Just weeks after announcing the launch of their new Sky Sports Golf channel, the satellite broadcaster could be in danger of losing their live coverage of two of the game’s four majors.
We already know that they will not be showing next month’s PGA Championship, which has instead been picked up by the BBC.
Now there is a question mark over the renewal of Sky’s deal to show the Masters. For the last two years they have shown the action exclusively live for the first two days, with the BBC offering highlights, then offered live coverage as well as the BBC on Saturday and Sunday.
According to the Telegraph, BT Sport are interested in acquiring the Masters rights.
What’s more, Sky’s current US Open deal expired with this year’s championship and is yet to be renewed.
The Ryder Cup broadcast rights have recently been agreed on a match-by-match basis. Next year’s match in France is a home one, which means the European Tour hold the broadcast rights.
Sky and the European Tour have enjoyed a strong and longstanding relationship.
However, it might be a different story for 2020’s match at Whistling Straits. The rights for Ryder Cups taking place in the USA belong to the PGA of America – that’s the same PGA who have just taken the rights for this season’s final major of the year away from Sky.
Sky are currently three years into a seven-year deal to show live action from the PGA Tour. This takes them up to the end of 2021 and includes coverage of this year’s Presidents Cup match as well as the next two.
In 2016, Sky had live rights to all four majors and the Ryder Cup.
Sky Sports’ coverage of golf for over 20 years now has been exceptionally strong and innovative.
Even if not all of their presenters and summarisers are universally loved – and whose are – it has been impossible to fault their commitment.
Although Sky are reluctant to share viewing figures, it’s fair to assume that not too many golf, let alone sports, fans are exactly booking the day off work to ensure they don’t miss a minute of the action from the opening morning of the Lyoness Austria Open.
At last year’s Open, the Guardian claim that Sky’s first-day audience high-point was 347,000. BBC’s equivalent figure at St Andrews the year before was 1.5 million.
Without the majors and the Ryder Cup, it’s questionable how much appetite Sky would have for showing the weekly action from the European Tour.
Quite what this means for the game and the average golf fan is unclear.
The BBC and BT Sport are obvious destinations for any live golf that becomes available but the landscape for sporting rights is rapidly changing.
The NFL have experimented with broadcasting games on Twitter while the likes of YouTube and Google are looking at showing sport for free to drive traffic to their platforms. It seems inevitable that social media will play at least some part in how we view live golf in the coming years.
NCG contacted Sky Sports for comment and are hopeful we will be able to update this story soon.