Aussie Open: Live or Memorex?
by Lynn Berenbaum | January 24th, 2007, 9:24 am

Last week on Off the Baseline, I wrote up a quick post on the conundrum I encountered when trying to watch the Andy Roddick-Marat Safin match, aka the night match in Melbourne. Tonight, fans will endure the same punishments when Roddick meets world number one Roger Federer in the night match.

The basic premise of my post was about the notion of waking up the roosters to watch live action versus watching the replay later in the day. Some of the issues included things like ‘How do you avoid knowing the result?’ and ‘Is it worth it to watch it via DVR?’

You know, the “hard-hitting” questions.

Anyway, as I usually do, I took a swipe at ESPN’s coverage, and how tennis fans can’t really even rely on YouTube anymore for homespun highlights. This brought on a torrent of emails from friends, and a few comments on the site itself, about ESPN’s coverage and YouTube; the least of which included how ESPN’s double scheduling was of no help since it’s nearly impossible for most people to watch tennis at 3pm no less 3am.

Fans seem to be bitter at ESPN. Very bitter. For the record, I’m also slightly bitter about YouTube. As discussed previously, YouTube has been going vigilante on sports videos. Seems Tennis Australia and YT have been working together to remove videos from their site, and my YT account was recently suspended due to some videos I posted from last year’s Aussie Open. (Do they read the X-Blog? Well, let’s hope so!)

Televised offerings are a difficult enough nut to crack when dealing with live events on the other side of the world. For sports fans who use the Web though, it’s painful to see the online scoreboard telling you one thing, and have to tune into televised coverage that sparks up an hour later — at the beginning of a match that you know is almost cooked.

I haven’t seen the ratings for the Australian yet, but they can’t be good. You don’t have to be a genius to know that the relationship between ESPN and tennis is starting to seriously reach the tipping point. They didn’t dump Roland Garros for naught, nor are tennis fans circulating Web links of where to complain to ESPN solely for giggles.

But FWIW, there is hope. USA Networks did a pretty good job during the US Open last year. Anecdotally, I was away during Labor Day weekend, and managed to catch a bit via my friend’s DirecTV subscription when I could. The service allowed you to watch a bunch of different courts, with no commentary — and with picture-in-picture, so you could view a few matches at the same time. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was pouring buckets in NY, causing them to reply the Agassi-Baghdatis match five times, I would have gladly traded my mountain air to stay inside for some live tennis action.

Basically, USA’s coverage was what we should have in the US at every Slam. In fact, I wouldn’t be complaining if USA/NBC picked up coverage for all the Slams. Hells, I’d spring for DirecTV! If offered multi-court coverage on digital cable, I’d have no problem dealing with Mary Carillo’s open-mic commentary about how she’s going to get fired. I’m not picky. I just want to be able to see the match. (NBC, are you reading this?)

Like many people, I’m also leery of the coverage Roland Garros will receive on The Tennis Channel, and pray it doesn’t look like public access cable. I hate to say this, but the only thing the network seems to be good for is Cup Coverage, which no other network wants anyway. What kind of commentary is it that when you turn on the tennis network during the Australian Open you’re treated to repeats of a reality show? For the life of me, I still don’t understand why they can’t do a nightly SportsCenter-type broadcast recapping the day in tennis news… but, alas, that’s another post entirely.


Fans were also predictably po’d at the lack of live TV coverage and headed to the Web in droves, in search of live streaming video. Maybe it’s me, but it seems somewhat unfathomable that a service like Masters Series TV exists, which provides live streams of all of the MS events; but that there is no “Grand Slams TV” Web streaming service. If some happy entity is looking to make a buck, I think we’ve found a market niche. Ah, but, good luck cutting through those contracts.

That’s not to say that MS TV was any picnic. As a Mac user, no option was given to handle my operating system. Sure, I can, and do, also run Windows on my computer to accomodate for such ridiculously lame software, but not everyone does that. The complaints from many of the fans who signed up for the service with all the right software are countless enough to keep people like me away.

Should all matches be on the web, live and streaming in a video format that reaches all OS platforms? I think so. Absolutely. As I think back on what we were all complaining about during last year’s Aussie Open though, I don’t see things getting any better or any different.

Okay, now it’s your turn. I’m curious. I know this blog is read by fans all over the world, many of who don’t suffer the same pains as Americans. I can’t speak to your experience, so you tell me: How do you get your Australian Open coverage? Online? TV? Both? What works best for you?

