The 2015 U.S. Open final round drew an average 4.2 overnight Nielsen rating, up 33% from last year's record low but well down from the 6.6 for the last west coast U.S. Open (2012).
Here are the highights from Fox's press release...
The final round featured a crowded leaderboard with a number of players narrowly off the pace and Sunday’s action posted a 4.2 household rating, averaging 6.7 million viewers on FOX broadcast network, a +46% increase over the U.S. Open’s final round in 2014 (4.6 million). The 4.2 rating versus 2014’s 3.0 marked the largest year-over-year gain for the final round since 1991-1992 (4.7/15 to 7.0/19).
Four-day coverage of the 115th U.S. Open Championship averaged a combined 3.5 million viewers each day across FOX and FOX Sports 1, a +40% increase over last year’s combined average on ESPN and NBC (2.5 million viewers). According to a custom analysis provided by Nielsen, the almost 40 hours of coverage of the 2015 U.S. Open reached a total of 34.9 million viewers.
Final Round Highlights:
Sunday’s final-round broadcast peaked with 11.2 million viewers from 10:00–10:30 PM ET as audiences watched Spieth birdie the 18th hole and runner-up Dustin Johnson finish in the final group with a disappointing three-putt to finish one shot back.
The primetime portion of Sunday’s telecast averaged a 5.3 rating and 8.7 million viewers from 7:00-10:46 PM ET, winning the night among the broadcast networks and giving FOX its most-watched Sunday night in primetime since Jan. 4 (NFC Wild Card Playoffs).
In comparison to 2014’s final round, the final round broadcast showed significant ratings jumps across multiple key demographics, including: men 18-34, +63% (1.3 vs. 0.8) and men 18-49, +46%, (1.9 vs. 1.3).
With Martin Kaymer's blowout 2014 victory leading to the lowest rating of modern times, Fox had no where to go but up. Not helping matters: Fox was also on for an unprecedented eight hours and some of those early telecast moments were showing little golf on a golf course that turned off casual viewers. That could not have helped momentum.
Since this was a west coast U.S. Open where the numbers are supposed to be better due to east coast viewers watching in prime time and coupled with the exciting finish, makes Fox's performance the worst ever for a Pacific Time Zone U.S. Open.
Past west coast overnights:
For average viewership of 3.5 million viewers in the prime time window, perhaps a more accurate number given the added length of Fox's weekend presentations:
Four-day coverage averaged a combined 3.5 million viewers in the prime time hours. The west coast Opens on record:
1998 Olympic -20% 1998 (4.4 million)
2000 Pebble Beach -47% 2000 (6.6 million)
2008 Torrey Pines -24% 2008 (4.6 million)
2010 Pebble Beach -19% 2010 (4.3 million)
2012 Olympic -27% 2012 (4.8 million)
The buried lede may be Fox's massive performance on digital streaming coverage, which was generally far more compelling and innovative than the main broadcast, sporting many fun bells and whistles that barely made the main show.
Sunday’s final round was the second most-watched event ever on FOX Sports Go.
Through FOX Sports GO, USOpen.com and the U.S. Open official app, total live streams started were up +354% (5.9 million vs. 1.3 million) over 2014. Additionally, total streamed minutes reached 158 million, eclipsing the U.S. Open’s previous high of 130 million minutes in 2012
For the earlier rounds, Sports Media Watch analyzed the second round numbers from Chambers Bay and Friday's telecast did not fare as well as Thursday's telecast with Tiger Woods.
The numbers were down from the 2012 Friday telecast (another Tiger afternoon day).
Second round coverage of the U.S. Open drew 2.0 million viewers on FOX and Fox Sports 1 Friday, up 50% from last year (1.3M), but down 5% from 2013 (2.1M). Prior to this year, the event aired on NBC and ESPN.
Keep in mind this year’s U.S. Open is taking place on the West Coast, allowing for extensive primetime coverage. Compared to previous West Coast editions of the tournament, Friday’s viewership declined 31% from 2.9 million in 2012 and 6% from 2.1 million in 2010.
SportsTVRatings.com also found the first two rounds lacking compared to 2013 at Merion and well down from 2012 at Olympic Club, but up from 2014 at Pinehurst.
In its first year televising the U.S. Open Golf Championship it’s convenient for Fox to compare its numbers to last year’s, but this results in an apples-to-oranges comparison since this year’s tournament is being played on the west coast and airing in primetime in the east coast and last year’s tournament didn’t.