Starting in 2023, Sky Sports is set to reclaim the broadcast rights to the US Open, which it last held in 2017, according to recent reports.
The last Major of the year has been televised by Amazon Prime Video for the last 5 years under an estimated £30m deal, but it seems the rights are now returning to Sky.
Last year, Amazon Prime Video agreed to show Emma Raducanu’s US Open final free-to-air through Channel 4, with 9.2 million viewers tuning in to see the teenager from Bromley’s victory around 11pm on a Saturday night.
As a result, Raducanu became a household name when she completed a historic 3 week run in New York without dropping a set through 3 gruelling qualifying rounds and 7 main-draw matches to win the title at the age of just 18 while ranked No 150 in the world.
Amazon staff reportedly told The Times that the hard court major will not return to its streaming service.
There is also the possibility that both the ATP and WTA Tours could join the exodus as their Amazon Prime Video deals conclude in December 2023, which would put Prime Video’s coverage of the sport going forward into question.
The other Grand Slams may be more difficult for Sky to obtain, as Wimbledon is one of the ‘crown jewel’ listed events shown by the BBC, under a reported £60m-a-year deal that runs until 2027, while the French and Australian Opens are now broadcast by Eurosport.
The French Open’s contract on ITV came to an end in 2021 after 10 years.
Sky Sports will be making its return to tennis coverage after losing the rights to show matches from the ATP Tour in 2018 while, 2 years earlier, the satellite company signalled its intent to step away from the sport by suddenly dropping the US Open from its portfolio of live sporting events after 25 years.
Raducanu’s rise to fame in winning the US Open last September, however, is thought to be the driving force behind Sky’s decision to outbid Amazon Prime Video for the next set of rights.
She was the first woman to win the title on just her second Grand Slam appearance, as well as the first British woman to reach the US Open final since Virginia Wade in 1968, the first British woman to win a Grand Slam singles title since Wade at Wimbledon in 1977, and the first British Grand Slam singles champion since Andy Murray at the 2016 Wimbledon Championships.
Sky is keen to support the growth of women’s sport, and there is opportunity here to capitalise on the interest generated by the 19-year old through a stand-alone channel for tennis similar to golf and cricket.
According to The Times, while the contract has yet to be finalised by the USTA, Amazon staff were told in early April that the 2022 US Open will be the last on their platform.
The return of tennis to Sky Sports provides a more visible presence for the sport, with easier access for viewers, while Amazon admits that, by axing the US Open from their schedule, they can put more money into the rising cost of Premier League rights and invest in F1 and golf.