All four rounds of British Open shown live on ESPN beginning in '10

The British Open will air exclusively on ESPN beginning in 2010.

ESPN and The R&A announced on Thursday an eight-year agreement that will place all four rounds of The Open Championship live on ESPN beginning in 2010. ESPN will televise 34 live hours of play over the four days and produce six hours of encore highlights coverage over the weekend for ABC.

The deal will also provide expanded digital media rights as well as television and digital media rights for ESPN International.

"It is all important to The R&A that we preserve the traditions of The Open Championship while at the same time ensuring that golf fans are able to enjoy modern state-of-the-art coverage of the event," Peter Dawson, chief executive of The R&A, said. "We know just how much ESPN respects The Open's heritage and we are very excited by their many innovative plans to cover the Championship across the whole media spectrum, both in the United States and internationally. We look forward to a long and productive relationship."

The coverage on ABC will extend The R&A's relationship with ABC past the 50-year mark.

"One of the most venerable of all sporting events has embraced the 21st century worldwide media landscape, and we're thrilled to showcase The Open Championship like never before," ESPN, Inc., and ABC Sports president George Bodenheimer said in a statement Thursday. "The scope of this deal and the enhancements we obtained offer us tremendous opportunities to serve The R&A and golf fans around the world through any device."

The deal also includes exclusive U.S. coverage of all rounds of the Senior Open Championship and coverage of the next two Walker Cups when contested in the United Kingdom (2011 and 2015).

"We had to consider not only the financial terms but The R&A's overall mission to promote and develop the game of golf to an evolving global audience," IMG vice chairman Alastair Johnston, who led the negotiating team representing The R&A, said. "Envisaging the platforms where a younger generation could be positively influenced to experience The Open Championship over the next decade was a significant factor in assembling this arrangement with ESPN."