SBJ/April 21-27, 2014/Media

NBC Sports places bet on horse racing

Package of races will lead up to Breeders’ Cup

NBC Sports is doubling down on horse racing and will broadcast 11 racing programs in the next few months with a spot in one of 14 races at this year’s Breeders’ Cup at stake.

The package of races, labeled as The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In, will be broadcast across NBC and NBC Sports Network from tracks across the United States starting June 7 and ending Oct. 5. There will be 18 live races from storied tracks Saratoga, Santa Anita, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, Del Mar and Keeneland.

“This is the largest single horse racing commitment that the company has made in the sport that I can remember,” said Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports Group. “For the horse racing fan, we have them covered like never before.”

NBC Sports sees these events fitting into its coverage of the three Triple Crown races (the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes) as well as the Breeders’ Cup, which will be broadcast from Santa Anita Park starting on Oct. 31 on NBC Sports Network and culminating with NBC broadcasting the Breeders’ Cup Classic in prime time on Nov. 1.

The goal is to build a seasonlong schedule to increase interest. The Kentucky Derby has always drawn big ratings, but the other properties historically have lagged behind, except in years when there was a potential Triple Crown winner. The new series will provide a bridge of continuing big race coverage throughout the summer, from the Belmont Stakes in early June to the Breeders’ Cup in late October.

Many of the featured races in the new series will showcase and tell stories of the horses that run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Miller believes the series could boost ratings, but he would not offer any ratings predictions. Some races in the series, such as the Metropolitan Mile and the TVG Pacific Classic, are getting exposure on NBC and NBC Sports Network for the first time.

“We are looking to grow the property and grow the sport,” he said.

Miller would not reveal financial terms of the deal but said, “It’s similar to other deals where they are helping with costs of production, but it is not a time buy.”

Breeders’ Cup CMO Drew Sheinman said that the Breeders’ Cup will work collaboratively with NBC Sports on selling the ad inventory as part of overall integrated sponsor packages. “We are seeking an overall title sponsor for the challenge series as well as Breeders’ Cup World Championships.”

The Breeders’ Cup has also formed a partnership with Time Inc.’s SI.com and People.com on custom content around the races, including profiles of trainers, owners and the Breeders’ Cup celebrity ambassadors, who include Kate Upton, Joe Torre, Bobby Flay and Elizabeth Banks.

The Breeders’ Cup additionally plans to offer hospitality at the tracks participating in the Challenge series for Breeders’ Cup sponsors, who have requested more hospitality opportunities, Sheinman said.

The “Win and You’re In” concept was developed in 2007 and guaranteed horses who won certain prestigious races a berth in the gate in one of the 14 championship races. But the organization has never put so much effort into promoting the races leading into the annual event as it is here.

The NBC effort adds to the horse racing programming on television this summer. Fox Sports One earlier this year announced its own horse racing television series in partnership with The Jockey Club.


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