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U.S. Open returns to NBC after Fox asks out of deal due to COVID-19 rescheduling

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The U.S. Open is returning to NBC this year, the USGA announced Monday morning.

The change comes after Fox Sports asked out of its 12-year contract with the USGA to air the event, Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press reported. The issue arose out of the tournament being rescheduled for September due to the COVID-19 pandemic, placing it on an NFL weekend.

COVID-19 rescheduling forced change

The U.S. Open is played over Father’s Day weekend, but this year had to be rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will now be played at Winged Foot in New York the weekend of Sept. 17-20. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the go-ahead for the tournament without any fans earlier this month.

The new date put Fox in a tough spot since it’s during an NFL weekend. Fox considered moving the tournament off its main channel and to FS1, but USGA CEO Mike Davis didn’t approve, per the AP. It resulted in discussions to possibly exit the contract, which began in 2015. The 12-year deal is worth about $1 billion.

Fox Sports CEO and executive producer Eric Shanks said in a statement:

“Recent events calling for the shift of the U.S. Open created scheduling challenges that were difficult to overcome. 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.”

The two sides have had a rocky relationship dating back to Fox first winning the rights despite having never aired the sport, Golf Digest reported in 2017.

NBC adds to golf broadcasts

NBC aired the U.S. Open from 1995 through 2014. Under the new deal, when finalized, NBC will have the final seven years of the contract and pay slightly less than half of the rights fee, per the AP. The USGA did not reveal financial information.

Davis said in a statement:

“Partnering with NBCUniversal, including Golf Channel, gives us an unparalleled opportunity to connect and engage with the core golf audience more directly and routinely, and as a non-profit, to continue to have a significant and lasting impact on the game.”

The early rounds of the U.S. Open will now air on Golf Channel and the company’s on-demand streaming service, Peacock, that launches next month.

This year NBC will air four USGA championships: U.S. Women’s Amateur (Aug. 3-9), U.S. Amateur (Aug. 10-16), U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open (Dec. 10-13).

NBC was part of a nine-year media agreement with the PGA Tour earlier this year. It will air eight events per year — CBS has 19 — and airs early round and early weekend coverage on its Golf Channel platform. The two networks will alternate the FedEx Cup Playoff beginning in 2022 when NBC has the rights.

The leaderboard shows the scores as Jim Furyk of the United States hits out of a bunker on the 18th hole during the final round of the 2006 U.S. Open Championship at Winged Foot Golf Club.  (Photo by Howard Earl Simmons/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
The rescheduled U.S. Open will reportedly be on NBC after Fox asked out of the deal. (Howard Earl Simmons/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

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