NBC's Belmont Stakes Viewership Could Triple; Net Claims Primetime Demographic Win
A thoroughbred who needs the Belmont Stakes to clinch the Triple Crown "makes horse racing look like a wildly thriving sport by producing a temporary viewership boon," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. California Chrome "does not have to win the Belmont to double or triple the usual Belmont Stakes viewership." NBC will "surround the Belmont in a cocoon of prerace and postrace programming, much of it about" California Chrome. The "fearful prospect" that California Chrome would not race at Belmont was "put to rest on Monday, when the New York Racing Association approved his use of a nasal strip." NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus "joked that he was going to compel his hundreds of employees to wear non-equine nasal strips in protest until NYRA relented." Lazarus said that if a horse is racing for the Triple Crown, NBC "sets aside a certain percentage of its Belmont commercial time and raises its ad rates, knowing that viewership will swell." Sandomir: "Win or lose, Chrome will win for NBC." The net already has "extended its Kentucky Derby deal for 10 years through 2025, but talks have been preliminary about signing lengthy renewals for the Preakness and the Belmont." Lazarus said, "I don't discount that there are competitors out there" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/20).
BACK ON TOP: VARIETY's Rick Kissell wrote it has "been a while, but the Peacock can again spread its feathers with pride." NBC vaulted to an "unlikely first-place finish for the season in key demos." It is the first time NBC has been "perched atop the network standings at season's end since 'Friends' exited its air following" the '03-04 season. As always, sports "was a key factor in the network race." For NBC, 18 nights of the Sochi Games "certainly helped pad its averages, but even with those nights excluded, the net still would have eked past Fox for most adults 18-49 viewers." The first-place finish for NBC can be "largely attributed to its top three series," including "Sunday Night Football," "The Voice," and "The Blacklist." "SNF" is the season's "No. 1 series in 18-49" (VARIETY.com, 4/20).
HIGHS AND LOWS: In L.A., Meg James noted NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke took over the top job "at a time when NBC Entertainment was hemorrhaging" $600M a year. But NBC's broadcast of the Sochi Games in February "unfolded without a hitch -- and made money." The IOC even "handed NBCUniversal the U.S. broadcast rights to the Games for 18 more years." Burke said, "It has been an incredible few months -- we are firing on all cylinders." However, Burke had "one high-profile setback at this year." The bid that he and Lazarus "put together to nab the new Thursday night NFL Football package was rejected." Burke said, "The competitive side of me really wanted it. I felt like I let everyone down" (L.A. TIMES, 5/20).