BBC Could Lose Open Championship TV Rights In '16 With R&A Willing To Consider Sky Offer
BBC Sport’s hold on live TV rights to the Open Championship for more than half a century "could end in 2016 when their contract expires," according to Charles Sale of the London DAILY MAIL. Tournament organizers the R&A, which has "not considered any other TV partners" for most of its 59 years with the BBC, is "now more open to accept an offer from Sky," which dominates golf coverage for the rest of the year. R&A CEO Peter Dawson "left the door ajar for Sky at Royal Birkdale two years ago when he declared it was not a foregone conclusion that the BBC would win the next TV contract." And certainly R&A opinion "has shifted a lot further towards a subscription TV partner with the astonishing deal done in America by Fox Sports" which, with no previous golf experience, has paid more than $1B over 12 years for U.S. Open rights. This "is regarded as a game-changer on both sides of the Atlantic, with the USGA prepared to relinquish their long partnership with NBC in return for a mountain of dollars." Sky, which has shored up its golf contracts after arch-rivals BT Sport made a bid for the PGA tour, is "certain to want to add to their portfolio a flagship event such as The Open." If it puts enough money on the table, the likelihood is that it will. The Open Championship "is no longer protected as a listed event that has to be shown live on terrestrial television" (DAILY MAIL, 7/16). In London, Daniel Schofield wrote Dawson "attempted to play down speculation that the corporation's congract will not be renewed." But "money talks" in even the most traditional places and Dawson said the R&A is "increasingly conscious of the commercial landscape." Dawson: "The value of golf rights has accelerated dramatically, particularly in the United States just in the last 12 months. And that’s perhaps a bigger item in the equation than it might otherwise have been, that’s for sure. But it’s massively premature to speculate on what might occur” (LONDON TIMES, 7/17).