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).