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Fans voice complaints with Aussie Open shift to ESPN+

ESPN “has dramatically reduced the amount of coverage on ESPN2" during the first week of the Australian Open, leaving the overnight hours “exclusively on its ESPN+ streaming service,” according to Joe Reedy of the AP. ESPN+ is “supposed to have all the matches available live,” but it “has experienced technical problems” over the first couple of days. Fans were “particularly upset” -- and said so on social media -- that Wednesday's second-round match between Americans Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe “could not be viewed on any platform.” ESPN2 "has coverage through Sunday’s Round of 16 matches" from 9:00pm-12:30am ET before “offering longer coverage windows” beginning with the quarterfinals. In past years, ESPN2 would “have up to 10 hours” of daily coverage the first week. ESPN+ “will have at least two quarterfinal matches” exclusively on Jan. 24 and 25 (AP, 1/20).

NOT SEEN AS A PLUS: SI.com’s Jon Wertheim wrote he “completely understands” this move from ESPN. Wertheim: “What I cannot fathom: how does Tennis Australia think this is wise in the long run. If growing the sport and growing the relevance of the event is at all a priority, this has been an abject failure.” Wertheim also noted that he has "every incentive and interest to watch as much tennis as possible.” Wertheim: “And I am struggling. I can only imagine what the casual fan is enduring. Actually, I can: they have given up and are watching something else from the endless universe of options” (SI.com, 1/19).

OURAND'S TAKE: On the latest episode of the "Marchand & Ourand Sports Media Podcast," our John Ourand broke down ESPN's Australian Open strategy and the role of ESPN President of Programming & Original Content Burke Magnus in the "Who's up? Who's down?" segment.

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