SBD/Issue 19/Sports Media

My Old Kentucky Home: Derby Staying On NBC With Five-Year Deal

Kentucky Derby Remaining On NBC After
Posting Strong Ratings In Recent Years

NBC has taken the first step to try and consolidate all three of horse racing's Triple Crown races on one network by renewing its deal with the Kentucky Derby. The network held off a strong challenge from Fox to sign a five-year deal worth in the neighborhood of $5M per year to keep the rights, sources say. Fox' presence in the bidding process was unexpected, according to several sources. NBC's previous Kentucky Derby deal was over five years and worth $44M. The new deal also includes the rights to the Kentucky Oaks, a race that takes place on the Friday before the Derby. For the past two years, NBC-owned Bravo has carried the race. Once Comcast's acquisition of NBC gains regulatory approval, those could wind up on Versus. A formal announcement could come as early as today. The owners of the tracks that run the three races have been looking into finding one TV home, believing that will make selling sponsorships and drawing TV viewers easier. The Triple Crown has not had a title sponsor since '05, the last time all three races were on the same network (NBC). At that time, Visa signed on to be the title sponsor of the Triple Crown. When ABC/ESPN picked off the Belmont in '05, Visa decided to sponsor only the Kentucky Derby.

NBC NEGOTIATING PREAKNESS RENEWAL: With the Kentucky Derby now secured, NBC is negotiating to renew its TV deal for the Preakness Stakes, and has made no secret of its interest in winning back the Belmont Stakes. Even though it never entered serious discussions to pick up the Kentucky Derby, ABC says it will bid aggressively to keep the Belmont. "We enjoy our relationship with the Belmont Stakes," an ESPN spokesperson said. NBC has placed increased importance on its Derby telecasts over the past two years, rolling out its all-encompassing marketing plan to drive viewership. The move has paid off, as the race has drawn strong ratings for the past two years. It posted a 9.8 rating in '09 and '10, the race's highest rating since '90. Last year, it drew 16.54 million viewers, the highest figure since '89.

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