Highlights of the Open are currently shown on free-to-air TV but there are calls to bring back live coverage
Lords Report Calls For Open Championship To Be Free To Air
A House of Lords report has suggested that the Open Championship should go back to being on free-to-air TV.
The report by the Select Committee on Communications and Digital, titled ‘Public service broadcasting: as vital as ever’, looks at the strength, or weakness, of public service broadcasting vs Subscription video on demand services like Amazon Prime and Netflix as well as YouTube.
In the report, the subject of Listed Events is debated and the Open Championship and Ryder Cup are each on the ‘Category B’ list, which means that highlights of the events must be shown on public service broadcasters.
However, there are calls to bring the Open Championship back to the ‘Category A’ list, which is reserved for live coverage.
Roger Mosey, former Director of Sport and Director of London 2012 at the BBC, said: “I would be in favour of modestly increasing the list: perhaps including the Champions League final and the Open in golf as the kind of events that can bring significant sports-interested parts of the nation together for shared moments.”
The ‘Category A’ list includes events like the Olympics, Wimbledon Final and Football World Cup finals.
The report says: ‘The listed events regime provides important protection for the availability of major sports events.
‘The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport should consult sporting bodies, broadcasters and the public with a view to increasing modestly the number of listed events.
‘This could include events such as The Ashes and The Open Golf Championship.’
The Open was last on free-to-air television in 2015 when Zach Johnson won the Claret Jug at St Andrews live on the BBC.
Since then, Sky Sports has shown the tournament and has been heralded for its coverage.
So good that it won a BAFTA for best sports production in 2017.
However, what can’t be ignored is the fact that Sky’s excellent coverage is being seen by fewer people than on the BBC.
The peak television audience for the 2016 Open final round on Sky was 1.1 million, compared to 4.7 million on the BBC in 2015 and 5.5 million in 2014.
So, will this report suddenly mean that next year’s Championship will be back on the BBC or on another public service broadcaster?
That’s because Sky recently extended its deal to show the tournament until 2024.
Whilst many will say that this is a bad thing for golf, with its flagship Championship hidden away on pay TV, it could also be seen as a positive.
“The R&A recently announced an investment of £200m back into golf over 10 years, and that included £80m for family, female and mixed golf” John Bushell, managing director of Sports Marketing Surveys, recently told Golf Monthly.
“The R&A’s income comes from The Open Championship and a large percentage of that is from the revenue from TV rights.
“The fact Sky pays a large amount for TV rights results in investment back into development programmes that encourage participation.”
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