CBS prepares to bid farewell to U.S. Open
CBS Sports will produce this year’s U.S. Open the same way it has produced the tennis tournament for the past 46 years.
But this year marks CBS’s final one with the tournament, as ESPN swooped in to pick up all of the tournament’s rights in an 11-year deal worth $825 million. ESPN, which has held the U.S. Open’s cable package since 2009, will telecast the entire tournament starting next year.
|The network has been a part of the event for nearly five decades.
“We’re going to use all the resources that we have used in the past,” said CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus.
“There’s going to be some sadness on Monday night when the final is over. But we will move on and ESPN will do a great job covering the event.”
CBS’s business-as-usual approach can be seen on the business side, where ad inventory around the tournament is 90 percent sold, which is pacing similar to the past several years, CBS executives said.
The network’s approach also will come through on-screen, as McManus said CBS would not cut back on coverage during this lame duck year. “We’re approaching it the same way that we cover any sporting event,” McManus said.
Still, CBS will have some programming that gives a nod to its long relationship with the event. Bill Macatee will
CBS Sports’ reputation is marked by long-term partnerships. It started carrying the NFL in 1956, the Masters in 1956 and the U.S. Open in 1968. Because of those long-standing relationships, it was a shock to see CBS lose the rights to ESPN, in a deal the U.S. Tennis Association struck in May 2013. ESPN outbid CBS for the rights, agreeing to pay $75 million per year.
|U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: RATINGS TRENDS ON CBS|
|2002||Sampras-Agassi||6.2||S. Williams-V. Williams||5.2|
|2001||Hewitt-Sampras||5.3||V. Williams-S. Williams||6.8|
|* Held on a Sunday ^ Held on a Monday ^^ Match aired on ESPN2 on a Sunday night
Note: Rating listed is U.S. rating.
Source: SportsBusiness Daily research
CBS is stepping away at a time when TV ratings around the tournament have hit all-time lows. The 2012 tournament averaged 2 million viewers, which is the lowest for the U.S. Open. News last week that one of the sport’s biggest draws, Rafael Nadal, pulled out of this year’s tournament because of an injured wrist, casts doubt that the U.S. Open can stem that viewership decline.
Still, CBS pushed for changes that have made the tournament better for television, such as moving the women’s final to prime time on Saturday and the men’s final to Monday night.
“We put the women’s final in prime time, and I’m proud that it has been successful for a number of years,” McManus said. “Our presentation and promotion has been first rate. It’s a great event that will continue to do extremely well in the future. Together with the USTA and, in latter years with ESPN, we have grown the event.”
After more than four decades together, CBS still plans to be involved with the U.S. Open next year — even if it is not the main rights holder.
“I don’t look backward; I look forward,” McManus said. “I love the event. We’re still going to have a major hospitality presence at the U.S. Open. I will still go to the event, and I will still entertain clients at the event. But it will be on ESPN.”