The R&A, golf’s governing body and organiser of The Open Championship, has announced a number of broadcast partner agreements in recent months, effectively changing the landscape of watching golf’s oldest championship on television across the globe.
This week, the R&A announced NBC Sports Group will become its media partner in the United States for a twelve year term from 2017 – 2028 inclusive.
The agreement includes coverage across all media of The Open, The Senior Open, Walker Cup and The Amateur Championship and will feature coverage on NBC and Golf Channel in English and NBC Universo in Spanish.
R&A Chief Executive, Peter Dawson, said “We are delighted to announce that from 2017, The Open will be broadcast by NBC Sports Group. They have unparalleled experience in golf and have demonstrated a genuine desire to showcase and promote The Open and The R&A’s elite championships through their extensive range of channels and digital platforms.
“The United States is home to millions of fans of The Open and we know that through NBC Sports Group, they will enjoy world class coverage of the Championship.
Mark Lazarus, Chairman of NBC Sports Group, said “The R&A is synonymous with the traditions and history of golf, and The Open is golf’s original championship. NBC Sports is proud to present The Open Championship, and to work with The R&A on their initiatives to grow the game around the globe.”
“This partnership will allow NBC Sports, Golf Channel and NBC Universo to serve the legions of sports fans in the U.S. with complete coverage that reflects the prestige of The R&A’s championships.”
The 146TH Open will be played at Royal Birkdale in 2017, with golf’s oldest and most international championship being hosted at Carnoustie for its 147TH playing in 2018.
This year’s Open Championship will be played at St Andrews with ESPN, The Open’s broadcast partner of the last five years, providing the coverage. ESPN will also broadcast The Open in 2016 at Royal Troon.
Dawson said, “We have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, an excellent relationship with ESPN. They have raised the bar in terms of covering major championship golf and their commitment to telling The Open’s story and delivering the most compelling coverage of The Open Championship has been outstanding.”
UK: The Open to move from BBC to Sky Sports
In March, The R&A announced new five-year broadcast agreements with the UK’s two largest sports broadcasters, running from 2017 – 2021. The Open Championship will, for the first time, be shown live on Sky Sports with prime-time TV highlights and live radio coverage delivered by the BBC.
The new five-year agreement with both broadcasters, which commences in July 2017, will also allow The R&A, golf’s governing body, to provide significantly increased financial support to golf participation initiatives in the UK and Ireland. Both the BBC and Sky are committed to supporting The R&A’s efforts to promote participation in the sport through their Get Inspired and Sky Academy initiatives. Additionally, The R&A will undertake a comprehensive strategic review on the subject of golf participation in the UK and Ireland and will ensure that golf feels the full benefit of the enhanced resources available.
Peter Dawson said, “We believe this is the best result for The Open and for golf. The way people consume live sport is changing significantly and this new agreement ensures fans have a range of options for enjoying the Championship on television, on radio and through digital channels. Sky Sports has an excellent track record in covering golf across its platforms and has become the home of live golf coverage over recent years. We are very much looking forward to working with them to develop and enhance the coverage of The Open.
“We have enjoyed a long and successful relationship with the BBC and, although the nature of that relationship is changing from 2017, we are delighted that the BBC will broadcast prime-time highlights and that the Championship will continue to benefit from extensive live coverage on Radio 5 Live and online.
“Importantly, the new agreement will enable us to increase substantially our support for golf in the United Kingdom and Ireland. That our increased commitment to golf in both countries is to be supported by both Sky Sports and the BBC is a hugely positive step for our sport.”
Sky Sports provides live coverage of all four days of the Masters tournament, the US Open and the PGA Championship and broadcasts the Ryder Cup in the UK. It also holds the exclusive rights to cover the European Tour, PGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LPGA Tour in the UK and Ireland. Under the new agreement, the number of commercial breaks during the television coverage of The Open will be kept to a maximum of four minutes per hour, with each break running for just 60 seconds.
Barney Francis, Sky Sports Managing Director, said: “The Open is the world’s preeminent golf championship and we are committed to taking coverage of the event to new levels. We offer something for every sports fan and this exciting agreement for The Open means our customers can now enjoy all four Majors live.
“Sky Sports has a passion for golf that has spanned two decades, offering unrivalled commitment, airtime and promotion as well as year-round innovative coverage. We look forward to working with The R&A to entertain and engage new and existing golf fans through our innovative multi-platform coverage and also at the grassroots level via Sky Academy.”
Unfortunately for the majority of golfers in Australia, the Open will remain on Foxtel, and not be broadcast on Free-to-Air TV.