SBD/June 6, 2014/Media

NBC Planning Ambitious Production For Belmont Stakes, Chrome's Triple Crown Attempt

NBC and NBCSN will have 16 hours of coverage for Saturday's race
NBC for Saturday's Belmont Stakes is "mounting an ambitious production that producer Rob Hyland called its biggest ever ... in terms of schedule, announcers and facilities, including six or seven more cameras" than if California Chrome had not won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, according to Neil Best of NEWSDAY. The plan includes "16 hours of coverage from Belmont on NBC and NBCSN" starting at 5:00pm ET Friday and the "full weight of NBC's synergy powers, with CNBC, MSNBC and The Weather Channel all set to be on-site Friday." NBC also will "offer live streams on race day including alternate camera angles, such as an isolation shot that follows California Chrome from start to finish." In ratings terms, NBC will be a "winner as long as Chrome makes it to the starting gate -- unlike I'll Have Another two years ago, who was scratched on Friday." The race is "unlikely to surpass" the 21.9 million viewers Smarty Jones' '04 Triple Crown attempt drew, but it still will "attract a huge audience." NBC also would "like to drive as much of its Belmont Stakes audience as possible" to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night, which would "mean a quick handoff after the postrace coverage." Post time for the Belmont is 6:52pm, while the hockey game "variously has been listed" as starting at 7:00pm, 7:15pm and 7:30pm (NEWSDAY, 6/6).

BALANCING ACT
: Hyland said that after California Chrome won the Preakness, the net "decided to add microphones." In Lexington, John Clay noted Chrome "will be miked up for the walk from the barn to the paddock and out to the track (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 6/5). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes if there are some "tempered moments in the way NBC attempts to capture all the sights and sounds of mounting tension ... consider the human factor in not wanting to get caught up in media-generated expectations." NBC horse racing analyst Randy Moss: "It's really a battle for me not to get too jaded when we get to this situation. ... We're not rooting, but having seen failure so often through so many years, you'd love to see one of these pull it off" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 6/6).

GOLDEN STATE: In Philadelphia, Bob Fernandez writes California Chrome will be racing with the "weight of a TV network and a beleaguered horse-racing industry on his powerful shoulders." NBC expects to "more than double the TV audience of a typical Belmont to 17 million viewers because of Chrome's story and his chance for the coveted Triple Crown." Absent a Triple Crown hopeful, the Belmont Stakes "typically draws five million to seven million TV viewers" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 6/6).

BELMONT STAKES AUDIENCE TREND
YEAR
NETWORK
RATING
VIEWERS (000)
WINNER
'13
NBC
4.5
7,000
Malice Palice
'12
NBC
4.8
7,700
Union Rags
'11
NBC
4.3
6,800
Ruler On Ice
'10
ABC
3.0
4,735
Drosselmeyer
'09
ABC
4.4
6,640
Summer Bird
'08*
ABC
8.2
13,096
Da'Tara
'07
ABC
3.2
4,861
Rags to Riches
'06
ABC
3.5
5,044
Jazil
'05
NBC
5.4
7,712
Afleet Alex
'04*
NBC
13.1
21,889
Birdstone
'03*
NBC
10.7
15,703
Empire Maker
'02*
NBC
8.4
12,410
Sarava
 

CHART NOTE: * = Race had horse going for Triple Crown, but lost in the Belmont Stakes.

DOWN THE STRETCH: SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted this will be the 12th Triple Crown race that Larry Collmus has called for NBC, but Collmus "concedes that he has never experienced a build-up like this one." Collmus said of calling a potential California Chrome victory, "That is definitely something hard not to think about." Collmus said that he will "have something pre-written in front of him in the event that California Chrome wins, but that plan is tenuous at best because if the race is close, there will be no time for planned lines." Collmus: "If he does win the Triple Crown, you want to say the right thing. You want to make it the appropriate thing that goes with that moment, but you (also) don't want to get in the way. You don't want to make it about you. It's about California Chrome and the moment" (SI.com, 6/5).

TRIPLE PLAY: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes NBC "will not chronicle" the arrival of the Triple Crown Trophy in the presentation area prior to the race, nor will Bob Costas "wax poetic about its history, like voices do when Lord Stanley’s Cup arrives to the delight of mesmerized fans in some arena." NBC field producer Billy Rapaport said, "This trophy doesn’t get a lot of photo-ops. It’s part of our Friday rehearsal. It’s the only trophy in sports I’m aware of that makes an appearance and may never be presented." Raissman: "Is this trophy so inconspicuous Costas might forget to introduce its presenter?" Rapaport said, “No, because it’s sitting right there. We rehearsed for it. There is no chance that would happen" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/6).

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