Live coverage of golf’s oldest Major, the Open Championship, has been axed from free-to-air television a year early after the BBC made it a victim of cost-cutting measures across the corporation.
Sky had been due to take up the rights on a five-year deal in 2017 but will now assume exclusive live broadcaster status a year early, when the 145th Open is staged at Royal Troon in July.
The BBC, which was criticised for its coverage of this year’s tournament, will instead show a prime-time two-hour highlights programme on each of the four days and maintain its live radio presence.
BBC Sport director Barbara Slater said the revised licence fee agreement announced in July had left the corporation with “challenging savings targets”.
Slater, who emphasised the corporation still boasted football’s World Cup, the Premier League and the Olympics, added: “Sport on the BBC is not immune to those pressures and they are compounded by the highly inflationary nature of the rights market.”
BBC chiefs were criticised for the late start to its coverage of the final round of this year’s Open, which finished a day late on Monday due to bad weather.
“It is sad to see the BBC’s live coverage of the Open end and I know some fans will be disappointed,” said Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the sport’s governing body the R&A.
“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.”
Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis said they would offer “unprecedented coverage” of the Open. He added: “We have exciting plans to take coverage of the Open to the next level across our TV, mobile and digital outlets.”