Rain canceled U.S. Open action on Tuesday, and with bad weather forecast for the rest of the week, a nightmare scenario is playing out for CBS: The men’s final may be pushed to Monday for a fourth consecutive year.
For each of the last three years, due to rain, the men’s final for the U.S. Open has been pushed to Monday afternoon, and CBS has had to face all-time low ratings for the event. In 2008, for the Roger Federer-Andy Murray final on Monday afternoon, CBS had a 1.7 rating, the lowest ever going back to 1978, according to CBS (the rating represents the percentage of televisions throughout the country that are tuned in). In 2009, the Federer-Juan Martín del Potro 4 p.m. final brought in a 2.3 rating, the third lowest ever, and last year’s Rafael Nadal-Novak Djokovic final scored a 1.8 before the match was — what else? — delayed by rain, which caused CBS to take the unusual action of abandoning the match before it was completed so it would not lose its prime-time lineup. By the time the rain stopped and play resumed, ESPN2 picked up the coverage and saw an even more dismal 1.2 rating.
But it’s not limited to the U.S. Open. The Wimbledon men’s final from 2009 and 2010 (Nadal-Tomás Berdych and Nadal-Djokovic, respectively) scored a 1.6 and 1.8, the lowest ever for NBC, according to records provided by CBS that go back through 1988. Perhaps not coincidentally, NBC revealed in July that it would no longer broadcast Wimbledon (that honor now goes to ESPN and ABC).
Women’s tennis hasn’t fared much better. The U.S. Open women’s finals ratings of 1.1 and 1.7 from 2009 and 2010 are also the lowest for those matches going back to 1978. The Wimbledon women’s final brought in a 1.6 in each of the last two years and those too are — surprise! — the lowest ever.
CBS signed a deal this year that gives it rights to the U.S. Open through 2014. The New York Times reported that CBS pays the United States Tennis Association between $20 million and $25 million for the event each year.