US Open vs US Open: A Viewership Analysis

By | 2018-11-07T00:19:48+00:00 September 14th, 2018|Research|

Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Which US Open provides more reach and opportunity for viewer engagement? Samba TV teed up the data to determine if golf or tennis has higher viewership.

Brands and advertisers looking to reach high-income TV viewers often turn to golf and tennis as proxies – both sports tend to attract an affluent audience and their sponsors are typically high-end products and services.

The fact that professional golf and tennis each have a ‘US Open’ speaks to their inherent similarities – both tournaments have deep historical roots (the golf US Open was founded in 1895 and tennis in 1881) and they feature elite athletes from all over the world. Sponsors include luxury clothing lines, luxury automobiles, financial investment services and high-end jewelry.


Samba TV analyzed viewership data from the 2017 and 2018 golf and tennis US Opens, sourced from our proprietary visual ACR technology across 14.4MM opt-in US households. Our data scientists compared the average percentage of US households that tuned-in for at least five cumulative minutes to each of the four tournaments in order to produce a ‘tennis vs. golf’ viewership analysis, along with insights on individual matches from this year’s tennis US Open.


Golf’s 2017 and 2018 US Open both exceeded overall viewership for the tennis US Opens by a significant margin, indicating that golf proves to be the more effective strategy for brand reach. There are few factors at play here:

  • ESPN aired the tennis US Open on its flagship station, along with ESPN2 and ESPN3 – this means it was unavailable on network TV while golf’s US Open was broadcast on FOX (and FS1).
  • Tennis is especially reliant on star power to drive viewership – during the 2017 US Open four of the top men’s players were absent with injuries and Roger Federer lost in the quarterfinals. In 2018, mega-star Rafael Nadal was eliminated in the semi-finals.
  • Additionally, Serena Williams was absent from the 2017 tournament, yet her presence in the 2018 Women’s finals did not move the needle for viewership — in fact the 2018 tennis US Open declined 6% YoY.
  • In the 2017 golf US Open, eventual winner Brooks Koepka secured his first major title win and also tied the record for lowest-ever first round score in the tournament, which piqued viewer interest early in the four-day broadcast.

FOX + Rolex = No Commercials

Perhaps the biggest impact on golf’s 2018 US Open viewership was the result of an innovative strategy by FOX, which created buzz by offering a commercial-free hour during the final round that was sponsored by Rolex.

This aligned with the most exciting moments of the tournament, when defending champion Brooks Koepka fought to keep his lead over Dustin Johnson and secured his second consecutive US Open victory. In lieu of commercials, FOX aired 90-second vignettes sponsored by Rolex that featured golf highlights, history and legends of the game.

See below for the final statistics from Samba TV:

Brands looking to reach golf and tennis TV viewers can activate Samba TV’s programmatic data segments by searching for the following taxonomies in their DSP of choice:

Samba TV > Sports TV Enthusiasts > Golf TV Viewers

Samba TV > Sports TV Enthusiasts > Tennis TV Viewers

Samba TV > Premium > TV Tentpoles > PGA Masters

Samba TV > Premium > TV Tentpoles > US Open

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