The 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon will be televised by Sky Sports after the BBC ended its deal a year early, the R&A has announced.
It was confirmed by 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.
And Sky have now stepped in to cover next year’s Open as well after the BBC asked the R&A to be released from its contract.
New R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said: “We are looking forward to world-class coverage of The Open from our partners at Sky Sports and are grateful that they have stepped in a year early.
“It is sad to see the BBC’s live coverage of The Open end and I know some fans will be disappointed. The relationship between The R&A and the BBC spans more than 60 years and we understand the challenging circumstances that the BBC is currently presented with. I know the BBC will produce compelling highlights, which will be enjoyed by a large prime-time audience.
“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 throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland.”
The BBC denied reports in June that it was considering ending its live television coverage after this year’s Open at St Andrews, a spokesperson said at the time: ”We remain committed to our current contract with the R&A.”
The agreement means Sky Sports will show all four Majors and the Ryder Cup and managing director Barney Francis said: “We’re pleased to begin our commitment to The Open a year early and look forward to bringing unprecedented coverage of this wonderful Championship. We have exciting plans to take coverage of The Open to the next level across our TV, mobile and digital outlets.”
The R&A said it agreed to the BBC’s request after “significant deliberation” and would not receive any additional revenue as a result of the new arrangement.
The BBC will broadcast prime-time highlights and will continue its live coverage on radio and online.
In a blog on the BBC'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.
“So following the announcement that 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. We know that many fans are unhappy with the loss of rights and in an ideal world the BBC would still be the home of live coverage of The Open.
“The BBC and The R&A have operated a successful partnership for more than 60 years and that is set to continue well into the next decade as we bring the Open Golf Championship to the widest possible audience.”