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Data from television measurement provider OzTAM revealed a 17 per cent increase in audience across the two-week Australian Open tournament compared with the previous year.

The Australian Open, which concluded on Sunday night, averaged 531,660 metropolitan viewers and 726,935 when including regional areas. In 2018, the Open averaged 453,381 in the capital cities – a figure that media buying agencies rely on – and 622,307 nationally.

Nine’s broadcast of Nick Kyrgios and Rafael Nadal’s match last week was watched by 1.918 million metropolitan viewers alone.

Nine is the owner of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.  The media company’s deal gave it exclusivity of all premium tennis played until 2024 across broadcast, streaming and digital platforms.

Mr Smith said the Nine’s tennis broadcast was proof the halo concept – the idea of using a sport to cross-promote shows and boost audiences – still worked.

The Big Bash League - runs on both Seven and Foxtel but has lost audiences this year.

The Big Bash League – runs on both Seven and Foxtel but has lost audiences this year. Credit:AAP

“The view was that up until more recently that halo is gone – it’s no longer as relevant as it was. I would suggest that has now changed … the way that Channel Nine has been promoting their shows, promoting across platforms, has reinvented and has grown the halo back again,” he said.

Nine’s sports boss Brent Williams said this year’s growth was a combination of the success of Australians, competitive matches and the arrangement Nine chief executive Hugh Marks landed with Tennis Australia.

“We saw some fantastic tennis this year and the success of the Australians – Ash Barty, Nick Kyrgios, John Millman – the fact they went deeper in the tournament certainly helps us a lot,” Mr Williams said. “It was a bold and brave decision by us to walk away from 40 years of cricket and to step into tennis but for us and our business it made so much sense.”

Australia’s other major summer sport – The Big Bash League –  runs on both Seven and Foxtel but has lost audiences this year. As of Saturday’s matches, OzTAM’s preliminary ratings figures showed a fall of 10 per cent year on year for Seven to 383,000 viewers, and 609,000 nationally. Meanwhile, Fox Cricket’s exclusive men’s BBL matches were averaging 158,000 nationally, down 25 per cent year on year. The combined coverage is averaging 780,000 across Australia, a fall of 7 per cent. These figures will change ahead of the final on the weekend.

Seven said its entire cricket offering – women’s international, Women’s BBL, tests and BBL – has so far reached 15.213 million based on viewers who watched at least a minute of coverage. By comparison, Nine’s tennis reached 14.5 million.

Mr Smith said the challenge for the cricket – particularly the Big Bash – was building tribalism and consistent scheduling.

“One of the key things for Channel Seven is getting more viewers, therefore, higher TV ratings and therefore higher advertising revenue. For Foxtel, it’s all about getting more subscribers whether they are on Kayo or Foxtel,” he said.

“One of the challenges that Big Bash cricket has got – it’s been a premium entertainment property but is still yet to build club tribalism. The other part of this is definable windows. Big Bash is being swapped in and out where it fits with tests.”

Zoe Samios is a media and telecommunications reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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