Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Open Championship: BBC vs Sky Sports

So where do you sit on the whole Sky vs. BBC debate. With The Open coverage moving to Sky in 2017, there aren’t many people sitting on the fence… that’s for sure. Why not let your feelings be known on the poll alongside.

Is this not a battle of the old vs. the new?

BBC Golf

The BBC has that lovely lazy coverage. In your PJs, cup of coffee, plate of toast, you settle into the sofa and watch golf from early morning to night. The laconic tones of Peter Alliss, Mark James et al fill the room and it’s as if you’re sitting down with an old friend for a chat. 

Certainly, for many of us, it takes us back to our childhood. The coverage is comprehensive – and by that I don’t mean watching Tiger endlessly navel-gazing while there’s golf going on somewhere else on the course – and the commentary entertaining and enlightening. In recent years they’ve brought new blood on board (a lot of people are saying Alliss is long past his best) who are doing well (Dan Walker, particularly) and while there is bound to be a commentator or two who induces you to reach for the mute button, they are usually only on for a short time… during which you can sort out another brew. It is the best golf and golf coverage on TV.

Sky Sports

Then there’s Sky. For those out there who think that Sky is modern and has excellent coverage (I noted that even Peter Alliss called their coverage ‘fantastic’  looking for a job are you, Peter? You’re 83 you know!) there is no getting away from the endless advertising. And it’s not as if you can escape and make more cups of coffee because if you do you’ll be high on caffeine by 12 o’clock.

People say that Sky’s coverage is superior. Could someone explain how it is superior? Fancy graphics, snazzy studios, loud commentators do not equal ‘superior’.

Do you like the shot tracker? I do… it’s just a shame that the BBC didn’t introduce it earlier and more often. Then again, watch any tennis match and that fancy slo-mo camera is rarely on the real action these days. Instead, we get Djokovic’s cheeks quivering at the moment of impact or some fan with his mouth so wide open you could fit a Christmas turkey down there (we still have left-overs). In other words, the shot tracker is great but it shouldn’t be over-used.

Good commentary, bad commentary? There are plenty of complaints. Monty gets a lot of stick! Ewan Murray, too. But there are complaints about Alliss and co. on the BBC, so it’s horses for courses I guess. And there's always that mute button.

The Issues

1.  How much golf will Sky actually show?
Would someone please do an experiment: record the golf on Sky for an hour and then time how much of that hour is actually on golfers playing their shots, how much is on advertising breaks, and how much is on everything else (in-studio analysis, shots of the leaderboard, daft music…). Then let’s compare those results to the BBC’s coverage. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that Sky show only half the amount of golf. On what planet is that ‘good for the game’. Once the first year of Sky is over, the proof of Sky's success or failure will be in the number of people who tune in to watch the tournament.

2.    R&A Growing The Game
Nothing about moving The Open to Sky will encourage new people to take up the game. Not unless they introduce some kind of X-Factor style element to find the next Tiger/Rory. 

The R&A might claim that they will use the extra £3 million they receive (the BBC paid £7 million a year, Sky is paying £10 million) to promote golf to the young and old, near and far, but the greatest golf tournament on the planet has now been moved off terrestrial TV to a subscriber only audience. This is not an event a kid might accidentally come across while channel surfing, so… for a paltry £3 million, the custodians of the game are only succeeding in making it more elite, more difficult to discover and less attractive to those who might have had a notion to try it.  

And all this at a time when participation in golf is in decline.

      Oh sure, TV is not the only way to get people interested in our great game, but the R&A have a lot of work to do to convince anyone that they want the game to grow, that they want golf to be played faster, and that golf is a game for all. As people stop watching a tournament that is free to view and free of ads, that extra £3 million a year is going to cost a lot of golf clubs dear... fewer people will take up the game and more club golfers will find other ways to occupy their time... and their money.

      I know it's early, but I'm already waiting for a shout of 'Fore' from the R&A.

Don’t forget to vote in the poll.


  1. Terrible news :-( To answer the question as to which is better coverage just ask yourself did you watch the weekend action of the US Masters on SS or BBC. I would imagine that very few stuck with SS.

    1. I've heard that time and again about the Masters. I also heard bad things about Sky's Ryder Cup coverage

  2. I grew up watching the Open on BBC & looked forward to it each year for a number of reasons. They had the most comprehensive coverage, not just tiger cam, no adverts, great interaction with viewers (email/tweeter) & you had Ken showing rolls on greens, bunker shots etc. Now I have sky simply as I like to watch golf but let's face facts, sky's pga coverage is diabolical, they are mearly hosting a show at the mercy of US cameras, endless breaks & the switching from American channels. I can't see how the game can reach new audiences or more viewer's with sky. I think it's the end of an era & sadly more up to date technology does not equate to a better programme.

    1. That about sums it up perfectly... people say the coverage was outdated and tired. Perhaps it was... but it was comfortable, an old favourite, something you could rely on. You know exactly what you're going to get and you look forward to it year after year.

  3. Why don't we cancel our sky subscription so..WE'll WE WON'T because MONEY talks...Which is a pity...I hate sky's coverage of the golf from the US, adds adds and hold on a minute ...oh yes another add.....So to watch golf now it's either illegal download or nothing...1 channel ALL the golf..soon we'll have to pay extra to see anything worth watching....Pay per View for the master, the open the players the pga the us open...it's coming

  4. Watching the Masters on Sky at the minute. A bit tacky as they show us the shape of the greens and players swings in virtual reality. If this is what we have to look forward to when Sky show the Open, I think I'll wait and watch the highlights on BBC.

  5. Once the first year of Sky is over, the proof of Sky's success or failure will be in the number of people who tune in to watch the tournament. watch tv abroad