Tournament officials admit the billion dollar-deal signed by Fox in the United States could have a major impact in future television coverage of the Open Championship.
The BBC has televised the Open for more than 50 years but their current contract runs out after the 2016 championship at Troon, and Sky would be keen to add the event to their large portfolio.
The Open is a category B listed event, which means it can be sold to the highest bidder as long as there is provision for highlights on terrestrial television. Fox’s 12-year deal with the United States Golf Association begins in 2015.
“We have had an extremely long relationship with the BBC and a very happy one. I think it’s now 59 years since The Open Championship was first televised in 1955 on the BBC,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said yesterday.
“Our current contract runs through the 2016 Open and what will happen thereafter remains to be seen. Being a rights holder we obviously have to balance that long-term relationship and the high viewership of the BBC against commercial considerations.
“The value of golf rights has accelerated dramatically, particularly in the United States just in the last 12 months. And that’s perhaps a bigger item in the equation than it might otherwise have been, that’s for sure. But it’s massively premature to speculate on what might occur.”
Dawson said it also remained premature to say for definite that the Open would be staged at Royal Portrush in 2019, even though the course has been invited to join the rota of Open venues.
“The fact of the matter is we haven’t determined a date because it would be premature to do so, awaiting what the members of Portrush decide about all the course infrastructure changes,” he added. The addition of the Northern Irish course takes the number of Open courses to 10.