NBC beefs up coverage for Triple Crown run
With a Triple Crown in play, NBC is amplifying its coverage of horse racing, including producing an original documentary and expanding coverage of the Belmont Stakes this week and of its Royal Ascot coverage later this month.
NBC has increased its coverage of the Belmont Stakes from the originally scheduled two hours to three hours and 15 minutes as Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Justify vies to become the 13th horse in history to win America’s Triple Crown. NBC will broadcast race coverage from 4 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. ET Saturday, anchored by Bob Costas and Mike Tirico.
When a Triple Crown is on the line, the Belmont Stakes generates viewership numbers three to four times larger than when it is not. In 2014, 20.6 million viewers tuned in to see California Chrome lose the race, and a year later 18.6 million watched American Pharoah become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. Only 5.8 million tuned in for the race in 2016 and 4.9 million in 2017, with no Triple Crown at stake either year.
“We are expecting a very strong showing in the Belmont this year,” said Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, who promised heavy promotion of the event. “You will not be able to get out of the way of Belmont promotions starting this week.”
Additionally, NBC was scheduled to air the original documentary “Dark Horses” about the rivalry between 1989 Triple Crown contenders Sunday Silence and Easy Goer on NBC this past Saturday, with rebroadcasts on NBCSN throughout this week. It’s the first time NBC has created such a documentary and aired it on the over-the-air network.
Later this month, the network will air 20 hours of England’s Royal Ascot across both NBCSN and NBC. It’s the first time the prestigious racing meet will be shown on NBC. Last year, the first year of a multiyear deal between Royal Ascot and NBC, all of it was shown on NBCSN.
This Saturday marks the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, the oldest sporting event in America, noted Chris Kay, CEO of the New York Racing Association, which owns Belmont Park.
The NYRA has several promotions planned to mark the historic event, including the chance for a fan to win $150,000, Kay said. The fan will be identified this week and the prize will be awarded if he or she picks the winner of the Belmont Stakes.
Also this year, for the first time, the post position draw will be held at Citi Field before the Mets game on Tuesday, attended by all the trainers of the horses, including Justify’s trainer, Bob Baffert.
“Bob Baffert is going to throw out the first pitch,” Kay said.