U.S. Open’s Peacock TV debacle is just the beginning for pro golf fans

Did you see Rory McIlroy’s birdie on the final hole of the first round of the U.S. Open on Thursday?

If the answer is yes, and you saw the putt live rather than in a highlight package, then you are one of the golf fans who have Peacock, NBC’s subscription-based streaming service. If you didn’t see it live, you were probably cursing under your breath that the powers that run television and sports have found another way to milk a few dollars out of viewers.

The social media world exploded when the U.S. Open switched from USA Network, a standard network commonly found on most platforms including cable, to Peacock on Thursday afternoon. Those chants grew a little louder on Friday when USA Network wasn’t part of the Open broadcast, but Peacock was the television platform for the morning and late afternoon sessions. NBC carried the Open midday.

The Open might be the sporting event at the center of anger about paywalls for the moment, but in reality this is nothing new. In a search for more lucrative sources of revenue, major sports are increasingly tucking at least some of their content behind streaming services that require an additional subscription.

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The PGA Tour has certainly been at the center of this movement with early round action now broadcast on ESPN+ and Peacock for some time now. Other sports are also on Peacock, such as the LPGA, Indy Car racing, boxing, soccer and a ton of U.S. Olympic trials for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris. Much of those Games will be on Peacock as well.

You may also remember that the National Football League put one of its playoff games last season on Peacock. The NFL, never at a loss for a way to squeeze an extra dollar out of fans and sponsors, has already put its Thursday Night Football games on pay service Amazon Prime. Major League Baseball isn’t immune to the movement, taking some Friday games and giving them exclusively to Apple TV, meaning those games aren’t on the regional sports networks fans traditionally watch.

Not going away

If you think your favorite sports moving to streaming services that require an additional subscription is a trend that can’t continue, think again. The NFL recently announced that it will play two games on Christmas Day this year, and both will be on Netflix, another pay service. Meanwhile, NBC is on the verge of announcing a new deal to take over the NBA package currently held by TNT through next season. When NBC does get the pro basketball contract, the scuttlebutt is many of the games (who knows how many games) will be broadcast on – you guessed it – Peacock.

Again, none of this is new. Golf has been on Peacock for a while, and websites like have increasingly been showing a more diverse golf broadcast than traditional television platforms can show. Peacock, for instance, shows featured groups on streams that aren’t showing the regular broadcast.

But streaming services cost money, and that starts to add up for fans who watch other platforms, whether cable or outlets like YouTube TV or Hulu for the bulk of their television. Maybe it’s just $10 a month, but consider that the NFL is now asking fans to subscribe to Amazon Prime, Netflix and Peacock to see games.

The reason the trend is actually growing is because fans do follow their sports wherever they are broadcast. Maybe not all fans, but enough fans for the sports and the streaming services to believe the money spent for broadcasting rights is money well spent. If no one was watching, would the NFL hide two Christmas Day games on Netflix?

So if the trend isn’t going away, and is in fact growing, it is easy to start conjecturing what sporting events will be on streaming services next. Early games in the expanded College Football Playoffs could be a target by streaming services. So could the WNBA, which is growing fans quickly in the last year. The Major League Baseball playoffs might send an entire early round series to a streaming platform.

For fans of the U.S. Open this weekend, Peacock only comes into play for targeted feature groups. The main broadcast will be on USA for a few hours and then NBC the rest of the day. But it’s easy to see how the shift to streaming services could continue to shift in the future as cable viewership shrinks and streaming services keep looking for subscribers. If you want to follow the sports to streaming services, just follow the money.

Larry Bohannan is the golf writer for The Desert Sun. You can contact him at (760) 778-4633 or at Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @larry_bohannan. 

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek