03/15/2009 11:00PM

Kentucky Oaks moves to Bravo


The Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs will not be broadcast on ESPN this year and will instead be shown on the Bravo cable channel, according to television officials.

The Oaks, scheduled for May 1, was dropped from ESPN's coverage this year after the network could not reach an agreement on the details of its programming arrangement, according to officials. Like many racing broadcasts, coverage of the Oaks is determined by an agreement reached between the network and the rights-holder, in this case, Churchill Downs.

"We're going to reevaluate it next year," a spokesman for ESPN, Mark Mandel, said. "We have an emphasis this year on Saturday's programming versus a weekday afternoon."

Churchill Downs officials did not return phone calls on Monday.

ESPN has also dropped one hour of coverage from its Kentucky Derby schedule on May 2, according to Mandel.

With rare exceptions, most racing broadcasts are not straight rights deals in which a network pays the rights-holder to broadcast the race. Instead, a network, racetracks, and sponsors frequently underwrite production costs and split advertising revenue. Sponsorship deals have dried up for all sports in the wake of the worldwide economic crisis.

The Kentucky Derby is broadcast by NBC-TV, a competing network to an ESPN-affiliated network, ABC. Bravo is owned by NBC's parent company.

In addition, ESPN does not currently plan on showing any racing-related broadcasts before the second race in the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse in Maryland, according to the network.

ESPN has scheduled five hours of pre-Belmont Stakes coverage. The Belmont, the third leg of the Triple Crown, is broadcast live by ABC.