Sky Sports is to commence its coverage of The Open golf championship in 2016, one year earlier than planned, after the BBC opted out of its final year.

It represents the latest loss of sports rights by the corporation that faces the need to make unprecedented cuts in the face of a frozen licence fee and governmental demands.

Barbara Slater, the BBC’s head of sport, said it was critical the BBC targets its resources to ensure maximum choice and value for money for licence fee payers. “Following the announcement that Sky had been awarded the live TV rights to The Open and in light of financial developments since, the choice to amend the current contract from next year was a pragmatic one. We know that many fans are unhappy with the loss of rights and in an ideal world the BBC would still be the home of live coverage of The Open.”

Sky will now begin its coverage with The 145th Open from Royal Troon. The premium channel already has coverage of all four Majors, the Ryder Cup, The European Tour and PGA Tour, as well as a host of other live events and programming.

Barney Francis, Sky Sports Managing Director, said: “We’re pleased to begin our commitment to The Open a year early and look forward to bringing unprecedented coverage of this wonderful Championship. We have exciting plans to take coverage of The Open to the next level across our TV, mobile and digital outlets.”

In February it was announced Sky would begin coverage of The Open in 2017 with the BBC providing a nightly two-hour highlights package.