02/26/2014 1:11PM

Kentucky Derby: NBC, Churchill Downs reach TV rights agreement through 2025


NBC has reached a 10-year extension with Churchill Downs on the broadcast rights to the Kentucky Derby through 2025, the principals announced Wednesday.

The extension includes the broadcast rights to the Kentucky Oaks along with other programming on the days of the Oaks and Derby, the companies said in a joint release. Those rights will extend to NBC’s family of networks and its supporting websites, including the rights to live streaming.

Last year, the Derby was broadcast live during a three-hour window on NBC’s flagship national network. Prior to that broadcast starting, NBC Sports Network began live coverage at Churchill beginning at 11 a.m. Eastern and running for five hours.

The extension likely will mean that the Derby will have been broadcast on NBC or one of its networks for at least 25 consecutive years. NBC first reached an agreement with Churchill Downs on the broadcast rights to the Derby in 2001, and its most recent five-year deal was inked in 2011 and runs through 2015.

The Derby and the other two races in the Triple Crown, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, are the only races in the United States that command a straight rights fee paid by broadcasters. The host tracks of the three races in the past had signed a joint rights agreement with one network to leverage their bargaining power, but that relationship fell apart in the mid-2000s.

As it stands now, NBC has the broadcast rights to all three Triple Crown races, under three different contracts. The network also has a partnership with the Breeders’ Cup on the broadcast rights to its year-end event, and it acknowledged earlier this week an agreement to broadcast several important preps for the Derby.

Churchill’s chief executive, Bob Evans, said Churchill Downs “will not only achieve our financial objectives with this deal, but we will also continue to benefit from NBC’s unique media assets and innovative perspective.”

Evans and other Churchill Downs officials have pressured NBC over the past several years to incorporate more coverage of celebrities in attendance at the Derby and to focus more on the cultural aspects of the race. Last year, the 9.7 rating for the broadcast on NBC was up 8 percent from 2012, translating to 16.8 million viewers.

Dennis Mathews More than 1 year ago
Hey Walt, what the hell are you talking about?
Walt Gekko More than 1 year ago
With this new agreement, I wonder how long until the Kentucky Oaks moves to NBC and both races (Oaks and Derby) are in prime time. Given live sports do far better numbers than anything else in prime time, it would not surprise me if NBC can dictate the Derby being under the lights. It also would not surprise me in the least if in the coming years if we see a 10:45 PM post time for the Kentucky Oaks on Friday (with an NBC telecast running from 10:00-11:00 PM ET) and 10:30 PM post time for the Derby (with the NBC telecast covering all of prime time from 8:00-11:00 PM ET) on Saturday at NBC's insistence. We are at the point where doing so can be critical to NBC to have those numbers count in the prime time ratings during the "May Sweeps" given how popular an event the Derby is. Especially given "The Millenials" (those born after 1980) are the types for whom almost any sporting event in daylight is irrelevant and to them "if it's not at night, it's not that important," coupled with the other factors of live sports being the only things that do big prime time numbers, I suspect Churchill Downs and Louisville will have no choice but to have the Derby (and Oaks on Friday) run in the late evening and then have the post-parties run more like a typical Friday or Saturday night in New York where many of "The MIllenials" are often out until the clubs close at 4:00 AM or so because "The MIllenials" (and NBC) will dictate such.
Amy Hurley More than 1 year ago
Little grumpy today, Gramps? Perhaps you could set your alarm and wake up just to watch the race.... On another note, let's hope that CD does not continue to pressure NBC to include more celebrity fluff pieces. Worst part of the telecast.
mikey More than 1 year ago
This is america's race.The Preakness is great if the derby wins.With no shot at the tc the Belmont means nothing.Even prople who only watch 1 race a year make it the Derby.Just another case where race track's only care about them selfs not the sport.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't necessarily agree with you, but many others would. The Preakness is always exciting to view just to see if the Derby winner can pull off the second leg. If that doesn't occur, yes Belmont loses attendance and the TV ratings are down, but I personally think that seeing a 1 1/2 race on the the only 1 1/2 race track in this country to be a very exciting event regardless if there is a TC on the line.
mikey More than 1 year ago
They will never run a mile and a half again.Race was great when horses ran those kind of races many times a year even 2 miles.