For 17 years, ESPN has brought us all-new tennis in prime time every weeknight. But it’s not just tennis fans who take their cue from the World Wide Leader. The network’s commitment to programming tennis in the prime time slots on Monday and Tuesday has been a key factor in encouraging other networks to add the sport’s playoff, World Team Tennis, to their weekly lineups. But with the launch of a new network in July (Fox Sports 1), and the explosion of the Premier League, is there any chance they’ll drop tennis from their Prime-Time lineup?
In its 17-year history, ESPN’s prime-time tennis package has aired 21 hours of action. It has been Friday night, Tuesday night, Thursday night, Saturday night and Monday night. While Fridays and Tuesdays are two night-lasts, Monday and Thursday have been the game’s premiere nights.
And in this era of media ownership, with so many other channels vying for the attention of the masses, ESPN’s tennis brand remains a valuable asset. Not all sporting events are created equal. Especially in a landscape where the average fan watches up to seven hours of video per day on TV — and that number gets even higher when they stream sports — maintaining a program slate in which nearly every major event is on during primetime is a signature part of the network’s brand.
But every month is a reminder of a debate that has been stirred for years: Are these prime-time matches worth the viewership?