NBC and Golf Channel have obtained the American broadcast rights to the British Open beginning in 2017, multiple sources confirm.
The announcement, which comes after presentations by several major networks to the R&A, was made Monday to avoid any interference with this week's KPMG Women's PGA Championship and next week's U.S. Open. Existing rights-holder ESPN will broadcast its final Open in 2016 after the R&A opted out of the current contract's final year.
As part of the deal, Golf Channel will get to air coverage of a men's major for the first time, and the move back to broadcast television from exclusively on cable is expected to improve audience size and visibility, reportedly the most important factor for the R&A that otherwise was said to be pleased with ESPN's effort.
The Open Championship coverage will be live on NBC, avoiding any potential criticism for the network that has often tape-delayed Olympic and tennis coverage. It's also a major victory for the Comcast-owned networks, which lost out to Fox Sports for the right to broadcast USGA events, including the U.S. Open.
"We are delighted to announce that from 2017, The Open will be broadcast by NBC Sports Group. They have unparalleled experience in golf and have demonstrated a genuine desire to showcase and promote The Open and The R&A's elite championships through their extensive range of channels and digital platforms," said R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson. "The United States is home to millions of fans of The Open and we know that through NBC Sports Group, they will enjoy world-class coverage of the Championship."