Posted on February 10, 2015

David Owen: Why we should wait to pass judgement on the broadcasting deal for golf’s Open Championship


“Free-to-air or pay-TV? This debate on the most beneficial form of broadcast coverage for sport got another airing in the UK this week, after Sky wrested live rights for golf’s Open Championship away from the BBC, starting in 2017.
The smart answer to the question is probably, “Both”; this, after all, is what the most popular sporting attractions seem to manage….”

“This week’s golf deal reminded me of comments made to me last July by an expert who has studied golf markets for three decades.Alluding specifically to the UK, Stephen Proctor of SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. opined that free-to-air coverage of golf was now “very, very low”.While pay-TV programming offered excellent coverage, it was, he said, “preaching to the converted”.

Given that participation rates in Great Britain, the sport’s most mature market, have been falling in recent times, you might be forgiven for questioning the wisdom of the Open deal on the grounds that, while it produces jam today, it could trigger an acceleration in this participation decline.

Bear in mind that a SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. study I looked at last summer put the average age of “avid” golfers, defined as adults playing at least once a week on a full-length course in Britain, at 63.

I suppose there are three answers to that:

First, the availability of the Open Championship live on free-to-air television has not stopped the decline from setting in.

Second, it will still be possible to follow the event free-to-air via a two-hour daily highlights programme, as well as the BBC’s excellent live radio coverage….”

Read David Owen’s full feature here on – Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games News

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