The Open 2016: BBC hands Open coverage over to Sky a year early

BBC asked the R&A to be released from its contract

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The Independent Online

Next year’s Open Championship at Royal Troon will be televised by Sky Sports after the BBC ended its 60-year association with the tournament a year early.

It was confirmed by tournament organisers, the R&A, in February that Sky Sports had been awarded exclusive rights to live television coverage in a five-year deal from 2017, with the BBC offering two-hour daily highlights and live coverage on radio and online.

However, Sky has now stepped in to cover next year’s Open as well after the BBC asked the R&A to be released from its contract. In a blog on the Corporation’s website, director of BBC Sport Barbara Slater said the decision was “a pragmatic one”.

“Much has been written and spoken recently about the BBC’s finances and its offering to licence fee payers,” Slater wrote. 

“The funding agreement announced in the Chancellor’s July budget and the overview of the BBC’s future finances outlined in the Charter Review proposals make it clear that the BBC is faced with some challenging financial savings targets. Sport on the BBC is not immune to those pressures and they are compounded by the highly inflationary nature of the rights market.

“Now, more than ever, it is critical that the BBC targets its resources to ensure maximum choice and value for money for licence fee payers. We have already made long-term commitments to the Wimbledon Championships to 2020, the next two Football World Cups, Match of the Day to 2019, Six Nations to 2021 and the next three Olympic Games. So, [as] Sky had been awarded the live TV rights to The Open and in light of financial developments since, the choice to amend the current contract from next year was a pragmatic one.”

New R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said of the tournament, won by Zach Johnson this year: “It is sad to see the BBC’s live coverage end but we are committed to delivering a spectacular edition of The Open next year at Royal Troon, and working with both Sky Sports and the BBC we will ensure compelling coverage for millions of fans.”