NBC Sports Group Secures Triple Crown Rights
The Triple Crown is back in the hands of one network again.
NBC Sports Group, which includes NBC Sports and Versus, networks now majority owned by Comcast, will announce on Tuesday that it will own the rights to all three legs of horse racing's most famous races for the first time since 2005. ABC broadcast the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, for the last five years.
NBC Sports had already secured the rights to the Kentucky Derby through Churchill Downs through 2015, but have since executed deals with the Maryland Jockey Club for the Preakness and the New York Racing Association for the Belmont to run through the same period of time.
Part of the appeal of the deal is a natural partner in Versus to show more horse racing coverage.
Including Versus, Comcast's national sports network prior to its acquisition of NBC Universal at the end of January, the NBC Sports Group will broadcast more than 25 hours of programming associated with the races.
Last week, ESPN told SportsBusiness Journal that it withdrew from negotiations for Belmont because "it did not make good business sense," though the too costly line is often used by those out of the running in rights negotiations. Financial terms of this deal were not disclosed.
The 2010 Kentucky Derby, on NBC, was the most watched Derby in 21 years. But ratings for the final legs greatly depend on if there's a shot at the Triple Crown, which hasn't been won since 1978, when Affirmed was the last of the 11 horses to pull it off. From 1997 to 2008, seven horses won both the Derby and the Preakness, only to fall short at the Belmont Stakes.
The 2004 Belmont Stakes featuring Smarty Jones, who won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, was seen on NBC by 21.9 million viewers, the most for a Belmont broadcast since Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown in 1977.
After two different winners in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, last year's Belmont Stakes only had 4.7 million viewers, the lowest viewership for the race since 2001.
CNBC is part of NBCUniversal, which is majority owned by Comcast.
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