MSNBC.COM: LOW TV Ratings for Tennis Unless VENUS, SERENA or AGASSI are in the Finals - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 56 (permalink) Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 06:07 PM Thread Starter
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MSNBC.COM: LOW TV Ratings for Tennis Unless VENUS, SERENA or AGASSI are in the Finals

SOURCE:http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4800736/


washingtonpost.com Highlights

Jeff Gross / Getty Images file
Tennis seeking
to overcome several faults
Sport suffering from low TV ratings, disinterested players
Serena Williams spends more time modeling than playing tennis, Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins says.

COMMENTARY
By Sally Jenkins
Columnist

Updated: 11:28 p.m. ET April 21, 2004

I'm trying to think of anything more culturally irrelevant than tennis. New Age music festivals? Sport fishing and rare book auctions also come to mind. Here's how irrelevant the sport has become: Eleven days ago a U.S. Davis Cup team led by Andy Roddick beat Sweden in the quarterfinals on American soil, and it only merited a brief mention on the nightly sportscasts. You probably missed it, because Tiger Woods's slump seemed so much more important at the time. So did Sean Penn's political views, and Pete Rose's future, and Lesley Stahl's hair style.

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Tennis is dead. It has been dead before, but at the moment it's dead without precedent. Combine aloof players with basic business errors, and what you have is a sport with no heartbeat. In an effort to resuscitate it, a hapless alphabet soup of governing bodies this week joined with ESPN in trumping up something called the "U.S. Open Series," a six-week summer season of big-bonus televised tournaments. The idea is to get tennis on TV more regularly, provide audiences with a better sense of continuity and familiarity with players, and thereby bring back the game. We'll see.


More from Sally Jenkins
More from the Washington Post


The question is whether the public wants more of something that they're already not watching.

Here are just a few of the spectator sports with better attendance figures than tennis, according to a 2002 survey in the Sports Business Journal: rodeo, soccer and greyhound racing.

The reason for this new big deal "series" – which by the way is only the most recent gimmicky "series" in tennis – is that the USTA, along with the ATP men's tour and the Women's Tennis Association, badly needed some kind of lightning rod because TV ratings have been so perilously weak lately. ESPN's numbers for its men's tennis events are off 33 percent from two years ago; only 249,000 households tuned in per telecast in 2003, and while women's tennis is slightly better, it's still flat, off by 5 percent, with 365,000 households tuning in per show.

Even the four Grand Slam events, which historically have always managed to consistently interest audiences, have seen precipitous ratings drops. Unless Andre Agassi or Venus and Serena Williams are in the final, people just don't seem to care like they used to. Last year's U.S. Open final between Roddick and top-ranked Juan Carlos Ferrero produced a 3.5 rating, a 44 percent fall from the previous year. Justine Henin-Hardenne's victory over No. 1 Kim Clijsters got a 2.5, down a precipitous 52 percent. And at Wimbledon, Roger Federer's victory over Mark Philippoussis drew the lowest overnight U.S. television rating on record for a men's final at the All England Club.

Tennis
Austin: Serena has something to prove
Collins: Young U.S. stars in Davis Cup
Collins: Agassi will be around for awhile
Newsweek: Serena's next game
ATP schedule, winners
WTA schedule, winners
More on tennis


What happened? Why is tennis, which ruled the airwaves and enjoyed packed arenas in the 1970s and '80s, and even three years ago still had some buzz, suddenly falling so flat with the public in the millennium? The answer comes in the form of another question: Why should we watch a sport that even the players seem disinterested in? Especially when we can log on to the Internet and shop on eBay, or check our Blackberries, or click on a DVD?

You can put all the tennis on television that you want, but it won't alter the fact that the sport is driven by its stars and personalities, and at the moment there is a problematic cast at the top of both the men and women's games. Venus and Serena Williams don't even play their own sport; all they do is withdraw from tournaments with injuries and have dalliances with other professions, from fashion designing to acting, and turn up for an isolated trophy here or there. The men aren't much better. Six top players withdrew from the Monte Carlo Open this week, including top-ranked Federer, Agassi, Roddick, James Blake and Mardy Fish.

