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US Open ‘to return’ to NBC with Fox deal to end

US network NBC is poised to regain rights to United States Golf Association events including the U.S. Open, one of golf’s majors, after the Fox Sports division of the Fox network requested to end its 12-year contract, according to multiple reports.

The USGA agreed a 12-year deal with Fox Sports in August 2013 for the broadcast rights to the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open Championships. The agreement commenced in 2015 and was scheduled to run until 2026.

The agreement granted Fox major championship golf for the first time ever, but, according to the Associated Press, the rights will revert back to NBC starting with the 2020 U.S. Open, which will now take place from September 17-20 at Winged Foot in New York after being postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fox replaced NBC and cable sports broadcaster ESPN as the USGA’s principal domestic rights-holder. ESPN had traditionally televised the early rounds of the U.S. Open, while NBC aired the conclusion of the tournament. NBC’s previous six-year deal with the USGA ran from 2009 to 2014.

The 12-year deal with Fox is thought to be worth a total of $1.1bn (€975m), or an average of $93m per year.

A formal announcement on the revised agreement is expected later today (Monday). It is reported that NBC will take over the final seven years of the contract until 2026. NBC will reportedly pay for just under half of the rights fee through the rest of the deal.

Talks over the agreement are said to have started earlier this month, with Fox said to have been concerned over the new dates for the U.S. Open clashing with the opening month of the NFL American football season.

Fox is said to have considered moving coverage of the golf major to pay-television channel FS1, a proposal that was rejected by USGA chief executive Mike Davis.

NBC, along with Golf Channel, will now hold rights to the U.S. Open and the Open; along with the Players Championship, three World Golf Championships, the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, all the majors on the LPGA Tour and the PGA Tour Champions.

In March, the PGA Tour finalised nine-year domestic media rights deals with incumbent rights-holders CBS, the commercial network, and NBC Sports Group, while agreeing a landmark streaming deal with Disney’s ESPN+.