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EXCLUSIVE: European Tour back on the small screen but U.S. Open coverage looks unlikely

There’s some good news amid the continuing frustration for fans starved of major championship coverage on TV

By Kent Gray
Another major championship, the same old, scarcely believable story for golf fans in one of the game’s global hotspots.

Just two days out from the start of the third major of the year, it appears there will be no live TV or online broadcast of America’s 119th national championship from fabled Pebble Beach for viewers across the Middle East.

After OSN’s decision to jettison all but two of its sports channels on April 1 this year, angst among fans suddenly starved of their usual diet of pay TV golf has steadily increased. An 11th-hour deal saw the Masters tournament later in April shown on Facebook Live but last month’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black wasn’t screened. Now it seems limited ‘featured holes’ and ‘featured groups’ coverage on the United States Golf Association website and APP is the best fans here can hope for this week.

As the governing body, the USGA is responsible for the distribution of TV rights from the U.S. Open. Golf Digest Middle East has approached the USGA for comment on any possible deal for the Middle East but has thus far had no response. 

European Tour back on the small screen
The brighter news is that coverage of European Tour’s Race to Dubai is back on the small screen across the MENA region via Dubai Sports Channel.

European Tour Communications Director Scott Crockett confirmed the tour had signed a  deal with Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI) to screen European Tour, Challenge Tour and Staysure (over 50s) Tour events on Dubai Sports Channel for the remainder of 2019.

DMI is the official media organisation of the government of Dubai.

“As I am sure you are aware, Dubai Sports Channel is available in the MENA Region, defined as Free-to-Air Satellite Territory being the footprints of the Arabsat and Nilesat satellites, which includes Bahrain, Comorres Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Algeria, Chad, Libya, Morocco, Somalia and Tunisia,” Crockett told Golf Digest Middle East.

The deal is a major relief for the European Tour given the emirate’s investment in the tour via the Race to Dubai and the amount of high profile events it hosts in the region, including the main tour’s early-season Desert Swing in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi Arabia and later in Muscat and Doha, and the season-defining DP World Tour Championship held at Jumeirah Golf Estates each November.

According to Crockett, Dubai Sports Channel began screening European Tour events late last month, starting with the Made in Denmark championship. It has also shown the Belgian Knockout and GolfSixes but won’t carry the U.S. Open as the European Tour doesn’t hold rights.

Strangely, the deal with the DMI has caught fans on the hop; there has been little fanfare (and no official media release GDME can find) despite the importance of the announcement given the Race to Dubai link and all-important fan engagement.

The return of European Tour coverage means fans across the MENA region now have access to the game’s two main tours.

GolfTV was launched in the UAE on April 1 offering coverage of PGA Tour events. GolfTV is Discovery’s new live and on-demand video streaming service conjunction with the PGA Tour and Tiger Woods. Golf Digest was recently acquired by Discovery Inc. Golf Digest Middle East, a licensee to the U.S.-based parent body, is published in the Middle East by Motivate Media Group.

RELATED: Golf Digest sold to Discovery, Inc., joins GOLFTV to create global editorial powerhouse

Kent Gray

Editor of Golf Digest Middle East. Has written about golf since 1989 and owned a suspect short game even longer.

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