Sky Sports has strengthened its position as the undisputed home of live golf in the UK by confirming a new agreement for exclusive live coverage of the Ricoh Women’s British Open from 2017.
The five-year deal with with the Ladies Golf Union (LGU) and IMG will run through until 2021, and in a similar arrangement to that announced by the R&A for the Open Championship, the Women’s British Open will be added to Sky’s comprehensive live golf portfolio in two years’ time, with free-to-air highlights on the BBC.
Sky Sports will provide live coverage of all four days of the Ricoh Women’s British Open in the UK, as it will for for The Open Championship from 2017 onwards, alongside its existing coverage of the Masters tournament, the US Open and the PGA Championship as well as all three days of the Ryder Cup.
The BBC, who have screened the tournament exclusively over the past decade, will now show a daily terrestrial highlights package from 2017 onwards, although it will be one hour in length instead of the daily two-hour programmes that has been agreed for the men’s event.
A statement from the LGU said: “The Ladies Golf Union and IMG today can confirm a new five-year broadcast agreement for the Ricoh Women’s British Open with the UK’s two largest sports broadcasters, Sky and the BBC, running from 2017 – 2021, in an arrangement similar to that announced last week by the R&A for the Open Championship.
The LGU’s Trish Wilson added: “We are delighted with the structure of the new agreement, which will be a positive step for women’s golf and our Championship.”
Already showing more than 100 live tournaments a year, Sky Sports also holds the exclusive rights to cover the European Tour, PGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LPGA Tour in both the UK and Ireland.
Sky’s inaugural live Women’s British Open will be at Kingsbarns in 2017, a course that will be hosting a major championship for the first time.
Barney Francis, Sky Sports Managing Director, added: “We have been committed to women’s sport since Sky Sports began and it’s a commitment that keeps on growing. This year we are showing more women’s sport than ever before, including, of course, women’s golf.
“We are delighted to be able to offer the prestigious Ricoh Women’s British Open live to our audience and are looking forward to working with the LGU and IMG to continue to grow this great Championship.”
The latest migration of a top sporting event from the BBC to Sky will no doubt be greeted with further from the golfing public and when this agreement comes into force in 2017, it means the final two days of the Masters will be the only live golf shown on the BBC, except for the 2016 and 2020 Olympic tournaments.
In the mid-2000s, the BBC’s live golfing output totalled 24 days and included flagship European Tour events such as the Wentworth PGA Championship and the Scottish Open, though both those tournament are now broadcast exclusively live on Sky, with highlights of only the final two days on BBC TV.
The two days of live coverage of the Masters should at least remain on the BBC for the foreseeable future after the corporation signed a ‘multi-year’ deal with Augusta in 2014.
Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the Royal & Ancient, recently claimed that the BBC negotiators had made it clear to him during the bidding process for the Open rights that showing highlights of the championship was their preferred option.
Against the financial clout of Sky, which now holds the live rights to virtually all major international televised golf tournaments, it appears the BBC has opted for a similar option again with the women’s event.
This year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open will take place at Turnberry in July, with all four days exclusively live on the BBC.