Updated on 01/26/2012 1:55PM

NBC regains television rights to Breeders’ Cup; Classic to air in prime time


The Breeders’ Cup will be broadcast this year on NBC and its newly renamed NBC Sports Network, in a four-year deal announced Monday that effectively ended the organization’s domestic partnership with ESPN.

The deal includes a commitment by NBC to broadcast the Breeders’ Cup Classic on its flagship network in prime time. The Classic will be run this year between 8 and 9 p.m. Eastern, the latest time that the Classic has ever been run. This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be held at Santa Anita on Nov. 2-3.

Aside from the Classic, the event’s 14 other races will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network, which was previously known as Versus. Coverage on the network will run from 4 to 8 p.m. Eastern on Friday, Nov. 2, and from 3:30 to 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Breeders’ Cup had two years left on an agreement with ESPN to broadcast its event, but that agreement has been dropped, according to officials for the organizations.

“In the last few years, ESPN has reduced its coverage of horse racing and this event no longer fits with our overall content strategy,” said Allie Stoneberg, a spokeswoman for ESPN. “We value our relationship with the Breeders’ Cup and jointly decided this is the best option for the event.”

NBC has been rapidly attempting to turn NBC Sports Network into a major sports broadcaster, and the network has recently struck deals with the National Hockey League to bolster its programming. The network currently holds the broadcast rights to the three races of the Triple Crown and reached an agreement late last year with the Jockey Club to broadcast prep races for the Kentucky Derby. In addition, the network has an agreement with the New York Racing Association to broadcast live races from Saratoga Racecourse.

Adam Freifeld, a spokesman for NBC, said that NBC’s family of networks plans to broadcast 56 hours of horse racing programming this year, up from 5 ½ hours two years ago.

NBC had broadcast the Breeders’ Cup from its inception in 1984 through the 2005 event, but Breeders’ Cup left the network when it reached a deal with ESPN and its parent, ABC, that required the organizations to share production costs and advertising revenues.

Jim Gluckson, a spokesman for Breeders’ Cup, would not comment on the financial terms of the deal with NBC. Freifeld also said that terms of the deal would be undisclosed.

Citing NBC’s recent moves to acquire horse racing content, Gluckson said that the deal was a “win-win for all parties.”

Both said that the two parties have not yet decided on staff for the broadcasts, including the racecaller. Last year, Larry Collmus, the track announcer for Gulfstream Park and Monmouth Park, replaced Tom Durkin as the racecaller for the three Triple Crown races on the telecasts.