Tennis's US Open men's final scheduling change is an interesting experiment

The USTA and ATP plan a significant scheduling change for the men's final of the 2024 US Open
Tim Clayton - Corbis/GettyImages

The USTA and ATP made headlines on the same day the NFL had its big 2024 schedule reveal. The US Open men's final always falls on the first Sunday of the NFL season, and it is usually telecast on ESPN at 4:00 PM EDT.

That will not be the case this year as the men's US Open final will be aired on ABC at 2:00 PM EDT on September 8, 2024. Both the channel and the time are new.

Critics of this idea will say that ABC should anticipate poor ratings because of the NFL juggernaut. That may not necessarily be the case, and here are the reasons why.

Sports television viewing habits are changing

The NFL is still the giant in sports television viewing; however, it has changed its model in recent years to more of a streaming blueprint. For better or worse, the Directv NFL Sunday Ticket is gone so superfans wanting to see all NFL games must subscribe to YouTube TV. In addition, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Peacock are also involved in broadcasting NFL games. The only games shown on network television on Sunday afternoons are local ones on FOX and CBS affiliates not subject to blackout or other viewing restrictions. While it has been a successful transition, it has not been without criticism from fans who want to watch more games for free.

Also, the NFL Week 1 schedule has evolved to not being exclusive to Sunday action. This year, there are games on Thursday and Friday nights though the bulk of the games are still on Sunday with eight having a 1:00 PM EDT kickoff.

Tennis is trying to position itself as a budget-friendly option on network television compared to the subscriber or cable-based NFL paid alternatives for viewers.

If you are wondering why the WTA and USTA did not consider a similar option for the US Open women's final on Saturday, September 7, it was impossible given the NCAA football programming on both ESPN and ABC on Saturdays during the college football season. The women's final will once again air at 4:00 PM EDT on Saturday, September 7 on ESPN.

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