FOX Sports would cut its Thoroughbred racing coverage at least in half next year if it renews a contract with Major League Baseball in late August. Time slots for horse racing would decrease because FOX also has a new NASCAR contract it must accommodate during the first six months of 2001.
“If they renew their deal, they are essentially looking at one or two hours in August for racing programs in 2001,” said Keith Chamblin, vice president of industry relations and marketing for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. This year, FOX carried five one-hour programs for the “NTRA Champions on Fox” series, and an additional four hours of racing on network affiliates.
Fox reportedly rejected one proposal from Major League Baseball, which wants to triple its annual rights fees to $345 million. If the contract isn’t renewed, FOX officials have said they want to expand their racing coverage.
Chamblin said the NTRA can’t wait too long, and is busy looking at alternatives. NTRA commissioner Tim Smith has talked with representatives of NBC, CBS, ABC, and ESPN about adding to or expanding their coverage, Chamblin said.
“The Triple Crown is our additional Thoroughbred racing,” said Cameron Blanchard, spokeswoman for NBC Sports, which just won the Triple Crown contract from ABC and also carries the Breeders’ Cup. “There is no plan at this time to add anything to the stable, so to speak.”
Leslie Ann Wade, spokeswoman for CBS Sports, was just as definitive.
“There is just no time in our schedule,” Wade said.
Chamblin said he is confident the races on FOX can find a home. And while the NTRA would prefer broader network exposure, he said ESPN has advantages.
“On ESPN, you are more likely to attract general sports fans who will catch you flowing in or out of other sporting events,” Chamblin said. ESPN, espn2, and ESPN Classic will air 200 hours of racing this year.