The new five-year deal runs from 2017 to 2021. Sky will exclusively broadcast all four days of the tournament live and the BBC will provide a daily two-hour highlights programme as well as BBC 5 Live radio coverage
Sky claims Open TV rights from BBC
– All four days of the tournament exclusively live on Sky Sports
– BBC to offer a daily two-hour highlights programme in addition to BBC 5 Live radio
– Extensive digital coverage from the two largest sports websites in the country
– R&A to increase funding and promotion of golf development initiatives
Reaction: BBC loses Open TV to Sky
Golf governing body The Royal and Ancient will end its long-term relationship with the BBC next year as it strikes a deal with Sky to broadcast The Open Championship.
The BBC’s commitment to golf had been under fire for some time owing to a dwindling amount of coverage and lack of investment in the sport. In a recent criticism of his long-term employers, venerable commentator Peter Alliss highlighted how at one point the corporation covered 18 golf events.
This year, it will only have six days of live men’s golf; the weekend of The Masters and all four days of The Open for the penultimate time.
The new five-year deal runs from 2017 to 2021. Sky will exclusively broadcast all four days of the tournament live and the BBC will provide a daily two-hour highlights programme as well as BBC 5 Live radio coverage. Under the new agreement, commercial breaks must be limited to a maximum of four minutes per hour, with each break restricted to sixty seconds in length.
Many are concerned that the end of the free-to-air era could compound golf’s crisis in participation and golf club membership. The R&A aim to combat this by undertaking a ‘comprehensive strategic review’ into golf participation in the UK and Ireland to ‘ensure that golf feels the full benefit of the enhanced resources available’.
Barney Francis, Sky Sports Managing Director, said, ‘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 the Sky Academy’.
Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A, echoed Francis’ comments. ‘We believe this is the best result for The Open and for golf. 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’. He continued, ‘Importantly, the new agreement will enable us to increase substantially our support for golf in the UK and Ireland. Supported by both Sky Sports and the BBC, it is a hugely positive step for our sport’.
Director of Sport at the BBC, Barbara Slater, said, ‘We are obviously disappointed. However, we’re pleased to be continuing our relationship with The R&A and feel that a two-hour highlights programme will allow us to bring all the best action and key moments to a large free-to-air audience on TV, radio and online’.
Despite the ‘most comprehensive coverage ever’ in 2014, The R&A was thought to be unhappy with the quality of the BBC’s coverage in contrast to their praising of Sky’s efforts and commitment. Despite the BBC having over seven times as many viewers than Sky for The Masters weekend in 2014, the rumoured extra £3m per year and high-tech style that Sky are offering swings the balance in their favour over the rumoured £7m per year currently paid. Against the backdrop of the news that the BBC has just forked out over £200m to extend Premier League highlights for three more seasons, the corporation’s strategy may come under scrutiny.
Nick Faldo and Lee Westwood both credit free-to-air golf coverage as the catalyst for being inspired to play golf. Westwood, asked for his opinion on the matter at the Dubai Desert Classic last week, is outraged how The Open isn’t on the list of crown jewels – sporting events protected for live terrestrial broadcast.
‘It’s an absolute disgrace’, said Westwood. ‘I wouldn’t be playing the game if I hadn’t watched Greg Norman win The Open at Turnberry in 1986… you have to question the role of The Royal & Ancient… they are the guardians of the game but it seems to be money-driven’.