’s evening program only managed an average metro audience of 537,000, but still won the night with 17.9 per cent overall audience share – thanks largely to Seven News – which was the channel’s most watched program for the evening with 956,000 viewers.
Meanwhile, the Big Bash, in only its sixth season, was the most watched non-news program of the evening, managing an average audience of 777,000.
Over the past week, the program has dominated television viewing among Australians under 55, accounting for every one of the top five programs among people 25 to 54, nine of the top 10 programs and 12 of the top 15 programs.
Channel Seven not worried … yet
But while the tennis numbers might be suffering early, analysts have pointed out it’s a sure bet they’ll pick up as the tournament progresses to the stage where there are big names on both sides of the net, and nobody at Seven would be panicking just yet.
“Yes the reports are that the tennis (ratings) were down on the second night, but it was a Lleyton Hewitt match last year on the Tuesday night,” said media economic and analyst Peter Cox.
“The thing about tennis is it really depends on what’s on for the night and that wasn’t a great night. Now we’ve got Federer on, Nick Kyrgios on … I’d expect the numbers to be up.”
Media Week publisher and television analyst James Manning agreed.
“Seven would not be worried,” he said.
“Of course they’d always want more numbers, but after just two days? It’s not over yet.”
With multiple streams across Seven, 7Two, 7Mate and online through their app, Seven will accumulate a bigger audience, he said. And quickly.
As for Ten, winning the ratings, Manning added, that might be “bittersweet”.
“The BBL doing well is a little bittersweet for them,” he said. “Every time the ratings go up, so too will the price for the broadcast rights next time.”
Mr Hutchins echoed that statement, saying: “Channel Seven and the Australian tennis organisers may raise an eyebrow but they wouldn’t be devastated.
“It’s not quite as straightforward as they’ve got more viewers than them anymore, it’s combining what’s going around advertising revenue versus digital viewing,” he said.
Scott Ellis has been a television reviewer and analyst for more than 20 years, edited television magazines and liftouts for Australia’s leading newspapers and comments on the television industry for radio and current affairs.