R&A closes deal with Sky to screen The Open live

Sky has taken the exclusive live rights to screen The Open golf tournament for five years from 2017, leaving the BBC with a daily two hour highlights programme.

Reaction to a blog post written by Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, was generally hostile from sports fans who note the £204 million paid by the corporation for Premier League highlights last week, a bid that was unopposed by other broadcasters.

In her blog, Barbara Slater said: "It goes without saying that the loss by the BBC of live TV rights to The Open Championship is very disappointing. We believe our bid was competitive because we wanted to retain live coverage, but ultimately we could not match what Pay-TV had to offer. You can’t win everything you go for - it’s the nature of the business we’re in."

Regarding the BBC's rights to show highlights of The Open, she added: "we believe a daily, two-hour highlights package on BBC Two in peak-time will ensure The Open continues to reach a large TV audience. We know from experience that a well-timed highlights package can, in certain circumstances, be very popular – our coverage from the Ryder Cup in 2014 attracted nearly 6m viewers – over 2m more than the live action on Pay-TV."

Sky meanwhile has promised that will "extend and enhance coverage of The Open, including live coverage of all four days' play in their entirety across TV, online, mobile and tablet devices, allowing customers to watch wherever they are.

"Both new and existing golf fans will benefit from this partnership, which will enable The R&A to make a ground-breaking investment in grassroots golf, and work with Sky Sports to excite and engage viewers through the innovative coverage."
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 multi-platform coverage and also at the grassroots level via Sky Academy.”

Meanwhile, Peter Dawson, the Chief Executive of The R&A responded: “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 new rights agreement also offers Sky Sports viewers exclusively live coverage of The Walker Cup in 2019 at Royal Liverpool.

This and next year's Open will still be shown on the BBC.
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