TNT Sinks $30 Million British Open Golf Deal

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Turner Network Television last week acquired the rights to the prestigious British Open golf tournament for a reported $30 million, nearly triple former rights-holder ESPN's annual fee.

As part of the seven-year agreement, TNT will air 28 hours of British Open coverage annually beginning next year, including live weekend coverage, said Turner Sports president Mark Lazarus. TNT also will air four hours of coverage each for the Senior British Open and the Women's British Open Championships.

Lazarus would not reveal terms of the deal, but sources said TNT will pay the Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews $4.2 million annually over seven years for the British Open's men's, women's and senior events — well above the approximately $1.6 million ESPN previously paid for the rights.

"We think it works with TNT's positioning very well and it gives it another major championship to be valuable to viewers," Lazarus said. TNT also holds the rights to the Professional Golfer's Association championship, golf's fourth major.

"It works well for advertisers, viewers and within what TNT is trying to offer."

The network also gained interactive rights to the Open, which could develop into a video-on-demand offering, Lazarus said.

"With 60 to 80 guys on the golf course, there's a lot of golf content that never gets on the air, so I think this is valuable way to work with our other partners, whether its cable operators or other distributors," Lazarus said.

ESPN, which held the rights to the British Open since 1982, averaged a 1.84 rating with its first- and second-round coverage this year, numbers buoyed by Tiger Woods's pursuit of the sport's Grand Slam.

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