ESPN (NYSE: DIS) and The R&A, organisers of the British Open, have a new eight-year deal that expands digital and international rights and – a combo that isn’t always the case in these deals – digital international rights. The package covers The Open, the Senior Open Championship and the next two Walker Cups held in the UK. For the TV types, the biggest news is that all four rounds of the classic golf tournament will be played live on ESPN in the US, starting in 2010, while continuing the connection with long-time media partner ABC via six hours of highlights; viewed another way, live coverage of the Open no longer will be shown over the air in the US. On the digital side, ESPN continues to expand its multiplatform rights as it adds or extends contracts. This one includes broad and comprehensive rights for digital platforms — 40-plus hours live on ESPN360.com and Mobile ESPN — along with expanded digital media rights for ESPN International. Digital rights for all territories include “live streaming of all events, expansive multiplatform highlight rights (e.g. online, broadband, and wireless); television and digital VOD; interactive television and mobile TV.” Now if they could only agree on a simulcast that would let us switch between the U.S. and UK commentators.
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