BBC keeps Open for five years

New R&A contract keeps event out of reach of Sky until at least 2006

Golmagic wire service
Fri, 24 Aug 2001

BBC keeps Open for five years

The BBC will continue to televise the Open free of charge for the next five years after agreeing a new five-year deal with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, according to The Scotsman newspaper, today.

Although neither the BBC nor the R&A would put a figure on the value of the new contract, it’s understood the deal is worth three times the £10 million which the broadcaster paid for the rights before Tiger Woods came on the scene.

Since he turned professional, the world No.1 has been almost single-handedly responsible for taking golf to a new level in terms of interest and profitability.

In the US, his feats helped the PGA Tour to agree a new deal with the TV networks this year worth nearly a billion dollars. Now the R&A have also cashed in on the Tiger factor as golf continues to grow at a brisk rate.

Unlike the American majors, however, the appeal of the Open doesn’t rely solely on Woods. Figures in the States for the US PGA Championship, won by David Toms last Sunday, indicated ratings slumped by 37 per cent compared to the previous year at Valhalla when Woods defeated Bob May.

Remarkably, as many viewers in the UK, around six million, tuned in to watch David Duval win at Lytham as followed Toms in the much bigger American market.

This probably explains why the BBC, which has lost the Ryder Cup, football highlights, Test cricket and Formula One in recent years, were ready to go the extra mile to retain coverage of an event which is one of the jewels in the crown of the corporation’s terrestrial sports coverage, along with Wimbledon and the Grand National.