08/08/2013 8:50AM

Fox to televise 20 stakes next year on new sports channel


The Jockey Club has reached a multi-year agreement with the Fox television network to broadcast up to 20 stakes races next year on the network’s new sports channel, Jockey Club officials announced on Thursday.

Although most of the races to be broadcast have yet to be identified, the programs will include two stakes races each and appear throughout the year on Fox Sports 1, a network that Fox is launching on Aug. 17 as part of the ever-growing lineup of networks devoted exclusively to sports on television. The first broadcast will air on Feb. 9, 2014, from Gulfstream Park, the two organizations said, and will feature the Grade 1 Donn Handicap and Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.

A joint release from the two organizations said that the broadcasts, at least in the first year of the deal, would feature races at Aqueduct, Belmont, Del Mar, Keeneland, Santa Anita, Saratoga, and Woodbine, as well as Gulfstream.

The broadcast agreement is an outgrowth of the Jockey Club’s efforts over the past several years to increase the television presence of racing, following the recommendations of consultants hired by the organization. Earlier this year, the Jockey Club reached a deal with NBC Sports, another fledgling sports network, to broadcast six prep races to the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

Although he declined to speak specifically about the plans for the NBC Sports series next year, Jason Wilson, the Jockey Club’s vice president of corporate development, said that “our plan is, kind of, status quo” for the Triple Crown prep broadcasts.

“We’re going to do what we’ve always been doing,” Wilson said.

Wilson also declined to discuss the financial terms of the agreement with Fox. Aside from the three races of the Triple Crown, television networks typically do not pay rights fees for racing broadcasts, but instead reach deals with racing organizations or tracks to split the costs of the broadcast time and share in the revenue. In other cases, tracks or organizations purchase the broadcast time outright and receive the advertising inventory to sell on their own.

Fox Sports 1 has secured programming rights to Nascar, college football, college basketball, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, according to the network. The network will also broadcast Major League Baseball games in 2014, and will have coverage of the Women's World Cup in 2015.

Racing is seeking more broadcast time as television networks scramble for more sports programming. Many major networks are devoting more of their resources to sports programming because of the demographics of the broadcasts and because the vast majority of sports broadcasts are watched live, rather than after being recorded on DVRs. The number of viewers watching a broadcast live determines ad rates, and, as a result, revenue.