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U.S. Open viewership sees significant gains from Serena Williams matches

Yahoo Finance's Josh Schafer joins the Live show to discuss U.S. Open viewership.

Video Transcript

BRIAN CHEUNG: The legendary Serena Williams, let's just say it, the greatest of all time. Shattering US Open records, as nearly 2 million people tuned into her match yesterday-- well, actually, it was on Monday-- on fears that it could have been her last. Yahoo Finance's Josh Schafer here with the details.

Josh, she's playing again tonight in the second round. There was a lot of fanfare after she won, on Monday. Gayle King was there, a bunch of other people in the ceremonies. Give us the details on what the expectation is now.

JOSH SCHAFER: So the whole broadcast had 1.7 million viewers. That's up 279% from last year for that, because it's the first round of the US Open. Right? It's not the championship. It's not the most exciting event.

But what I want to point out, Brian, is 2.7 million viewers watched specifically the window that Serena played. So that will be curious to watch tonight. Does it beat the 2.7 million viewers, because they did kind of the-- I don't want to call it a retirement ceremony, but that's kind of what it was. Right?

A goodbye to Serena, the other night. Were people tuning in for that kind of event, or did they want to see her play, and they're worried that it's going to be her last match? I think that'll be interesting to watch.

So she's playing tonight. She's playing Annette Kontaveit, who's the second seed in the tournament. So there's definitely some concern here that she could lose, and this could be the last event--

I took a quick look at ticket prices, because we always love to talk ticket prices. You can't get in for cheaper than $314 right now, in Ticketmaster, and you'd be pretty high up. To get a good seat in like the first bowl, $800 minimum. So people are excited.

AKIKO FUJITA: So $2.7 million, how does that compare to what's normally the viewership in the first round?

JOSH SCHAFER: Significantly higher, and to give you an even better comparison, 2.4 million was the average for the Women's Final last year.


JOSH SCHAFER: So more people watched Serena Williams play in the first round of the US Open then watched the finals last year.

BRIAN CHEUNG: You know, what's really interesting, though, is that there's the Serena Williams effect, and a lot of people obviously buying tickets specifically for that event. They know she's going to play then, but across the board, all the US Open tickets have gotten more expensive. I went to the second half of the first round yesterday, and the ticket prices that I was paying, based off the conversations I was having, was a lot more expensive than it was last year, when it was also back in person. So the Serena Williams effect is expanding beyond just even the matches that she's playing.

AKIKO FUJITA: And you bought the tickets before the retirement announcement?

BRIAN CHEUNG: I bought the tickets before the retirement announcement, but I saw even afterwards, the ticket prices didn't go down when people knew that she'd be playing on the first night, as opposed to the second night. So I don't really know what's going on. I think it's actually bringing in just a lot more attention to tennis broadly, which is explaining why a lot of people--

JOSH SCHAFER: I was going to say, it's a big moment for ESPN, again, tonight. Right? Can you convince us that, even if Annette Kontaveit wins, is she a star? Am I watching for Serena tonight, and then I happen to become a fan of a different player? That's what ESPN can do in this moment.

That's what tennis can do in this moment, because that's what Serena Williams has done for tennis for so long. Right? She brings us in, Venus Williams brings us in, and then we learn these other characters, similar to what Tiger Woods has done with golf. You turn it on for that star athlete, but then who else do you notice after? And I think that'll be interesting to watch on the broadcast tonight. You know, how much do they build up Annette's story?

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, and also--


Talk about the Serena effect, there's a lot of younger players that are up and coming, more diverse faces up and coming. Can we also talk about being there?

JOSH SCHAFER: Yeah, I'm going to be there.


AKIKO FUJITA: I'm so jealous.

JOSH SCHAFER: I'll have to be back again tomorrow, guys. I can tell you what it's like. It should be pretty exciting.

AKIKO FUJITA: On three hours of sleep, we're going to just say it. Because you are going off of--

BRIAN CHEUNG: It goes long. I don't know if she's playing 7:00 or after?

JOSH SCHAFER: She's got the 7:00 PM match, which is good.


JOSH SCHAFER: Not that I won't stay for the whole thing, but 7:00 PM--

BRIAN CHEUNG: I was there last night, I could not hang for the whole rest of that Naomi Osaka set. I think it went off--

AKIKO FUJITA: It started at, what, 10:00, right?

BRIAN CHEUNG: It started at 10:30, I don't think it wrapped up until 1:00, and I had to go to sleep, so I can get up for the morning meeting today.

JOSH SCHAFER: We're glad you did, Brian.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Well, you better get up tomorrow morning. Yahoo Finance, this is Josh Schafer. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.