Serving up a smashing Australian Open

Last year, more than one billion people a day tuned in to watch the Australian Open tennis action on television around the globe – even more on social media – and this year’s tournament promises greater viewing numbers than ever.

Jayne Hrdlicka sitting and smiling towards the cameraThe Australian Open is helping to firm up Melbourne’s position as Australia’s sporting capital. Last year, it pumped more than $280 million in to the Victorian economy but the best is yet to come as the event’s profile continues to grow throughout the world, predicts Tennis Australia President and Chair Jayne Hrdlicka.

Hrdlicka – the CEO of Qantas Loyalty and Digital Ventures, who is a former CEO at Jetstar Group and a former Non-Executive Director at Woolworths – says an ongoing focus on in-bound tourism, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, is paying dividends and contributing strong economic benefits to Melbourne and Victoria. “There can be no denying that Australian Open 2017 was one of the most successful tournaments in history with an expected 1,100 jobs injected into the Victorian economy,” she notes.

Last year, a record 728,763 fans came through the gates, smashing the previous attendance record set in 2016. More than 80,000 or 11 per cent of attendees in 2017 were from overseas with the highest numbers from USA, New Zealand, Japan, UK and China, resulting in more than 500,000 hotel room nights with each visitor averaging more than five nights per stay.

Building a compelling tourism profile is pivotal to the event’s success, which enjoys the ongoing support of the Victorian Government through partnership with Visit Victoria, offering fans, officials and players a festival-like experience of an Aussie summer along with the food and culture of Melbourne. “We use all our platforms to promote this picture to take the Australian Open and Melbourne to the world,” explains Hrdlicka.

Broadcast rights, of course, are another huge aspect to help shape a global approach: Tennis Australia’s host broadcast, media rights, in-house production and digital teams deliver world-class tennis to all corners of the world and the decision to invest in their own production and broadcast services has been instrumental in helping it expand its global and domestic reach. In 2017, it produced more than 81,000 broadcast coverage hours for the Australian Open and this is set to increase again this year, with 2018 marking Tennis Australia’s fourth year as host broadcaster. Its ability to offer bespoke coverage to many different markets has enabled it to work more closely than ever with global broadcast partners.

Sponsorship expansion is also moving up a notch in 2018 with BarillaCountry RoadDisney, Ganten, National Gallery VictoriaSchweppes and Vegemite joining the mix. “For us,” explains Hrdlicka, “the most important factor is to find a balance between international partners who can help take the Australian Open to the world and home-grown partners as iconic as us to cement our reputation across the globe.”

Naturally, all these business priorities need strong leadership and collaboration across the organisation and it helps that Hrdlicka had spent the vast majority of her career designing and delivering customer-led outcomes. She is the first ever female to lead the board, appointed in January 2016. “I strongly believe in the power of diverse perspectives and values,” she says. “My initial focus is collaboration and transparency, as well as continued momentum in sport participation and performance. We’ve undergone an unprecedented period of growth this past decade: the team has done a remarkable job to develop and promote Australian tennis across the world and there’s a great foundation upon which to build the future success of the sport. That involves the growth of the Australian Open, the Australian Open Series, continually enabling our national teams to achieve their best, helping identify and nurture the next generation of talent, working closely with the nation’s coaches, growing the participation base throughout the nation and ensuring tennis is the sport of choice for our kids.”

So, tough question, who will be Hrdlicka’s favourite player to watch court side? “As a lifetime tennis player and a mother of two aspiring high performance players, I’m just excited for the tournament to begin,” she laughs. “After last year’s fairytale finale though, I’m looking forward to seeing Roger [Federer] in action.”

Australian Open 2017 broadcast snapshot

  • The top five viewing audiences by territory were Australia, China, Japan and the US
  • Aired live in 220 territories on more than 65 different TV channels, reaching more than 900 million homes
  • More than 278 million hours of Australian Open broadcast were watched in the Asia-Pacific region
  • China was the largest growth in terms of viewing audience by any territory worldwide. Strong year-on-year growth in China saw more than 59 million people tune in to watch AO 2017, up more than 84 per cent on AO 2016.