US Open back on NBC after $1bn Fox deal ends seven years early
NBC, the US national network, today regained rights to golf's US Open, one of the sport's four majors, from this year, after Fox Sports terminated its 12-year contract after just five editions.
The 2020 US Open, originally scheduled to be played at Winged Foot at New York last week, was postponed to 17 to 20 September because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2013, Fox signed a 12-year contract with the US Golf Association covering rights from 2015 to 2026 to the US Open, US Women’s Open, the US Senior Open and the US Amateur Championship. NBC has assumed all of those rights.
Fox's agreement was worth $93 million a year, more than double the value of the USGA’s previous domestic rights agreement with NBC and ESPN, which showed the final two and opening two rounds of the US Open, respectively.
NBC, which showed the US Open between 1995 and 2014, is understood to be paying just under half of the rights fee through the rest of the deal.
Beginning with this year's tournament, Golf Channel and Peacock, NBC's new on-demand streaming service, will show Thursday and Friday's action from the US Open, and the main NBC channel will show Saturday and Sunday's play.
Fox is known to have been concerned over the new dates for this year's US Open clashing with its NFL American football and Major League Baseball coverage, with a proposal to move the tournament to the FS1 channel strongly rebuffed by Mike Davis, the USGA chief executive.
According to reports in USA, it was that proposal that led to deeper conversations about the contract and how it could be resolved.
Davis said today: “Partnering with NBCUniversal, including Golf Channel, gives us an unparalleled opportunity to connect and engage with the core golf audience more directly and routinely, and as a non-profit, to continue to have a significant and lasting impact on the game.”
Eric Shanks, Fox Sports chief executive and executive producer, added: “Recent events calling for the shift of the U.S. Open created scheduling challenges that were difficult to overcome. While we are proud of the success we’ve built over these years, this is a win for golf fans everywhere, a win for the USGA and a win for Fox and NBC Sports.”
The US Open, and the other tournaments in the USGA contract, were the only golf that Fox produced, while NBC, along with Golf Channel, has a strong portfolio in the sport.
This includes: the British Open, another major; Ryder Cup, the biennial contest between Europe and USA; Presidents Cup, between USA and the rest of the world (excluding Europe); The Players Championship; and three World Golf Championships.
In March, NBC and CBS retained linear rights to the PGA Tour from 2022 to 2030, with ESPN+, the over-the-top streaming service, picking up the digital package.
Pete Bevacqua, president of NBC Sports, said today: “Adding these prestigious USGA events to our already incredibly deep golf business, led by our long-term PGA Tour partnership, as well as The Open Championship and Ryder Cup, positions us as absolute leaders in the golf space.
“This deal is advantageous for all parties, including NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Peacock and the USGA, but also Fox Sports, and we thank them for working with us to complete this transaction.”
Rights in USA to the two other golf majors, the Masters and PGA Championship, are held by ESPN and CBS. ESPN shows the first two days of both tournaments, with the coverage switching to CBS for the weekends.