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Volume 23 No. 24
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NBC signs deal to keep Preakness

NBC will be the home of the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, for the next seven years, further cementing its hold on horse racing’s marquee programming.

The extension with the Preakness Stakes comes as NBC already has long-term deals with the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup.

American Pharoah splashes his way to a Preakness victory in May.
“We have now locked up the Triple Crown for the foreseeable future,” said Jon Miller, NBC Sports Group’s president of programming.

The new deal with The Stronach Group, owner of the Pimlico Race Course, will provide continuity and enable the network to go to market to sell a title sponsorship to the Triple Crown, similar to what Visa had 10 years ago. Visa was the Triple Crown title sponsor for 10 years but ended that agreement in 2005.

Miller declined to disclose the financial details of the Preakness deal but said it involved an annual rights fee that represented an increase over the prior deal. The previous agreement was a five-year deal that expired after American Pharoah won the race in May.

“NBC has been a very good partner in the past, and it’s good to see our relationship will be going forward in the future,” Stronach CEO Alon Ossip said.

Asked if Stronach spoke with other networks, Ossip would only say, “We are very aware of the market.”

Preakness Stakes Audience Trend on NBC

Year Network Rating # of viewers (000) Winner
2015 NBC 5.5 8,882 American Pharoah
2014 NBC 6.0 9,634 California Chrome
2013 NBC 5.9 9,700 Oxbow
2012 NBC 5.2 8,100 I'll Have Another
2011 NBC 5.6 8,834 Shackleford
2010 NBC 5.3 8,421 Lookin At Lucky
2009 NBC 6.8 10,900 Rachel Alexandra
2008 NBC 5.5 7,939 Big Brown
2007 NBC 5.7 8,390 Curlin
2006 NBC 6.6 10,091 Bernardini
2005 NBC 6.3 9,321 Afleet Alex
2004 NBC 7.7 11,646 Smarty Jones
2003 NBC 5.7 8,559 Funny Cide
2002 NBC 6.5 9,208 War Emblem
2001 NBC 6.4 8,744 Point Given

Source: Austin Karp, SportsBusiness Daily

Ossip called it “logical” to continue with NBC considering its deals with the other two Triple Crown races. Additionally, he said he was very pleased with the resources that NBC has committed to promoting and producing the Preakness and other Triple Crown races.NBC’s deal to telecast the Preakness comes amid reports and speculation that Stronach could move the race from Pimlico in Baltimore to another track it owns, Laurel Park, located between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

“I can tell you we are never going to leave Maryland,” Ossip said. “But we are considering other alternatives.”

Miller stressed that any move of the race would be the decision of Stronach. “If they choose to move it someplace else in Maryland, that is their call,” he said. He added that what was important to NBC is that the race continue to be run two weeks after the Kentucky Derby.

The deal gives NBC and NBC Sports Network the rights to broadcast the race, as well as events leading up to the race. It also gives NBC Sports International the rights to continue to distribute NBC’s coverage of the Preakness Stakes globally. Additionally, NBC Sports Radio will broadcast the Preakness Stakes through the seven-year term of the deal.

The Preakness Stakes has been broadcast on NBC since 2001.

This agreement is the fourth deal the network has forged with all of the major horse racing properties in the U.S. since February 2014, when it struck a 10-year deal to broadcast the Kentucky Derby. Later that year, NBC announced a 10-year deal to broadcast the Breeders’ Cup championships and a seven-year deal to broadcast the Belmont Stakes in June.

For the past four years, the Preakness has been the most-watched sporting event of that weekend. “It’s a valuable property,” Miller said.