The BBC has acquired the live broadcast rights to the US PGA Championship in a shock move that represents a seismic shift for the sport dominated by Sky's coverage.
The multi-year agreement will be seen as a huge coup for the corporation which has saw its live sports coverage dwindle in recent years as a result of Sky's financial dominance. Last year the BBC saw its 61-year long coverage of the Open come to an end after it was outbid by Sky Sports.
Losing the Open was not the only live sports rights which the BBC relinquished, in a bid to meet budget cut targets it gave up the rights to Formula One, the Olympics and split the coverage of the Six Nations with ITV.
The winding down of its live sports coverage led the media industry to assume the BBC’s days as a serious player golf were over with Sky holding the live rights to all four majors.
However last week Sky, which has broadcast the US PGA since 1992, lost the rights to the tournament after the PGA of America, which runs the tournament, announced that it was pursuing a different media model.
PGA of America’s chief commercial officer, Jeff Price, said at the time: “It was a multi-year deal that was up. Ultimately one of the key things for us is scale of distribution and obviously with all the new platforms that consumers are engaging with, we want to make sure we reach all of them.”
Price’s comments alluded to a move away from the traditional television rights scene, however the deal with the BBC suggests that audience reach was an issue.
According to the Telegraph the USGA, which runs the US Open, has been disappointment with the UK audience figures as Sky’s coverage of last year’s Open at Troon attracted far fewer viewers than it did on the BBC.
The news came as a major blow to Sky which only days previously had announced it was launching a dedicated golf channel as part of a wider overhaul of its sports broadcasting strategy.
Having the golf behind a pay-wall caused concerns within the sport that that interest in golf would be damaged due to a lack of opportunity to watch it on TV, similar to issues with cricket which has also be affected by Sky’s dominance.
One complication relating to the BBC’s new major agreement relates to a clash with the world athletics championships, which the corporation was already committed to covering. However a combination of linear television channels and the BBC red button being will ensure full coverage.