02/26/2014 12:11PM

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.