Churchill Downs' deal with NBC to televise six key Derby preps during the stretch run of the Derby Trail (with one of the programs to be on the USA Network) stands in stark contrast to the disappearing coverage of Breeders' Cup preps on ESPN, where horse racing vanishes into thin air once college football starts, with no telecasts during six definitive weeks of Cup preps from late August until October, at which point most of the participants have already been determined (and, increasingly, are already done racing until the big day). Recall that ESPN even stooped last year to sticking one race on its college football scoreboard show, and tried to make it seem like it was some kind of expanded coverage. While Churchill and NBC touts their successful "Big Event" strategy, the Breeders' Cup seems more like a nuisance to ESPN.
And, in fact, it was ESPN's reluctance to televise any Derby preps itself that led Churchill Downs to step in and take matters into its own hands.
Over the past decade, most television productions of major Derby prep races had been co-funded by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's television production arm, and those broadcasts typically appeared on ESPN.- Er, Mr. Governor, it's been more than a week (or so) now, what's up?
However, ESPN's commitment to racing in the spring has begun to wane as the network seeks out highly rated programming while seeking to shift lower-rated broadcasts to its Internet platform.
Keith Chamblin, a senior vice president for the NTRA, said the association had not planned to reach any production deals with ESPN on the prep races, citing Churchill's involvement this year. [Daily Racing Form]
- Frank gets to keep his favorite toys.