NBC plans 8 1/2 hours of coverage of the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) Saturday, May 4 from Churchill Downs on its flagship network station and NBC Sports Network.
Last year's Derby live programming was honored with a media Eclipse Award. On Saturday, coverage on NBC Sports Network will begin at 11 a.m. and shift to NBC at 4 p.m. Host Tom Hammond is looking forward to another spectacular day.
"It's a big production and it deserves to be because it's truly a slice of Americana," Hammond said, adding that as usual horse racing produces numerous stories. "This year is no exception, perhaps more than most."
Hammond mentioned trainer Todd Pletcher having five horses in the field, trainer D. Wayne Lukas going for another Derby win, and jockeys Gary Stevens, Rosie Napravnik, and Kevin Krigger as great stories this year.
Stevens, who has served as an analyst on NBC, said it's great to be back in the saddle and back in the Derby with Oxbow .
"I've seen the opening of the show and a couple of features and they are just outstanding," Stevens said.
The coverage on Saturday is just the start. NBC and NBC Sports Network will offer a total of 14 1/2 hours of Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) coverage this week, but those hours do not count the time other NBC programs also will devote to the Derby.
Viewers of programs on NBC and its various cable platforms will see the Derby referenced on many shows, an approach the network has used in recent years to bring more attention to the race.
Al Roker on the "TODAY Show" will report live from Churchill Friday, May 3 and will interview Stevens about his return to racing from retirement. Roker also will interview NBC Sports horse racing reporter Kenny Rice, who will give his thoughts on this year's Derby.
While fans may start their Friday with Roker, they can end it with Jimmy Fallon, who will use his recurring Puppy Predictor skit to select a winner and interview a horse about his Derby chances on his "Late Night" show.
On cable, "E! News" will feature Kentucky Derby segments all week, covering parties, food, and fashion of the Derby. E! News will also air an interview with Kentucky Derby jockey Rosie Napravnik, and E! Online will update photo galleries with pictures from the exclusive Barnstable Brown party, as well as from Oaks and Derby days.
In all, 16 shows on NBC networks plan some amount of Derby coverage.
"The shared vision of Churchill Downs and NBC Sports' successful 'Big Event Strategy' to assemble the broadest possible audience led to the 2012 Kentucky Derby drawing 14.8 million viewers, the third most-watched Kentucky Derby in 23 years," NBC said in a release. "Since implementing NBC Sports' 'Big Event Strategy,' the last four Kentucky Derby races have all recorded at least 14.5 million viewers. NBC Sports' coverage of the Kentucky Derby over the last 12 years averages more than two million additional viewers than the previous 12 Kentucky Derby broadcasts on ABC (14.1 million vs.12.0 million, up 17 %)."
NBC Sports Group Derby coverage
Thursday, May 2
4 p.m. Kentucky Derby Classics - Animal Kingdom NBCSN
5 p.m. Kentucky Derby Access NBCSN
Friday, May 3
4 p.m. Kentucky Derby Classics - I'll Have Another NBCSN
5 p.m. Kentucky Oaks NBCSN
Saturday, May 4
11 a.m. Kentucky Derby Saturday NBCSN
4 p.m. Kentucky Derby NBC
7 p.m. Kentucky Derby Post-Race Show NBCSN