SBD/30/Events Attractions

ARE NETWORKS MAKING BETS ON KENTUCKY DERBY DAY? SOME SAY YES

          While ABC will air the 125th running of the Kentucky
     Derby tomorrow, IMG Senior VP Barry Frank and NBC Sports
     Chair Dick Ebersol "regard" Fox, CBS, NBC and 25-year
     incumbent ABC as all being interested in bidding for the
     event's TV rights beginning in 2001, according to USA
     TODAY's Rudy Martzke.  With bidding expected to start in the
     fall, Martzke writes that a "reasonable price" is one reason
     why the networks are "willing to vie for TV rights to a
     series with slumping ratings that hasn't had a star Triple
     Crown winner since" '78.  TV rights to the Derby make up
     "about" $5M of the "estimated" $9M for the entire Triple
     Crown series, and Martzke writes that the event would offer
     "quality programming" for NBC, after the network lost its
     NFL package (USA TODAY, 4/30).  ABC Sports Dir of Media
     Relations Mark Mandel, on the Derby being "up for grabs":
     "We're very committed to it.  It's one of our premiere
     events, and we'll do everything in our power to retain it." 
     Fox Sports VP/Media Relations Lou D'Ermilio said Fox's
     "interest" will "most likely be based on the economics of
     any proposed package" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 4/29).
          CAMERA SHY? In Lexington, Heather Svokos reported that
     ABC "scrapped its plans to use a camera mounted on top of a
     Land Rover" in its Derby coverage, which would have followed
     the horses from the turf course.  The decision came after
     "several days of inclement weather," which prevented the
     crew from testing the camera, and "objections from jockeys
     and trainers," who "feared that a vehicle so close to the
     action could spook the horses" (HERALD-LEADER, 4/29).
          DERBY NOTES: Also in Lexington, Amy Baldwin wrote that
     with KY-based Jacor Communications "throwing a Kentucky
     Derby eve party, the race might soon be tied to various
     corporations."  But a Jacor official said that "branding
     itself" with the event is "not as important as increasing
     listenership" for its seven Lexington radio stations
     (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 4/29)....News Corp./Liberty Media
     Group will use the Derby to "trumpet" the July launch of its
     new horse racing cable channel called TV Games Network
     (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 4/30)....The NTRA runs a half-page ad
     in USA TODAY touting ABC, ESPN and ESPN2's coverage of the
     event.  The ad reads: "Everything you'd expect from the
     people who brought you bluegrass and bourbon" (THE DAILY). 

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