Channel 4 attracted a peak audience in the UK of 9.2 million viewers late on Saturday evening after securing live rights to Emma Raducanu’s history-making US Open final from Amazon Prime Video.
It’s going to be a massive change for her. She had a little feel of that at Wimbledon suddenly being very much in the public eye and people knowing her but now she’s on every single front page and she got a message from The Queen. She’ll get offers of endorsements left, right and centre, and she’s just got to have some real guidance with discerning people around her to help her. But I think she’s a cut above intellectually as well. Virginia Wade, OBE
Such are the powers of persuasion of the Prime Minister who is said to pleaded to make the match available to a free-to-view audience.
It is also a signal that Raducanu is already a hot property.
Highlights of the final in which Raducanu defeated Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez in straight sets was also being made available to the BBC but the agreement was scrapped following the deal made between Channel 4 and Amazon, which also came after government encouragement.
Channel 4’s audience peak came at around 11pm (BST) as Raducanu became the first British woman to win a Grand Slam title in 44 years, while an average of 7.4 million viewers watched the final terrestrially.
“Moments like this are what Channel 4 was made for – it’s a perfect example of the kind of nimble, uncommercial, but profoundly valuable public service broadcasting that a purpose-driven Channel 4 can deliver,” Ian Katz, Channel 4’s Chief Content Officer, said.
According to sportbusiness.com, Amazon is paying around $7m (€5.9m/£5.1m) per year for its US Open rights in the UK and Ireland under a deal that runs from 2018 to 2022.
The e-commerce giant said that it would reinvest fees from the Channel 4 agreement into grassroots tennis initiatives, and did not divulge its own audience for Saturday evening’s women’s final, except for saying that it was its most-watched tennis match since acquiring the rights.
The BBC’s coverage of the Wimbledon Championships, the only tennis event that is currently guaranteed free-to-air coverage, attracted a peak audience this year of 7.8 million during the men’s final between Novak Djokovic and Matteo Berrettini.
As a result of Raducanu’s historic run of 10 matches at the US Open, the 18-year old from Bromley will rocket up the WTA Rankings from No 150 to 23 this week, and she is already heralded as the next sports superstar.
Interestingly, she gained 2000 ranking points for winning a Grand Slam, plus a further 40 for the 3 matches qualifying matches she win, making her the highest points earner in tennis history with 2040, but she will only be able to defend 2000 of those next year.
Born in Canada to a Chinese mother and a Romanian father, Raducanu spoke about her Chinese background in an interview before the final: “Having a Chinese mum, she definitely instilled from a young age hard work, discipline,” she said, adding that she took inspiration from China’s Li Na, the former World No 2.
Following her win on Sunday, she addressed her fans in Mandarin: “Hello everyone, I’d like to say thank you. I hope you liked watching my tennis. I’m very, very happy right now … Thank you, I love you!”
Li Na won the French Open in 2011 watched by 116 million television viewers in China alone, boosting the development of the game in the world’s most populous nation, and turning her into a global superstar.
That Raducanu is destined to eclipse Li’s success is clear, as Chinese official media celebrated her win and highlighted her Chinese roots, reporting via the state-run tabloid Global Times that she was ‘very interested in Chinese culture’, and that she visited Shenyang often to see her grandmother and other relatives.
“My mum’s side of the family, when I go over to China, they are so mentally resilient,” said Raducanu in a recent interview, according to state-owned China Daily. “It’s like nothing can bring them down. I would say I take a big part of my inspiration from her.”
With the WTA having hosted 9 events in China in 2019, up from just 2 in 2008, Raducanu’s success and links to the country will be a welcome boost when these tournaments can start up again following the pandemic, while her spectacular win will surely inspire a new generation of players across the world.
It is no surprise that many are predicting that Raducanu is set to become the UK’s first billion-dollar sportsperson.
She has already changed her life forever following the US Open win as she picked up a cheque for £1.8 million, and lucrative commercial endorsements will now flood in, as her Instagram account followers doubled to 1.6 million in just 2 days and continue to increase fast.
In both her on-court prowess and off-court poise, Raducanu is not only very attractive as a tennis player but extremely eloquent and hugely marketable.
From her home on Long Island, Virginia Wade, Britain’s last Grand Slam champion, having won Wimbledon in 1977, told the PA news agency: “When you think about what she’s done, to be a qualifier and win all those matches in a row and being so young, it’s just exceptional.
“It’s more than exceptional. It’s something that when she’s out of her tennis career she can look back and think, ‘Oh my goodness, was that really possible?’ It really is an impossible success that she’s had.
“It’s going to be a massive change for her. She had a little feel of that at Wimbledon suddenly being very much in the public eye and people knowing her but now she’s on every single front page and she got a message from The Queen.
“She’ll get offers of endorsements left, right and centre, and she’s just got to have some real guidance with discerning people around her to help her. But I think she’s a cut above intellectually as well.
“She handles herself with tremendous poise, as long as she keeps her feet on the ground and is selective with what she does.
“I always think the most important thing when you’ve done unbelievably well is to make sure you understand you have to go up one step, and you have to consolidate that. When you have, then you go up another step.
“She’s got the big prize very early, so she has to keep setting goals that motivate her, and keep enjoying playing.”