There is one thing no network or governing body or tricked-up schedule can do, and that's make the players play.

Golf, once a narrow and boring rich white man's game, has become the far more populist and connective sport – and one annually rated by sponsors as giving the most satisfaction to its financial backers, too. While tennis has done a swan dive over the last year, consider the LPGA. Attendance for the 33-event tour rose 9 percent last season, and 12 percent in 2002. Its network viewership was up 4 percent last year and a whopping 21 percent in 2002.

Tennis is a complicated failure. No one party or factor can be solely blamed. The problem is not fragmented internationalism, or a lack of stars. Federer is a pleasure to watch, an interesting and amiable man who is possessed of some of the most gorgeous strokes ever. It's not his fault, or that of Kim Clijsters, that the sport is in what might be called a star-transition and we simply don't know them as well yet as we know, say, Agassi or Monica Seles.

But it is the fault of the governing bodies that technology is ruining the quality of the game, and fields have become cluttered, with too many tournaments and too many indistinguishable players. Six male finalists turned up in Grand Slam finals in 2003, guys who shot up from the bottom 100s, guys like David Nalbandian, Guillermo Coria and Thomas Johansson. This is not to say they are unworthy or uninteresting. But at a certain point it's difficult to keep track of Jiri Novak, Sjeng Schalken and Paradorn Srichaphan plus a half dozen Argentines and another six or seven Spaniards who float in and out of the top 20 and various finals. As many as thirty players are liable to win ATP events in a season.

Equipment has something to do with it. Both John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova have each remarked that racket technology makes the game "too easy" with the result that too many players play exactly alike. Matches are generic, strokes homogenized, with fewer interesting contrasts in styles, or changeups.

This makes it hard for the public to connect with much of anyone. Contrast that with the game we watched in the 1970s and '80s, when there were more clear-cut rivals: Ivan Lendl showed up in 19 Grand Slam finals, and John McEnroe in 10, and we knew they didn't like each other. No wonder we tuned in.

It's taken a collective effort of lousy marketing, bad business practices, and apathetic players over a period of many years, but the end result is clear: Tennis has slowly but surely dislocated its audience, both physically and emotionally. It has squandered its star power, its history and its tradition. So can the new Open series and ESPN save tennis? Only if it manages to personalize the game again. Only if it manages to make the Federers and Clijsters come alive in our imaginations as the next great creative geniuses, the natural and personable successors in a traditional yet vivid and lively sport, the one we always loved.

If it doesn't do that, then the game is gone for good.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

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post #2 of 56 (permalink) Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 06:23 PM
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But Andy is all that and a bag of chips.
The Belgian finals are classics!

For shame!
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post #3 of 56 (permalink) Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 06:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tennisIlove09
But Andy is all that and a bag of chips.
The Belgian finals are classics!

For shame!
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post #4 of 56 (permalink) Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 06:24 PM
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WOw! what a harsh assessment of the game of tennis. One way to increase tennis' popularity, is to make it more urban friendly. [img]http://smileys.******************/cat/10_1_20.gif[/img] The writer did say soccer gets more attention, and of course it would, since soccer is the #1 sport in the world, no?
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post #5 of 56 (permalink) Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 06:33 PM
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this article has some valid points, but it concludes to extremely.
What tennis needs is the players healthy, especially on the women's side, and all will be fine.
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post #6 of 56 (permalink) Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 06:53 PM
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ouch

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post #7 of 56 (permalink) Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 07:03 PM
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First of all, golf certainly does not have the same players winning every week so she's flat out wrong to say that it's because the men have unknown's winning majors that the ratings have slipped.

Also, Venus and Serena were INJURED. Now that they're back they are playing a decent amount of tournaments. Plus, Venus and Serena doing stuff out of tennis is good for the sport, not bad. When they're doing commercials or acting on shows, it helps with the crossover appeal.

and I'm sure her stats are somewhat skewed, I wonder what the LPGA's rating is compared to tennis, and what the average tennis rating is, compared to the average of the other sports listed. I'm sure tennis has higher ratings.

