Watching This Week #104
An abbreviated newsletter with updated listings for March 20-26, 2023.
Here's how to watch the 150th edition of the golf tournament in Canada.
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The 150th edition of The Open Championship, the oldest golf tournament in the world and the last of the four men's major championships taking place in 2022, will be played from Thursday, July 14, to Sunday, July 17, 2022, at the Old Course at St Andrews, Scotland.
In Canada, broadcast rights to the tournament are split between NBCUniversal's Golf Channel, and Bell Media's CTV, TSN, and RDS:
For weekday coverage: The only authorized means of accessing Golf Channel in Canada as of this writing is through a cable, satellite, fibre, or similar TV service provider. If you are subscribed to such a provider and that provider offers streaming access to its channels (such as Bell's Fibe TV app), you may be able to stream Golf Channel that way. But without such a TV service, you will be out of luck for the first two rounds, at least in terms of authorized streaming options (with the possible exception of the specialty streams on TheOpen.com discussed a bit further down).
Carriage of the Golf Channel does vary between providers. On Rogers' legacy digital cable service, it's widely available as part of packages like Digital VIP, and on Bell Fibe TV, it's included in the "Better" package. On some smaller providers, it's possible that the channel is only available as part of a specialty sports package.
For weekend coverage: CTV is available for free over-the-air in major cities across Canada, but similar to Golf Channel, internet-based streaming access to CTV, through the network's website and mobile apps, is limited to subscribers of TV providers that receive CTV programming through that provider (which should be most subscribers, but it's possible there are some exceptions). There is currently no "over-the-top" way, either paid or free, to stream live CTV stations for those without such a TV provider subscription.
TSN offers similar website and app access to TV provider customers, but is also available over-the-top through TSN Direct, which starts at $7.99 for a 24-hour pass, or $19.99 per month (all prices in Canadian dollars before applicable sales taxes). Coverage will be available on both Saturday and Sunday on TSN1. (RDS's equivalent service has the same prices, though again, it will only offer coverage in French.)
Additionally, the tournament's official website, TheOpen.com, is offering special streams with specific featured groups and featured holes, with some streams restricted to members of something called "The One Club" which appears to be free to join. We tested Thursday morning and had no issues watching these streams from Canada.
That is correct, but only in the United States. Following the shutdown of its general sports channel NBCSN at the end of 2021, NBCUniversal decided to move some of its cable coverage of marquee sports events to USA Network. As part of this move, Golf Channel's coverage of the U.S. Open golf tournament moved to USA in June 2022, and coverage of The Open will be doing the same, leaving Golf Channel free to cover week-to-week events on other tours.
However, while Golf Channel is among the foreign TV channels permitted to be carried in Canada, USA Network is not, meaning that there was at least the risk of the early-round coverage not being available in Canada.
NBCUniversal could have sold the Canadian rights held by Golf Channel to a domestic broadcaster like TSN – which carries similar weekday coverage of the U.S. Open. But instead, it looks like the company has decided to make use of an existing Canada-specific alternate feed of Golf Channel, which it normally uses to provide substitute programming for events it does not have Canadian rights for, like the golf events at the Olympics, to carry the same windows of coverage that it will be airing on USA Network.
You can confirm that Golf Channel's U.S. feed will not be carrying live coverage of The Open – just wraparound studio coverage and repeats – on its schedule here.
There does not seem to be any rule against using an alternate feed like this to provide programming that's more in demand than what's available on the same channel in the originating country. The only relevant CRTC rule seems to be the one stating that the foreign channel's operator may not "hold, nor try to obtain, nor exercise, preferential or exclusive programming rights" in order to retain Canadian distribution. If a Canadian broadcaster ever complained to the CRTC about this, NBCU could argue this requirement was satisfied by virtue of Bell Media having Canadian broadcast rights to the bulk of the weekend rounds.
NBC's schedule does indicate a few hours of its coverage this year will be exclusively available on its Peacock streaming service, and those blocks of coverage do not currently appear on the Golf Channel schedules linked above.
Unfortunately, with Peacock not being available in Canada either, it does not appear there will be an authorized way to access this coverage in Canada, unless it's either added unscheduled to Golf Channel's Canadian feed, or made available as part of the offerings on the tournament's own website. However, as these blocks of coverage are limited to the beginnings and ends of the two weekday rounds – when the pairings aren't ordered based on performance – it's relatively unlikely that you'll miss much of importance.
The official name of the event is "The Open Championship" (more commonly shortened to just "The Open" in recent years), but it has historically been referred to as the "British Open" outside the U.K. – particularly in North America, and even on event broadcasts – to distinguish it from other well-known tournaments like the U.S. Open and the Canadian Open.
For many years, the alternate name was tolerated by the event's organizers (now known simply as "the R&A" – it's a long story), as can be evidenced by a variety of overseas "British Open" trademarks for merchandise registered by associated companies, even though they insist the name "British Open" has never been referenced in the organizers' own documentation for the event.
Since the early 2000s, the R&A has made a sustained effort to enforce the official name globally, including contractually forbidding broadcasters from using the "British Open" name. (Media outlets not involved in broadcasting the tournament, like Where Can I Watch, don't have any such contract with the R&A, so we don't have to abide by such requirements, though we will respect their wishes within reason.)
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