The Kentucky Derby (gr. I) is staying on NBC Sports.
The network and Churchill Downs announced an agreement Oct. 7 for a new five-year deal that will keep the first jewel of the Triple Crown on NBC through 2015. The Derby has been telecast by the Peacock Network since 2001.
According to Sports Business Daily, the network will pay a rights fee in the neighborhood of $5 million per year to keep the Derby rights, which would represent a slight reduction compared to the contract that ran out in 2010. Sports Business Daily also reported that the FOX network was involved in the bidding process, and that NBC is also moving toward attempting to renew its deal to televise the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), which it has also aired for the past 10 years. ABC/ESPN has aired the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), the third Triple Crown race, for the past five years, and that deal also lapsed after the 2010 telecast.
“I am delighted that we will be bringing this iconic American event to homes across America for five more years,” said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports in a statement. “We’re excited to extend our relationship with the Derby and our business partnership with Churchill Downs. ”
This year’s Kentucky Derby was viewed by an average of 16.5 million people, the highest viewer total in 21 years.
The new NBC deal also includes telecast rights for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), which for the past two years has been carried by Bravo, a channel owned by NBC. A home for the Oaks has not yet been announced by NBC.