There are some problems with tennis, but not the one's she listed.

Venus Williams-Ana Ivanovic-Serena Williams-Vika Azarenka-Caroline Wozniacki

McHale-Stephens-Watson-Robson-Townsend

Brodsky-Muhammad-Hampton-Keys-Crawford-Andrews-Hardebeck
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post #8 of 56 (permalink) Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 07:08 PM
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Well maybe. But USA is not the world. I think tennis will be fine
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post #9 of 56 (permalink) Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 07:10 PM
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Is this true for the rest of the planet too or just a "little America" problem? Anyone have info on viewing stats elsewhere?
Fewer people are watching tennis in the states?

"It's not his [Federer's] fault, or that of Kim Clijsters, that the sport is in what might be called a star-transition and we simply don't know them as well yet as we know, say, Agassi or Monica Seles."

- who makes stars? The media: the same reporters who write articles like this! If we don't know them, why is that?

"Six male finalists turned up in Grand Slam finals in 2003, guys who shot up from the bottom 100s, guys like David Nalbandian, Guillermo Coria and Thomas Johansson. This is not to say they are unworthy or uninteresting. But at a certain point it's difficult to keep track of Jiri Novak, Sjeng Schalken and Paradorn Srichaphan plus a half dozen Argentines and another six or seven Spaniards who float in and out of the top 20 and various finals. As many as thirty players are liable to win ATP events in a season. "

Surprise, surprise, no American is listed amongst these difficult-to-keep-track-of players? Especially all those anonymous "Spaniards" and "Argentines" (perhaps "foreigners" was the word you were looking for, sweetie)

"Equipment has something to do with it. Both John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova have each remarked that racket technology makes the game "too easy" with the result that too many players play exactly alike. Matches are generic, strokes homogenized, with fewer interesting contrasts in styles, or changeups. This makes it hard for the public to connect with much of anyone. Contrast that with the game we watched in the 1970s and '80s, when there were more clear-cut rivals: Ivan Lendl showed up in 19 Grand Slam finals, and John McEnroe in 10, and we knew they didn't like each other. No wonder we tuned in."

The last three years in women's tennis have consisted of finals pitting either have Serena-Venus or Kim-Justine against each other. From 1990-2003, Sampras showed up in 18 finals and Agassi in 13. The public has not yet arrived at a level of stupidity where it cannot see a difference in the games of Serena and Justine or Sampras and Agassi.

"...Only if it manages to make the Federers and Clijsters come alive in our imaginations as the next great creative geniuses, the natural and personable successors in a traditional yet vivid and lively sport, the one we always loved. If it doesn't do that, then the game is gone for good. "

The tv commentators and the journalists make the players come alive (that's their job, isn't it?) so maybe Sally Jenkin and her employer should be asking why she's obviously failing.

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post #10 of 56 (permalink) Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 07:23 PM
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I swear the word ARROGANCE must have been coined in the USA. If American audiences cannot connect with a sport, therefore it must be dead. What hogwash.

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post #11 of 56 (permalink) Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 07:36 PM
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I swear the word jealousy must have been coined outside of the USA (it was) because so many people in other countries seem to want what America has.

But I have been saying for years that TV ratings go up when the Williams are playing.

But, when they are gone we may have a bunch of Russians playing at the top and then we shall see what we shall see, eh?

Bye.

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post #12 of 56 (permalink) Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 07:41 PM
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His points are valid and not.

He didn't mention Henin, I wonder why?
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post #13 of 56 (permalink) Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 07:41 PM
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It's a rather sad state of affairs when Americans cannot appreciate players from different countries. Perhaps US audiences should give it a try, heck, they may even like it. It must be pretty boring to be so one dimensional.

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post #14 of 56 (permalink) Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 07:46 PM
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post #15 of 56 (permalink) Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 07:49 PM
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I guess Americans are more interested in siding with NBA stars who (purportedly) rape and pillage, and voting talented people off of "American Idol"!! I don't get it!

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