You Might Like:
2009 Australian Open TV Schedule
2010 Australian Open TV Schedule
2013 Australian Open TV Schedule: ESPN2, Tennis Channel
2008 French Open TV Schedule
Tennis on TV — June 2007 Schedule

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23 Comments for Aussie Open: Live or Memorex?

JJ Says:

I’ve watched my Aussie Open coverage on ESPN and online. ESPN needs to really get their act together. Having the coverage delayed is a joke and almost makes me not want to watch it period. I might just watch the rest of the tournament online and order dvd’s of the matches that I want later

Aaress Says:

Well, bad coverage is just translating into less viewers.

I can’t remember the last time I watched so little television coverage of a Grand Slam. Fortunately, the internet has been a lifeline over the past ten days.

Who wants to watch a match delayed, and then get salt poured into the wound when listening to ESPN introduce their coverage by saying moments ago on Rod Laver ___ came out on court?

YEAH RIGHT – how about two hour’s worth of moments. And they still have the nerve to say it’s live on the television schedule. You might as well just wait till the next day to see the reruns, because that’s the same thing you are going to get at night.

Lynn, the ratings are way down compared to last year. In fact, they were down 14% over the weekend.

Moose Says:

Last night was the most pitiful excuse for sports coverage I think I ever experienced. ESPN covers the AO quarters, and has 2 womens matches. One, everyone knows the result. The second has just begun when coverage commences. Instead of going live with Clijsters/Hingis, they go to the tape of Sharapova/Chakvetadze.

The disrespect shown to fans by the programming decision makers is shocking and abysmal. I’ve sent my email to ESPN with my complaint.

Lilas Pratt Says:

I don’t understand why ESPN does not make better use of their networks. They seem to show only classic boxing matches on ESPN classic, so why couldn’t they show timely (ie. starting at 7pm) coverage of the Aussie Open on that network when the coverage conflicts with women’s basketball? Of course, the fact that women’s basketball trumps Grand Slam tennis is a whole different discussion …..

bluerpk Says:

If you are in the UK, you can watch the match in its entirety online through their website. Technically it may be possible for people outside the UK to watch these matches too.

John Says:

I’ve been annoyed all week about ESPN2 not starting at 7pm ET.

So when the Sharpova/Chakvetadze match started on TV and I knew the match was over, I looked up the result on the internet. I know that this was not a good idea but I did it anyway.

I was rooting for Chakvetadze, so watching the match, knowing that she lost, wasn’t the same.

Hey, I know that I ruined it for myself, but I also blame ESPN for their part.

bluerpk Says:

Sorry, I forgot to mention, the BBC provide this service and the address is

DL Says:

Also, how about just live streaming from the other courts that never get any coverage, I’m talking about court 1- 200, and leave Rod laver and landon to the big networks, if it’s of no use to you, let other people make a buck out of it and at the same time lets fans watch some great matches.

Tom Says:

Here in California it is somewhat better but what can ESPN do? If the Federer/Roddick match starts at 7:30 p.m. in Australia, that’s 12:30 a.m. in California. I can’t stay up that late and it’s impossible to avoid the result the next day (although there is not much coverage of tennis on TV news).

I am interested to see how the Tennis Channel handles the French Open. I have noticed that on certain European tournaments, the Tennis Channel uses a European network’s feed and then adds their graphics when they go to commercial. I don’t even think the commentators are there, but instead sitting in a studio in the U.S. I wonder if this will be the case for the French. I will miss Cliff Drysdale and Patrick MacEnroe. The others I can do without.

Enrico Says:

I live in Italy, AO matches start at 1 am here, so I absolutely need my DVR to record everything during the night and the morning.
most difficult thing is to avoid the results, especially from friends, I do everything to avoid them…

Maria P Says:

I haven’t seen the ratings for the Australian yet, but they can’t be good.

Are you saying that no one at Tennis-x can get ratings for you?

Srini Murty Says:

The whole point is that ESPN just believes, probably justifiably, that NCAA basketball or college football are much more popular than tennis. For a very weird reason that I cannot explain, a majority of Americans (citizens of the USA!) believe that tennis is for “girlie men” (I guess all women are girlie girls!). Some complain about the scoring system and that the game is too complicated. I don’t hear people complaining about the complex rules of NFL. But then who cares about all that as long as REAL MEN play REAL MANLY sport.

