NBC Sports Group Announces 12-Year Golf Partnership, Covering The Open, Women's British Open and Senior Open

Associated Press
2014 Open champion Rory McIlroy holds the Claret Jug trophy after winning last year's tournament.

The NBCUniversal sports division has reached a deal with the St. Andrews-based golf government body, the R&A.

NBC Sports Group announced Monday that it had reached a long-term deal to carry golf tournaments The Open, Women's British Open and the Senior Open Championship.

The 12-year agreement between NBC and the St. Andrews-based golf governing body The R&A — which organizes The Open, major amateur events and international matches — starts in 2017. The pact will begin with The Open, which will be played at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England.

The deal — worth a reported $50 million — represents a major acquisition for NBC Sports and Golf Channel and comes nearly two years after NBC lost the rights to the U.S. Open to Fox Sports, which was busy amassing sports rights that it could showcase on then-nascent cable network Fox Sports 1. The deal for the British Open not only gives NBC and Golf Channel another major event, but also will end ESPN and ABC's hold on the tournament; ABC has been showing the British Open since 1962. Under ESPN's current eight-year deal, worth $25 million, ESPN showed live coverage while highlights aired on broadcast sister ABC.

The NBC agreement includes coverage across all media of The Open, Women's British Open and Senior Championship Open. It also includes cross-platform rights to The Amateur Championship and the Walker and Curtis Cup in years when those international amateur team events are hosted by the R&A and Ladies' Golf Union. The deal brings The Open and Women's British Open back to U.S. broadcast television for the first time in eight years and will represent Golf Channel's first live coverage of a men's major championship with The Open.

The Open, golf's oldest championship, will be presented as one of the final marquee events within NBC Sports' Championship Season each spring and summer. The networks also collaborate on Golf Channel's coverage of The Open Qualifying Series events, documentary series from the Golf Channel Films unit and a U.S. promotional tour of the Claret Jug trophy. Golf Channel and The R&A will also work together on efforts to showcase The R&A's global youth initiatives.

“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,” NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said in a statement. “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. 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. 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.”

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson added, “We are delighted to announce that from 2017, The Open will be broadcast by NBC Sports Group. They have 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. 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.”

Trish Wilson, chairman of the Ladies' Golf Union, said, “This is fantastic news for the Women’s British Open and the Curtis Cup and for women’s golf generally. 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 growth of Golf Channel has been a major priority since the Comcast-owned network joined NBC Sports Group in 2011. And since then Golf has increased its ratings by 57 percent, scoring its four highest rated years in network history. Golf also is the No. 1 most-affluent ad-supoorted TV network in both total day and primetime, with both the highest median income and percentage of audience earning more than $100,000, according to Nielsen. And that highly affluent audience delivers some of the most lucrative ad rates in the industry.