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NBC Sports Group Reassembles Triple Crown

| Churchill Downs Communications | 03/30/2011 #

The NBC Sports Group will broadcast all three legs of horse racing’s prestigious Triple Crown, renewing the rights to the Preakness Stakes and reacquiring rights to the Belmont Stakes. As previously announced, NBC and Churchill Downs, Inc. renewed rights to the Kentucky Derby. This marks the first time that all three races will be on one network since NBC aired them in 2005. The agreements were announced today by Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Sports Group, Tom Chuckas, President and Chief Operating Office, Maryland Jockey Club, and C. Steven Duncker, NYRA Chairman. Like NBC Sports’ agreement with Churchill Downs, each agreement announced today gives NBC exclusive rights to the Preakness and Belmont through 2015. 

The agreements include coverage of the Black Eyed Susan Stakes and other Preakness-day and Belmont-day programming on VERSUS.  Additionally, expanded Derby week programming including the Kentucky Oaks and Derby day programming will air on VERSUS. In all, the NBC Sports Group will broadcast more than 25 hours of Triple Crown coverage (detailed schedule to be released at a later date). Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed. 

“Everyone at NBC Sports Group is delighted that the Triple Crown has been reassembled. We are now uniquely positioned to significantly expand the reach of these iconic events with extensive coverage on VERSUS,” said Ebersol. “As we previously announced, we are continuing our long-standing partnership with the Kentucky Derby. To add this extension with the Preakness while reacquiring the Belmont gives our new NBC Sports Group the three most important events in thoroughbred racing. And we want to thank Churchill Downs Incorporated and CEO Bob Evans for his leadership in paving the way for the Triple Crown to return to NBC.”

“We are pleased to renew our broadcast partnership with NBC Sports,” said Chuckas.  “Our relationship with NBC allows us the opportunity to reach more than just sports fans.  The partnership not only affords us the stature and exposure of a continued presence on network television but provides the added benefit of NBC’s consistent promotion through the Kentucky Derby leading into the Preakness.”
“We are thrilled to return our premier race to NBC Sports,” said Duncker. “They have done a terrific job covering horse racing, including their Kentucky Derby and the Preakness broadcasts over the prior decade. With an excellent production team that has pioneered innovative camera angles, and a tremendous group of on-air talent that offers unique insights into the races, NBC Sports will be a great partner for the Belmont Stakes.”

NBC SPORTS AND HORSE RACING: The NBC Sports Group is now the exclusive home to Horse Racing’s Triple Crown.  This marks the first time that all three races will be on one network since NBC last aired the Triple Crown in 2005.  NBC has been the exclusive home of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes since 2001.

KENTUCKY DERBY: In the 10 years that Churchill Downs and NBC Sports have been together the event has experienced remarkable growth. The Kentucky Derby is now seen by 7.4 million more viewers than the last Kentucky Derby broadcast by ABC in 2000 (16.5 million vs. 9.1 million, up 51 percent).

The shared vision of Churchill Downs and NBC Sports’ successful ‘Big Event Strategy’ to assemble the broadest possible audience led to the 2010 Kentucky Derby being the most-watched Kentucky Derby in 21 years, in addition to the year prior which was the most-watched Derby in 20 years.  Last year’s Kentucky Derby averaged 16.5 million viewers, the most watched Kentucky Derby since 1989 when Sunday Silence won the Derby (18.5 million).

PREAKNESS STAKES: Since NBC Sports began broadcasting the Preakness in 2001, every Preakness telecast on NBC over that period attracted more viewers than any Preakness telecast on ABC in the previous seven years.  Viewership for the Preakness is up an average of 69% in the 10 years on NBC compared to the previous seven years on ABC.

BELMONT STAKES: NBC Sports broadcast the Belmont from 2001-05, including three straight years in which the Belmont had a Triple Crown at stake.  The 2004 Belmont featuring Smarty Jones racing for the Triple Crown was seen by 21.9 million viewers, the most for a Belmont broadcast since Seattle Slew captured the elusive Triple Crown in 1977.

Since its involvement in the Triple Crown, NBC Sports has been honored with 11 Eclipse Awards for its thoroughbred racing coverage, Preakness (2002-03-05-06-08), Kentucky Derby (2007), Belmont (2004) and Breeder's Cup (2001).  Additionally, NBC Sports has won three Eclipse Awards in the features category: 2002 on War Emblem (Preakness broadcast), 2005 Afleet Alex (Kentucky Derby broadcast) and 2009 Mine That Bird (Preakness broadcast), and the 2005 and 2006 Preakness broadcasts were nominated for the Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Live Sports Special.