Aussie viewers have reacted angrily to Channel 9’s $350 million Australian Open experiment.
Social media was littered on the opening day of the year’s first grand slam with scathing criticism of Nine’s first day of covering the two-week spectacle at Melbourne Park.
The network last year secured the Australian Open in a $300 million six-year deal as part of the greatest shake-up to Australian television’s summer sport landscape.
Nine went on to secure the rights to the 2019 Australian Open in August in a deal worth an additional $48.5 million following revelations of scheduling conflicts between former broadcaster Channel 7’s coverage of the 2019 event and its new cricket broadcast project with Fox Sports.
Nine spared no expense in assembling a high-profile commentary team to match its financial investment — headlined by the headhunting of American Jim Courier and Aussie fan-favourite Todd Woodbridge from Seven’s stable.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of many, the coverage has fallen flat.
Aussie fans flocked to Twitter on Monday, punching holes in Nine’s opening day broadcast from Melbourne Park.
The tennis identities assembled by Nine, including hosts Erin Molan and Tony Jones, were again a source of aggravation for many Aussie viewers, but the greatest cause for concern for many was the many unfamiliar voices behind the microphone after more than 40 years of Seven broadcasting the Aussie Open.
Nine’s star-studded commentary stable was among the broadcast services used by the Australian Open’s Host Broadcast Service — sent to more than 900 million potential viewers around the world.
However, the decision to use international commentators, including those from the HBS feed, during the opening day rubbed many fans raw.
Day one coverage prominently featured popular Aussie caller Peter Donegan’s tag-team commentary with South African great Wayne Ferreira during World No. 2 Rafael Nadal’s win over Aussie James Duckworth — the second match on Rod Laver Arena.
Nine followed that match with its pairing of Woodbridge and Courier for Alex de Minaur’s first-round match against Pedro Souza.
The star-studded pairing of Jelena Dokic and John Fitzgerald covered Maria Sharapova’s 6-0 6-0 win over Harriet Dart in the first televised match of the day.
Viewers on social media appeared to be unimpressed at the standard of commentary.
Many other fans took to social media to vent their annual frustrations about scheduling, tennis identities and general presentation.
Nine announced last year its stable of tennis commentary stars would include hosts James Bracey, Rebecca Maddern and Jones as well as commentators Woodbridge, Courier, Dokic, Alicia Molik, Dylan Alcott, Sam Smith, Fitzgerald, Donegan, Geoff Masters Roger Rasheed.