Sky to end BBC’s 60-year partnership with British Open from 2017
With golf participation figures dwindling the deal is being criticised for limiting viewing
The 2015 Open will take place on the Old Course at St Andrews in July. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images
Sky will have exclusive live rights for the major championship from 2017-2021, with the BBC showing highlights and broadcasting radio coverage, the R&A said in a statement.
Sky is taking over the rights from the BBC, which has had a 60-year partnership with the event. The new deal commences at what will be the 146th Open Championship, being played at Royal Birkdale in July 2017.
The full schedule of Golf’s oldest Major is available to those that subscribe to Sky Sports, and to existing Sky customers for €36 per month.
Sky now hold the rights for live Barclays Premier League and international football, ERCC and Guinness Pro12 rugby, GAA, Formula 1, Ireland in the Cricket World Cup, autumn rugby internationals, the Ryder Cup, Major golf and US Open tennis.
The new rights agreement also offers Sky Sports viewers exclusively live coverage of The Walker Cup in 2019 at Royal Liverpool.
With Golf participation among 18-34-year-olds, the age when most people take up the game for the first time, declining by 30 per cent in the past 20 years, this deal which has been on the cards for quite a while is being criticised for limiting viewing to the “hardcore fans”.
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 will offer two-hour daily highlights and live coverage on radio and online.
Barbara Slater, the BBC’s director of sport, said, “We’re obviously disappointed that we were unable to retain live TV coverage of The Open Championship.
“However, we’re pleased to be continuing our 60-year partnership with the R&A and feel that a comprehensive two hour highlights programme — a format which has already proven successful — in a prime-time slot over four days will allow us to continue to bring all the best action and key moments from The Open to a large free-to-air audience on TV, radio and online.”
Sky Sports’ will have live coverage of all four days’ play in their entirety across TV, online, mobile and tablet devices.
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.
“ 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. ”