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Volume 27 No. 32
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U.S. Open Heading Back To NBC As Fox Exits $1.1B USGA Deal

Fox looked to exit its contract after the USGA moved the U.S. Open from June to September
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Golf's U.S. Open is returning to NBC starting this year at Winged Foot after Fox Sports "asked to end its 12-year contract with the USGA," according to Doug Ferguson of the AP. NBC televised the U.S. Open from '95-'14, but that ended when the USGA "signed a 12-year deal with Fox Sports" worth about $1B that began in '15. Sources said that the switch "began to take shape this month, especially with the U.S. Open being moved to September during the opening month of the NFL." A source said that Fox was "contemplating moving the U.S. Open to FS1, an idea that was rebuffed" by USGA CEO Mike Davis (AP, 6/29). Fox looked to exit its contract after the USGA moved the U.S. Open from June to September because of the pandemic. It explored a one-year deal with NBC for this year. Talks eventually moved to include the entire Fox deal -- a conversation that Fox welcomed (John Ourand, THE DAILY). GOLFCHANNEL.com's Ryan Lavner notes the early rounds of the U.S. Open "will be carried by Golf Channel and Peacock, NBC’s on-demand streaming service that is set to launch next month" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 6/29).

FOX TO PAY DIFFERENCE IN RIGHTS FEE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Joe Flint cited a source saying that NBC's new deal is "only slightly more" than the $37M it and ESPN were paying six years ago. That comes after Fox price around $93M annually. However, Fox "isn't off the hook financially," as it is "expected to cover the difference in its deal and the NBC deal with the USGA." The decline in rights value for the USGA, "something of an anomaly in the sports media landscape, is likely due in part to Fox's over-the-top bid and continued uncertainty about the coronavirus" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/29). In N.Y., Andrew Marchand writes while Fox "improved its coverage after a slow start, it and the USGA reportedly had issues over the years of the contract" (N.Y. POST, 6/29).

NEVER COMMITTED TO GOLF: Fox surprised the sports industry when it first bought the USGA rights, but the net never seemed committed to golf and did not try to pick up other properties to build its golf portfolio. Fox was not a serious bidder when the PGA Tour signed new media-rights deals with CBS, NBC and ESPN earlier this year. Those deals are worth an average of $700M over nine years and represent a 75% increase (John Ourand, THE DAILY).

TELL US HOW YOU FEEL: WFAN's Boomer Esiason called it a "good thing" that Fox was giving up the U.S. Open, as NBC and CBS "do golf better than anybody." Esiason said of the partnership, "It was ill-fated for Fox, especially with the way Joe Buck tried really hard to become a golfing aficionado and be able to speak like Jim (Nantz) and Dan (Hicks) do. But when you've been doing it for so long like Jim and Dan have been doing it, it’s hard to listen to a new way of doing things and trying to shoot the game a different way than we’re used to seeing it. I think this is a good thing for golf” (“Boomer & Gio,” WFAN, 6/29). CNBC's Joe Kernen said of Fox broadcasting the U.S. Open, "I didn’t like the coverage of it. It was awful.” He said the major will be “watchable again” under NBC's control ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 6/29).