(Reuters) - A crowded sports schedule caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted FOX to choose the NFL 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.
The U.S. Open originally scheduled for June was moved to September due to the new coronavirus outbreak, creating a logjam for FOX which also has broadcast rights for ratings behemoth the NFL as well as college football and Major League Baseball.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to the shift in dates for the U.S. Open... finding the necessary broadcast hours presented a challenge for FOX Sports, given their commitments to the National Football League, Major League Baseball and college football,” the USGA said in a statement.
“What started as an exploration of how FOX Sports and NBC/Golf Channel could work together this unique year led to a broader conversation and eventual agreement for NBCU to take over the USGA media rights.”
FOX signed a 12-year deal worth a reported $1.2 billion in 2015 that runs through 2026.
The USGA said terms of the agreement will remain the same as NBC jumps in to broadcast this year’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York which was moved from June 18-21 to Sept. 17-20 because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The deal also includes the rights to other USGA flagship events including the U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur tournaments.
“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.
“While we are proud of the success we’ve built over these years, this is a win for golf fans everywhere, a win for the USGA and a win for FOX and NBC Sports.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris