In what became the World’s Worst Secret, ESPN has signed an eight year agreement with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club for the American TV rights to the Open Championship. ESPN will have live four round coverage, giving ABC selected highlights on the weekends. Note what ABC gets. Selected highlights on the weekends. ESPN can say ABC will continue its relationship with the R&A, but for all intents and purposes, ABC’s days of broadcasting the Open Championship live end in 2009. As usual with ESPN’s acquisitions, it includes a slew of digital rights.
Here’s the extensive press release:
ESPN and The R&A Reach Wide-Ranging Eight-Year Agreement for The Open Championship
All Four Rounds on ESPN Beginning in 2010Expansive Content for Digital Platforms and Expanded International Rights
ESPN and The R&A, the organizer of The Open Championship, have reached an eight-year agreement that will place all four rounds of The Open Championship live on ESPN beginning in 2010, it was announced by George Bodenheimer, President, ESPN, Inc., and ABC Sports and Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A. The new pact will also provide: broad and comprehensive rights for digital platforms; expanded television and digital media rights for ESPN International; and, extensive same-day weekend highlights coverage on ABC.
ESPN will televise 34 live hours of Championship play over the four days and produce six hours of encore highlights coverage over the weekend for ABC. The coverage on ABC will extend The R& A’s relationship with ABC past the half-century mark.
Bodenheimer said: “One of the most venerable of all sporting events has embraced the 21st century worldwide media landscape, and we’re thrilled to showcase The Open Championship like never before. The scope of this deal and the enhancements we obtained offer us tremendous opportunities to serve The R&A and golf fans around the world through any device.”
Dawson said: “It is all important to The R&A that we preserve the traditions of The Open Championship while at the same time ensuring that golf fans are able to enjoy modern state-of-the-art coverage of the event. We know just how much ESPN respects The Open’s heritage and we are very excited by their many innovative plans to cover the Championship across the whole media spectrum, both in the United States and internationally. We look forward to a long and productive relationship.”
Alastair Johnston, IMG Vice Chairman, who led the negotiating team representing The R&A said, “We had to consider not only the financial terms but The R&A’s overall mission to promote and develop the game of golf to an evolving global audience. Envisaging the platforms where a younger generation could be positively influenced to experience The Open Championship over the next decade was a significant factor in assembling this arrangement with ESPN.”
The deal also includes: exclusive U.S. coverage of all rounds of the Senior Open Championship, which is governed jointly by The R&A and the PGA European Tour, and coverage of the next two Walker Cups when contested in the United Kingdom (2011 and 2015). In all, there will be 90-plus television hours and 40-plus hours of live coverage on ESPN360.com and ESPN Mobile TV. ESPN will provide unprecedented live coverage of the Championships, including the first and second rounds of The Open Championship, which will begin at 5 a.m. ET.
As in all recent major rights acquisitions, the wide-ranging agreement will cover multiple businesses around the world through ESPN’s various platforms– ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, ESPN International, ESPN.com, ESPN360.com, ESPNDeportes.com and ESPN Mobile Properties, interactive television, ESPN in Latin America/Caribbean, TSN and RDS in Canada, ESPN Star Sports in Asia, and ESPN360 services in Mexico, Chile and Brazil.
So, ESPN will have the Open Championship live adding this to its coverage of The Masters and the U.S. Open. The only part of Golf’s Grand Slam the Alleged Worldwide Leader that’s missing is the PGA Championship and the cable rights are still held by TNT.