Continuing a relationship that began in 2001, NBC Sports has reached an agreement with Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment/Maryland Jockey Club to telecast the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes an additional five years, from 2006 to 2010. The current contract expires after this year's Triple Crown races.
The deal ensures that for at least two years, the third installment of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, will be broadcast on a different network than the first two jewels, as the New York Racing Association previously signed on with ABC/ESPN to telecast the Belmont in 2006 and 2007. When Triple Crowns are on the line, as they have frequently been over the past several years, the Belmont Stakes tops the Derby and Preakness in viewership. Last week, ESPN broke NBC's lock on the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships and will telecast that event for eight years beginning in 2006.
"We are thrilled to extend our partnership with Thoroughbred racing's two most prestigious properties and continue our business relationship with the two leading companies--Churchill Downs and Magna--in Thoroughbred racing," said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports. "We've enjoyed a spectacular relationship with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and we look forward to continuing it through the next five years."
Tom Meeker, president and CEO of Churchill Downs Inc., added, "NBC has consistently delivered compelling story lines, strong ratings, and a fresh approach to presenting these more than century-old sporting events to a broad and diverse audience. It has raised the profile of our industry through its innovative coverage and dynamic marketing."