As the Australian Open celebrates a record attendance of 796,435 at Melbourne Park during the tournament, attention now turns towards the worldwide viewing audience, particularly in Japan where record numbers also followed Naomi Osaka’s journey to the women’s final.
Osaka’s historic win over Petra Kvitova attracted a TV audience of more than 20 million in Japan alone. Official ratings confirm the women’s final was the most-watched program in Japan during the Australian Open, and one of the most watched telecasts in recent times.
With an average viewership of 24.00 TV household rating points on NHK alone, the last 75 minutes on NHK-1 averaged 32.30 rating points, and dominated with a record 45% market share.
The peak minute, at 8:29pm local Japan time, coincided with Osaka’s speech at the trophy presentation, and reached a 38.50 rating point, or circa 22.5 million viewers, equivalent to almost the entire population of Australia.
There was additional viewership on long-standing pay TV broadcaster WOWOW, and prior to the final, both Osaka’s and Kei Nishikori’s matches averaged between 2.5 million and six million viewers.
In the past four years only selected World Cup matches, Winter Olympics finals, the traditional Tokyo-Hakone relay race and NHK’s annual singing contest Kuhaku have had higher viewership in Japan than this year’s Australian Open women’s singles final.
“The Australian Open has always been very popular in Japan,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said.
“Naomi also has a huge fan base, as does Kei (Nishikori) and with only a two-hour time difference the Australian Open is Japan’s ‘home’ Slam.
“Achieving a 20 million viewership on TV for any program, in this age of media disruption, is extraordinary and an indication of how passionate the fans are about their local heroes. To put it into further context, the women’s final was watched by more than double the average numbers of Japan’s most watched weekly programs.
“With Naomi also becoming the first Japanese player ever to become World No.1, it is very rewarding to see how the support both NHK and WOWOW have given us over the years has now translated in these historic ratings. We look forward to building upon this success with our media, sponsorship and tourism partnerships in Japan.”
NHK’s Australian Open coverage this year was enhanced by live transmission - on its free-to-air terrestrial channels - of all Osaka’s and Nishikori’s matches, regardless of the time of play.
NHK broadcast more than 35 hours of live Australian Open coverage, split over seven days and delivering unprecedented levels of live free to air coverage during daytime and primetime. It also broadcast more than two hours of delayed coverage every night.
WOWOW provided full-day coverage on its linear, pay TV channel each day, with additional feeds available on its online services. Both broadcasters also had dedicated presenting studios and commentary positions in Melbourne Park.
Only China, with five television broadcast partners and one, exclusive, live digital broadcast platform, has more dedicated broadcast coverage than Japan.
In Australia, Nine’s audiences for the women’s singles final peaked at 2.1 million viewers, placing Nine at number one with a 47.9% market share.
Global audiences are expected to reach record highs for 2019, including more than four million viewers in China for the women’s doubles semifinal featuring Shuai Zhang.
More detailed international ratings will be published as data is collected from official bureaus in the coming weeks.