Virus reschedule issues fuels switch of $1 billion USGA deal

Ross Houston
July 1, 2020

A crowded sports schedule caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted FOX to choose the National Football League and MLB over the U.S. Open, leading the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) to end its 12-year deal with the broadcaster and transfer it to NBC Universal. However, because of the coronavirus pandemic and the U.S. Open's date shift to September, Fox Sports would have faced a conflict with its broadcast commitments for the NFL, MLB and college football.

In 2015, Fox Sports signed a 12-year deal with USGA to serve as the broadcaster for the USGA championships, which included the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Women's Amateur, U.S. Women's Open and, most notably, the men's U.S. Open.

"Recent events calling for the shift of the U.S. Open created scheduling challenges that were hard to overcome".

The U.S. Open is played over Father's Day weekend, but this year had to be rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two sides have had a rocky relationship dating back to Fox first winning the rights despite having never aired the sport, Golf Digest reported in 2017.

The tournament, one of golf's four majors, had been scheduled for last week at Winged Foot in New York's Westchester County, an early hot spot for a novel coronavirus outbreak. NBC has no daytime NFL games and the final of the U.S. Open will segue into the network's "Sunday Night Football" game between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. The WSJ said NBC's new deal is only slightly more than the $37 million it and ESPN were paying six years ago, citing people close to the talks.

NBCUniversal and its properties will broadcast all of them.

"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 nonprofit, to continue to have a significant and lasting impact on the game", said Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA. The network also has coverage of the Players Championship, three World Golf Championships and the Presidents Cup, in addition to all the majors on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour. All are no longer with the USA. An announcement is expected Monday.

The last time NBC broadcast the U.S. Open, the Thursday and Friday rounds were televised on ESPN. He was replaced by former PGA champion and Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger.

"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", NBC Sports president Pete Bevacqua said. "It further solidifies our platforms as the destination for golf viewers and enthusiasts, with NBC, Golf Channel, GOLFNow and GOLFPASS".

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