US Open Shifts to Primetime to Boost Ratings


2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- The best television ratings for a final round of a U.S. Open came in 2002, when a weather delay meant the tournament didnt end until 8:38 p.m. ET.
Of course, the fact that the Open turned into a duel between eventual champion Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson might have had something to do with the 9.3 rating. Still, numbers like that'and knowledge of the typical patterns of TV viewership'led NBC executives to believe later is better.
With the Open on the West Coast at San Diegos Torrey Pines this year, network officials saw an opportunity in time zones. The final rounds could start later without risk of outlasting the sunlight.
They approached USGA executive director David Fay with the proposal more than a year ago, said NBC Sports executive vice president Jon Miller.
They embraced it enthusiastically, Miller said of USGAs executive committee. Theyre pretty forward thinking.
NBCs coverage for Saturdays third round is scheduled to run from 4-10 p.m. ET, three hours later than last year. Sundays final-round coverage goes from 3-9 p.m., two hours later.
Its the first time the Open has been scheduled to run into prime time.
Much like the Super Bowl and World Series, the biggest events should be played on the biggest stages, Miller said.
The highest rating for a Saturday came in 2000 at Pebble Beach, when weather delayed the end of the third round until 10:23 ET (and Woods was leading).
Miller expects the later coverage will draw more casual fans and more younger viewers. The time change will make it harder for people in many other parts of the world to watch'theyll be asleep by the time the winner is crowned.
We will be finishing in a way that I think provides the greatest access to golfers everywhere, said USGA president Jim Vernon.
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