SBJ/April 2-8, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Men’s final sticking with Sunday

The men’s final of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships will not be played on a Monday night this year, as had been discussed, and will remain as scheduled on Sunday afternoon, tennis and media sources said last week. But a move for 2013, these sources said, is likely.

Talk of a move to Monday for 2012 surfaced earlier this year, as the Open again fielded concerns from players about the short time frame between the tournament’s semifinals and final. Contractual commitments of network TV partner CBS Sports, which airs the final, prevented the move this year.

Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
The U.S. Tennis Association, which owns the Open, and CBS declined to comment.

The Open is alone among the four Grand Slam tournaments in having no day of rest between the semifinals and final, a scheduling situation players have complained about for years. Other Slams schedule more matches throughout the week leading up to the final, allowing the players to have an extra day of rest at the end of the tournament.

Outside media experts say a move to Monday night, which could put the final up against the first “Monday Night Football” game of the NFL season on ESPN depending on start and end times, is foolhardy.

“It does not make a lot of sense,” said Frank Hawkins, founding partner of media adviser Scalar Partners.
Instead, he suggested building in an extra day for the tournament by having the event start on a Sunday instead of its usual Monday.

Neal Pilson, the former head of CBS Sports who now runs his own media consulting firm, said CBS would lose money with a men’s final on Monday.

“The problem is they have to pre-empt three prime-time hours [on Monday] and will lose, let’s say, $1 million per hour, in revenues with little cost savings since they are in repeat programming, so it’s all lost revenue,” Pilson said.

A source close to CBS, however, said that while it is true the company would lose money with a move, keeping the event is important for the channel. The network’s current contract runs through 2014.

CBS would have an additional year’s time to address contractual considerations for a move in 2013 compared with making a move this year.

This year’s men’s final is scheduled for Sept. 9; the women’s final is slated for Sept. 8.

Under a move to Monday night, the women’s final would move from Saturday into the Sunday afternoon slot typically filled by the men’s final.

The past four years, rain has wiped out the men’s final on Sunday, forcing it to Monday afternoon and evening. That has significantly hurt the matches’ ratings (see chart).

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