While it may appear that I am going off on a tangent, my point is that ESPN is a commercial venture. They have an audience and, more importantly, advertisers to take care of. No point complaining about ESPN’s lackadaisical attitude towards tennis.

I read that somebody would miss Cliff Drysdale and Patrick McEnroe during the French Open. Well, the former is certainly a first-rate commentator. And as far as tennis insight goes, so is Pat Mac. But Pat Mac lets his patriotic fervor get in the way of objective commentary. He should truly forget that he is no longer the US Davis Cup captain when he is commentating for a tourney like the AO Open. I am waiting to see and hear him if and when Roddick beats Federer (maybe early tomorrow morning). Roddick’s game has basically taken a very positive turn. Like Federer said, Roddick has regained that special quality of his serves, and his forehand has the sting that was sorely missed but he doesn’t pull the trigger all the time. Also, that backhand down the line has now become a major weapon. Jimmy Connors stamped all over it. Also, he is going to improve his volleying just by using it so often in matchplay although he is never going to be in the class of recent Americans like McEnroe and Sampras.

claireg Says:

I think we can all agree that NCAA bball has a bigger fan base than tennis.

But the thing is that I’m sitting here watching billiards — and they’re not even live billiards — on ESPN2 right now, while the Serena vs Nicole semifinal match is starting.

And I find that pretty fucking fidiculous.

claireg Says:

Sorry. Just realized that men’s doubles match is up first.

Still doesn’t make it right!!!

JP Says:

ESPN’s live coverage of this event is margenal at best and the delayed coverage in the afternoon is pointless to me. But when they show delayed coverage at night when there are live matches going on it is absolutely unforgivable.

John Says:

IMO, there should be separate TV contracts.

One for “live”, one for “tape delays”, one for “reruns”, one for DVDs, one for “other” courts (e.g. 1-200) etc..

The Tennis Channel would be perfect for a “rerun” contract. They could show each match about 1200 times.

ESPN would go for the “tape delay” contract.

YouTube (i.e. Google) might go for the “DVD” contract.

Tom Says:

I don’t know if the Tennis Channle would go for that. I think they show their matches 1,300 times right now so a 100 reduction may not suit them.


pat Says:

So, what’s the deal that espn2 is showing the women’s final Friday night live (I think) here on the west coast at 6:30 p.m. But the men are still at 12:30 a.m.! Craziness! Not that Roger is going to lose to Gonzalez, but still it would be nice to see the men in “prime time” too.

peter Says:

As anyone from abroad will tell you American media coverage of WORLD sporting events is pathetic.If the event is dominated by Amercans you will get great live coverage. I just pop over the border into Mexico, their coverage of world sports knocks the US effort into a cocked hat. It’s simply amazing one can get countless hours a day of REPEATED provincial sports on TV, but WORLD events always play second fiddle here in the States.Pack your bags and vacation in Mexico if you want decent Olympic coverage in 2008.

Paula Says:

i hate espn with a passion, as i’m sure most tennis fans do. there’s nothing much to say except that they do a terrible job, no matter how many times they tell us they’re adding more hours of coverage every year. who cares about more hours if you air the same matches over and over again, substitute taped matches (which you’ve probably already shown) for live matches, and only show the same 5 players’ matches. oh well the list of grievances could go on for forever, I guess there’s not much else to do but keep sending espn hate mail and waiting in vain for the day that we’ll get decent tennis coverage.

i 2nd the question as to why the tennis channel doesn’t do a nightly sportscenter style recap show?!?!?

Tom Says:

ESPN is not showing the men’s match until 12:30 a.m. Pacific becuase that’s when it is happening live. You can’t fault them for that.

The Tennis Channel doesn’t do a nightly recap show for one simple reason – you probably have more loose change in the cushions of your couch than they have financial resources, even after the USTA investment.

K Ruehli Says:

Believe it or not, I get up at 3am and tune in the scoreboard and the AO TV fromt he AO website. The sound runs behind the scoreboard, so you already know who won the point before they start it on the radio. Frustrating! More frustrating — I’d pay to buy video of some of the matches such as the Federer/Roddick match but can’t find any site that sells them.

rammy Says:

My question is why can’t the other three slams do what Wimbledon started with the Wimbledon Live option. That was fantastic! (Although they don’t let you keep the videos you download since they make the licence expire 30 days after download).

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