NBC Sports Group Snaps Up British Open Rights From ESPN; Deal Tees Off in 2017

One of golf’s oldest media rights partnerships will come to an end in 2016, as NBC Sports Group and The R&A have inked a deal that will bring The British Open to NBC and Golf Channel in 2017 and bring an end to The Open’s half-century-plus relationship with ABC and ESPN.

The 12-year deal, which is reportedly worth $50 million per year (double ESPN’s current $25 million per year deal), will return The Open to U.S. broadcast TV for the time in eight years beginning with the 2017 edition from Royal Birkdale. The 2017 Open will also mark Golf Channel’s first live coverage of a men’s major championship.

“The R&A is synonymous with the traditions and history of golf, and The Open is golf’s original championship. NBC Sports is proud to present The Open Championship, and to work with The R&A on their initiatives to grow the game around the globe,” Chairman of NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus said in an announcement released Monday. “This partnership will allow NBC Sports, Golf Channel and NBC Universo to serve the legions of sports fans in the U.S. with complete coverage that reflects the prestige of The R&A’s championships.”

In addition to The Open, the agreement includes rights across all media to The Senior Open Championship, and The Amateur Championship, as well as the RICOH Women’s British Open, in partnership with the Ladies’ Golf Union. The agreement also includes coverage of the Walker Cup and Curtis Cup, in years when these international amateur team events are hosted by The R&A and Ladies’ Golf Union.

“[NBC Sports Group has] unparalleled experience in golf and have demonstrated a genuine desire to showcase and promote The Open and The R&A’s elite championships through their extensive range of channels and digital platforms,” said R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson. “The United States is home to millions of fans of The Open and we know that through NBC Sports Group, they will enjoy world-class coverage of the Championship.”

ABC began televising The Open in 1962 and all four rounds of the tournament transitioned to fellow Disney-owned network ESPN following the most recent rights deal in 2010. According to SportsBusiness Journal, R&A opted out of that final year of its ESPN deal in 2017 to sign with NBC Sports Group, which outbid both ESPN and Fox Sports for rights.

The deal adds the RICOH Women’s British Open as the fourth women’s major championship on Golf Channel, and joins this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship as the second to receive broadcast coverage on NBC

“This is fantastic news for the Women’s British Open and the Curtis Cup and for women’s golf generally,” said Trish Wilson, Chairman of the Ladies’ Golf Union. “To have the full weight and breadth of the NBC Sports Group behind these two international events will be of tremendous benefit to their future growth.”

The deal also includes NBC Universo’s live Spanish-language golf coverage of The Open and the RICOH Women’s British Open

Two years ago, NBC lost the rights to the U.S. Open to Fox as a result of their 12-year, $100 million/year deal with the USGA, which begins this year. The Peacock is now back in the golf major game, however, and will dedicate its large trove of production and promotional efforts to building up The Open. NBC will be feature The Open as part of its “Championship Season” slate each spring/summer and the tournament joins NBCSN’s growing stable of weekend morning European-based sports programming, headlined by Premier League soccer and Formula One racing.

In addition, NBC Sports Group will highlight The Open through Golf Channel’s coverage of The Open Qualifying Series events, documentaries from the Emmy-nominated Golf Channel Films unit and a U.S. promotional tour of the Claret Jug, one of sport’s most iconic trophies. Golf Channel and The R&A also will work together on efforts to showcase The R&A’s global youth initiatives.

“As these events’ new home in the U.S., NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open and Curtis Cup will further raise the profile of these world-class events,” said Lazarus. “Adding broadcast coverage of the Women’s British Open will contribute to the momentum that the LPGA Tour and Golf Channel have generated in the United States, as the women’s game continues to grow stronger.”

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