The R&A has announced new five-year broadcast agreements running from 2017 to 2021. The Open Championship will, for the first time, be shown live on the Sky subscription Sports channels with prime-time television highlights and live radio coverage delivered by the BBC. Golf fans who do not subscribe to Sky Sports will be able to watch live coverage of The Open through Now TV with weekly and individual daily subscriptions available and no contract required. Under the new agreement, the number of commercial breaks during the television coverage of The Open will be kept to a maximum of four minutes per hour, with each break running for just 60 seconds.
The new five-year agreement with both broadcasters, which commences with Royal Birkdale in July 2017, will also allow The R&A to provide significantly increased financial support to golf participation initiatives in the UK and Ireland. Both the BBC and Sky are committed to supporting The R&A’s efforts to promote participation in the sport through their ‘Get Inspired’ and ‘Sky Academy’ initiatives. Additionally, The R&A will undertake a comprehensive strategic review on the subject of golf participation in the UK and Ireland and will ensure that golf feels the full benefit of the enhanced resources available.
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, on radio 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.”
In a subsequent statement Peter Dawson addressed the issue of the loss of live ‘free-to-air’ golf coverage on participation. “I know there are many who are concerned that The Open no longer being shown live on the BBC will lead to a reduction in participation in our sport and I wanted to take this opportunity to address this specific point. We have looked at this issue very carefully and believe it is not possible to make an informed case that participation is simply and directly linked to free-to-air television viewing.
“There is no question that free-to-air sports broadcasts generate good exposure for sport, we see this time and again through the Olympic Games, the World Cup and Wimbledon. But, firm conclusions about their positive impact on participation cannot be drawn. On the contrary, golf’s reported recent decline in participation coincides with The Open, Women’s British Open and the Masters Tournament being shown on free-to-air television. And, during that same period we have also seen participation in other sports, shown frequently on free-to-air television, decrease while some others, shown exclusively on subscription television, have seen an increase. Exposure is important, but is just one of many ingredients required to generate growth in participation.”