- ESPN's contract to televise the Breeders' Cup runs through 2013. But, given the opportunity to escape, they were outta there faster than Mitt Romney bolted from South Carolina. (Based on early polls, the Mittster may match that speed figure getting out of Florida too.)
“In the last few years, ESPN has reduced its coverage of horse racing and this event no longer fits with our overall content strategy,” an ESPN statement said. [Courier-Journal]The "event" hasn't fit into their overall content strategy for some time now; almost from the start in fact. The sigh of relief you hear is the sound of ESPN execs who no longer have to pretend to care about it.
Well, I was kinda kidding when I first suggested a number of years ago that the Breeders' Cup be on Versus. Then, when the network picked up the Saratoga Saturdays and some other races, it seemed possible at some point, though not until the contract expired next year. As it turned out, that was nothing two parties couldn't work out if one was desperate enough. And now, Versus is the NBC Sports Network. It and its parent network is the home of the NHL, and now the home of the Triple Crown, the Breeders' Cup, and coverage from two of the premier race meetings, Saratoga and Keeneland. Not a bad place to be in my view. As opposed to being an afterthought if not a nuisance at ESPN, it's now a network priority that you'll see it proudly display, as it always did before the change. I think that should mean a lot to the sport, even if it costs it some households, assuming ESPN reaches more than NBCSN at this point.
The move does mean less broadcast network time for the Breeders' Cup, with only the Classic making it to parent NBC; that opposed to the early races which were shown on ABC the last couple of years. I think that's actually perfect; it's totally appropriate for the big race to get the showcase time to itself. It's always been the case - even before the Breeders' Cup diluted their own "World Championship" event with a plethora of non-World Championship-worthy races - that the event is far too much in one day for mainstream media and casual and/or prospective fans to digest. It's an industry affair. Those of us who are interested will find the races on NBCSN....or at a simulcast facility or ADW if need be. The Classic will be showcased on national TV. Perfect.
Well, almost perfect. I'm not so sold on 8 to 9PM Eastern time on a Saturday night being the ideal time. If we concede that the rest of the races are more suited for insiders, the Classic can still take its place with the Triple Crown races as one to be marketed to the masses. But there's a big difference between 4:30 until 6PM on a Saturday evening, when said masses may very well have nothing better to do, and two hours later, when they're priming and primping themselves for a night on the town. The West Coast venue makes the late start a natural in this particular year, and 'prime time' sounds nice. But I think Saturday night is less prime than other nights. Sunday late afternoon/evening would be perfect at other times of the year, but unfortunately, the network is kinda boxed in by football that time of the year. football season.
And this year, as is the case every four years, the event takes place in the shadow of a horse race of another kind, to be conducted the Tuesday immediately following. Though, based on the steadily deteriorating discourse that we've been seeing in the GOP debates and TV ads, that race may (hopefully) be decided by the quarter pole. It's pretty sad in my view when the "biggest question," as posed by the NY Times yesterday, is:
..whether Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino owner who bankrolled the “super PAC” Winning Our Future that ran negative ads against Mr. Romney in South Carolina, will write another multimillion-dollar check to finance similar attacks in Florida, where airtime is expensive.(He is.) That's what politics comes down to in this country these days folks: money, and which side can best utilize it to attack the other side. And that goes for both sides of the political spectrum. Sad.