Less than a month ago, it was reported that the Royal & Ancient Golf Club was looking to see a windfall of cash in their next television contract and that it was seen as unlikely that ESPN would renew. Fox was seen as one of the front-runners with NBC and CBS also in the mix. This new contract will see the Open Championship's televisions rights double from the $25 million that ESPN was paying to $50 million from NBC.
This is a big get for NBC not just to see it return to major tournament coverage but more notably for Golf Channel, which will have live Thursday and Friday coverage. Golf Channel has been the official cable home of the PGA Tour since 2007 and has early round coverage of all PGA Tour events but has never covered a major before (those contracts are separate from the PGA Tour contract). Cable was going to be a major piece of the next television deal considering that the tournament comes on in the wee hours of the morning on the East Coast (ESPN's coverage last year began at 4, 7 and 6 am last year) but it will fit as seamlessly as anything else on Golf Channel, while also returning it to OTA television as well.
This will also virtually be the end of ESPN's golf coverage as now it will be left with a couple of international amateur tournaments (the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and the Latin America Amateur Championship) as well as early round coverage of the Masters, which is produced by CBS.