SBJ/20100913/This Weeks Issue

Increases point Open toward revenue record

This year’s U.S. Open Tennis Championships could set a revenue record for the event, even as the tournament for the first time in four years will see an attendance decrease.

With sponsorship, hospitality, concessions and merchandise all trending up at the end of last week, and ticket price increases making up for an expected drop of 5,000 in attendance, the roughly $208 million revenue record set in 2008 was being threatened.

align=“We are gratified that fans flocked to our event,” said Chris Widmaier, an Open spokesman. “For any event, it is tough to set four consecutive attendance records, and this year we will still be the third- or fourth-best attendance ever.”

Last year set the high-water mark for attendance, at 721,059. Speaking last Thursday, ahead of the tournament’s final weekend, Widmaier said the Open would fall about 5,000 short of that, but the total still makes the Open the best attended annual sporting event for paying customers in the world.

BUSY Bollettieri: Nick Bollettieri, the famed tennis instructor, remains a busy man these days even at age 79. On-site at the Open, he was doing radio interviews and online commentary for CBSSports.com and promotional work for American Express. He has an autobiography coming out next year, on Sept. 1, from Grand Central Publishing that he hopes he will sell the movie rights to. He even got five of his eight wives to be interviewed for the book, he said. An entire chapter of the book will also be dedicated to Andre Agassi, who famously blasted his experience at the Bollettieri Academy. Bollettieri is still active at the IMG Academies, which bought his tennis academy and expanded it into now seven sports.

The skycams arrived (right) and the crowds returned for the 2010
edition of the U.S. Open.

TV ROUNDUP: After heavy buildup and much fanfare with tennis’ first skycams and boisterous on-site studios, ESPN2 saw ratings by the end of last week that were down slightly, to a 0.7 average from a 0.8 last year. A lot of that is story line. Serena Williams did not play, Andy Roddick lost early and the field featured a high number of Spanish men most Americans don’t know. But the network is still pleased with what tennis brings it: a heavy dose of female viewership and international glamour. Jason Bernstein, ESPN’s senior director of programing and acquisitions, said ESPN wants more tennis programming and was unfazed by the dearth of Americans playing in the tournament. In fact, 2010 set a record with only one American making it to a men’s quarterfinal in any of the four Slams (Roddick at the Australian Open). Bernstein concedes that player participation is an issue for ESPN2’s coverage of the U.S. Open Series, which saw ratings largely flat this year, but it’s hard to see that issue changing. Top players have only so many events they can play.

BASELINE DEALINGS: Not much to report on big deals brewing in the tennis apparel and footwear category at the Open this year, but agents did say Under Armour and Reebok are looking for some signings. Nike is mainly looking for junior players, with its crop of top players (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin del Potro, Serena Williams and Maria Sharpaova) more than sufficient. Melanie Oudin (Adidas) and Mardy Fish (K-Swiss) have apparel deals up at the end of the year. … Speaking of Fish, who will be in the top 20 when the latest rankings are unveiled this week, he was a feel-good story of the Open, with it becoming almost obligatory to mention in the same breath that he had lost 30 pounds and was playing the best tennis of his life. But few, if any, of those stories mentioned a company he endorsed at the start of the tournament: Generation UCAN, a weight-loss powder. The Woodbridge, Conn.-based company launched earlier this year, and Fish, whose coach introduced him to the product, will become the company’s face, wearing the name of the company on his shirt. He received a high five-figure fee plus 7,500 shares in the private company. Fish is represented by Lagardère Unlimited.

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