After a 61 year relationship with Golf's governing body, the Royal & Ancient, the BBC have lost the right to broadcast The Open, with the honours instead going to Sky Sports, who will begin their broadcasting of the historic event from 2017. With those rights gained, Sky now has exclusive rights to broadcast each of the four majors; The Open, The Ryder Cup, the European Tour and the PGA Tour.
The BBC had refused to increase their £7 million per year deal with the R&A, which left Sky open to move in with a higher offer thought to be roughly £14 million. Golf fans have taken to the Internet and TV to express their dismay at the news, seeing it as yet another example of great British TV institutions being lured behind a prohibitive paywall. Indeed, a number of fans have taken to the Sky phone numbers to vent their frustration at the news of the deal.
Whilst it might be a blow to terrestrial TV, both Sky and the R&A benefit hugely from the deal. For Sky's part, they now hold exclusive broadcasting rights for all four of the majors and can truly begin courting golf fans with an offer they can't get elsewhere - crucial if they're going to admit defeat in the Premier League rights auction and once again win a limited number of games. The R&A, meanwhile, have stated that this new investment money will be used to make a 'groundbreaking' investment in grassroots golf. Together, they promise to provide informative and innovative coverage that seeks not only to please the core audience, but entice new viewers and improve the outlook for golfs future.
Barney Francis, MD of Sky Sports had this to say about the deal: “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 multi-platform coverage and also at the grassroots level via Sky Academy.”
Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of the R&A 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 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.”
The BBC retain the right to broadcast highlights of The Open, as the event is partially protected, and thus therefore always be shown partially on terrestrial TV, which should go some way to handling the complaints made to Sky via the Sky customer services phone number free.
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