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USGA transfers US media rights from Fox back to NBCUniversal

USGA transfers US media rights from Fox back to NBCUniversal
USGA TV Deal Golf - AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster


The USGA is transferring its U.S. media rights from Fox Sports to NBC, which returns the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open to NBC this year and for the final seven years of the Fox contract.

The transfer is largely attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down golf for three months and let to a reconfiguration of the major championship schedule. That includes the U.S. Open, which was forced from its traditional Father’s Day spot on the calendar.

The U.S. Open now is scheduled for Sept. 17-20 at Winged Foot in New York. Fox Sports also has contracts with the NFL, college football and Major League Baseball, which led Fox Sports to agree to NBCUniversal taking over the contract.

The Associated Press first reported the deal Sunday night.

“Recent events calling for the shift of the U.S. Open created scheduling challenges that were difficult to overcome,” said Eric Shanks, CEO and executive producer of Fox Sports. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, although the USGA said the rights fee it is paid would stay the same for the duration of the contract through 2026. The 12-year deal that Fox Sports signed was worth more than $90 million a year.

One person with direct knowledge of the transfer said NBC would pay just under half of the rights fee through the rest of the contract, with Fox picking up the rest. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because that detail was not publicly announced.

Two other people said the deal began to take shape earlier this month because of the scheduling conflict, and that Fox had contemplated moving the U.S. Open to FS1 because of football conflicts, which was met by objections from the USGA, including its CEO, Mike Davis.

The USGA said in a news release that what began as an exploration of how Fox and NBC could work together through the pandemic-affected calendar led to a broader conversation and ultimately an agreement for NBC to take over the U.S. media rights.

Because of the shutdown, particularly the qualifying for USGA events, only four events are being played this year — the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Amateur in consecutive weeks in August, the U.S. Open in September and the U.S. Women’s Open in Houston on Dec. 10-13.

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,” Davis said.

NBC televised the U.S. Open from 1995 through 2014. That ended when the USGA, in a move that surprised the industry, announced in 2013 it was moving to Fox Sports. According to Golf Digest, the key negotiators of that deal were Sarah Hirschland, Gary Stevenson and then-USGA President Glen Nager. All are no longer with the USA.

The last time NBC broadcast the U.S. Open, the Thursday and Friday rounds were televised on ESPN. The announcement did not say how that will be handled under the new agreement, though it likely will be a combination of NBC, Golf Channel and Peacock, the new streaming service of NBCUniversal expected to launch in a few weeks.

The deal means Comcast-owned NBC will have the U.S. Open and British Open, The Players Championship, three World Golf Championships, the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. It also will have the FedEx Cup playoffs every other year when the new media rights deal with the PGA Tour begins, along with all majors on the LPGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions.

“Adding these prestigious USGA events to our already incredibly deep golf business, led by our long-term PGA Tour partnership … positions us as absolute leaders in the golf space,” said Pete Bevacqua, president of NBC Sports Group.