The Open suffers massive 75 per cent decline in viewing figures following Sky’s takeover from BBC
The Drum, by Tony Connelly
The Open suffered a huge drop in viewing figures in its first year since Sky Sports took over the broadcast duties from the BBC.
The peak television audience for the final round of this year’s golf Open Championship at Royal Troon was just 1.1 million across both Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 4, representing a 75 per cent decline on 2015.
Last year’s conclusion to the Open enjoyed a peak audience viewing figure of 4.7 million despite taking place on a Monday, while 2014’s finale featuring Rory McIlroy’s triumphs at Royal Liverpool culminated in peak figures of 5.5 million.
This year’s incredible shootout between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson will be remembered as a classic and generated huge interest so the underwhelming statistics will cast doubts on the sports ability to grow without a public broadcaster.
BBC’s two-hour highlights show on Sunday evening reached a higher peak of 1.5m, illustrating that the interest in the sport remains high and suggests that Sky’s exclusive coverage could harm a sport which has already suffered as of late following a number of high-profile withdrawals from the Rio Olympics and McIlroy’s lack of support for golf’s return to the Games.
Sky has declined to comment on the viewing figures while the R&A continues to maintain that moving the Open to a paid broadcaster will bring a younger audience towards golf.
The BBC chose to end its broadcast deal with the Open one year early as part of its cost saving efforts which have resulted in a cull in its live sports coverage.