The peak television audience for the final round of the Open Championship suffered a drop of around 75% on last year in the first broadcasting by Sky Sports of the oldest major.
The top viewing figure for the epic Royal Troon shootout between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson, combined between Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 4, was 1.1m.
Last year, when the Open concluded on Monday because of severe weather disruption, that peak figure on the BBC reached 4.7m. In 2014, as Rory McIlroy won the Open at Royal Liverpool, the BBC’s peak Sunday figure was even higher at 5.5m.
Notably BBC’s two-hour highlights show on Sunday evening reached a higher peak – 1.5m – than Sky’s live coverage. Such statistics will cast inevitable doubt on golf’s ability to grow using a non-terrestrial platform.
Sky decided not to offer comment on Sunday’s viewing figures. The satellite broadcaster is believed to be citing a reach of 8m over four days of the Open.
The R&A has consistently defended its shift of the Open from terrestrial television, linked to what it claims will bring a younger audience towards golf. The Sky deal for the Open was originally due to begin in 2017 but the BBC chose to surrender their live coverage one year early. Golf’s governing body did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment on Monday.
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