All Together Now - By Lenny Shulman

 (Originally published in the March 5, 2011 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.

By Lenny Shulman


For an industry plagued in so many ways by a dearth of uniformity and cohesion, the lack of a single home—or any home at all for that matter—for its signature Triple Crown races represented just one more potential indignity.

For the past five years the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and the Preakness Stakes (both gr. I) called NBC home, while the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) was telecast by ABC/ESPN. Up until late February neither the 2011 Preakness nor Belmont, just scant months away, had national TV partners.

Happily, that situation was rectified with the Feb. 22 announcement that the NBC Sports Group had reunited all three jewels of the Triple Crown on the Peacock Network and that extended coverage of stakes races on the undercards of all three events, plus the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) the day before the Derby, would be available on NBC’s sister station, Versus. This resolution constitutes a win-win-win for Thoroughbred racing.

First, for viewers, it ends the confusion of where to tune in to find races, and it enhances the coverage of important graded stakes that are run on the same day as the Triple Crown races, a constant source of frustration for fans in recent years.

For NBC, it means the network can launch a full-on marketing campaign for the Triple Crown without worrying about setting the table only to have another network gorge itself when a horse vies for the Triple Crown at Belmont.

For the sport of Thoroughbred racing, it increases the possibility that a major sponsor will come aboard, for the first time since VISA did so, and help underwrite the entire package, including possible bonus money for the connections of any horse able to sweep the series. A major sponsor means more commercials and advertising that reach the new eyeballs that racing so desperately requires. It means legitimacy and hopefully higher ratings.

Ironically, the process of re-establishing one home for all three races was made easier by the demise of Triple Crown Productions, an entity that previously had handled the television rights of the three races, but in reality was more an arm of Churchill Downs and the Derby than a representative of all three events. During the last five-year span when one network had all three races, 2001-05, three horses entered the Belmont gate with chances to win the Triple Crown—War Emblem in 2002, Funny Cide in 2003, and Smarty Jones in 2004. TV ratings for those Belmonts trounced those for the Derby, and when the TV contract was up after the 2005 Triple Crown, the New York Racing Association rightfully felt it deserved a bigger share of the TV revenue pie than it was getting. When Churchill/Triple Crown refused to budge off its 50/25/25 formula for the three races, NYRA bolted to ABC/ESPN and a more lucrative deal.

Now that Triple Crown Productions is defunct, the most recent negotiation unfolded quite differently, with each entity—Churchill Downs, the Maryland Jockey Club, and NYRA—able to enter into stand-alone negotiations with whoever was interested in televising its event, with the main suitors said to have been NBC, ESPN, and FOX. While the money reaped by the host organizations isn’t what it was 10 or even five years ago (unless you’re talking the Olympics or the Super Bowl, ratings and advertising are down in sports just like in most other arenas), at least each of the three was able to secure the best deal possible.

While finding a title sponsor for the 2011 Triple Crown will be tough given the tight time frame, having the trio of races together on one broadcast platform will position the sport well in the coming five years to secure such a deal. While that falls within NBC’s purview, there is the possibility of collaboration with the racetrack entities as well.

NBC should be congratulated for letting bygones be bygones and aggressively going after the Triple Crown package five years after it was pulled apart. We all fancy ourselves as TV critics, and there are no free lunches no matter the network—for each Hank Goldberg or Kenny Mayne thankfully lost, you pick up an unctuous Bob Costas—there can be no doubt that NBC has done an admirable job with these races since first broadcasting them in 2000. Ratings for the Derby and Preakness have climbed decisively, while the Breeders’ Cup has suffered a 50% loss of viewers since leaving the network a couple of years ago.

The view from here is very positive.

62 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Poormansracehorse

Totally agree it's a good thing to have NBC covering all three.

I wish they would pick up the BC too.

I thought the ESPN commentators sucked and I will even tolerate Bob Costas if it means no more Mayne and Goldberg.

01 Mar 2011 1:39 PM
palaceplace

mr. shulman, do you really think that anyone cares what network is showing the triple crown?

except for the derby, no one is watching.

should the breeders cup be taken off cable?(espn) of course not.

they actually advertise it!

espn takes over the triple crown and more people will watch.

the networks are history!

01 Mar 2011 2:21 PM
Trebloc

Neumy. Neumy, Neumy!!

01 Mar 2011 2:32 PM
FSF

Now how can we get a network- any network, really- to cover prep races throughout the winter & spring? Breeder's Cup preps the rest of the year? I pine for the "Wide World of Sports" coverage of my youth. But I won't shed a tear for Hank Goldberg or Kenny Mayne. Good riddance to them.

01 Mar 2011 3:02 PM
Oldie

palaceplace, I respectfully disagree with you - as Mr. Shulman points out, viewership of the BC races has dropped off significantly since it was taken off the major broadcast network.  ESPN does a disservice to almost every sport it attempts to broadcast if the sport has previously been televised on a major and/or specialty network.  In my opinion as an average viewer, NBC may not do a stellar job (way too much camera time for celebs in attendance), but it does better than ESPN, it can be seen by anyone with a signal, and it advertises major broadcast events such as the Triple Crown races on the morning show with the most viewership (The Today Show).  You may not like the Today Show, but lots of others do, and they may watch the Triple Crown races for the first time because they saw them advertised, and may decide betting on horse racing looks like fun.  The sport needs more of that.  

01 Mar 2011 3:41 PM
Chasaka

I am happy about this. The more races that are on public TV, the better. Not every horse racing fan can afford cable. I see no reason to shell out 100 plus bucks a month for cable just to watch the BC races once a year. Not worth it. IMO, the industry is forgetting too much about its foundation - THE FANS. Without fans, the industry is nothing.

01 Mar 2011 3:45 PM
MK in FL

I will miss Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey. They are by far the most talented commentators out there. I even laughed at Kenny Mayne's jokes.  I can not stand Tom Hammond, so this is the wrong move for me.

01 Mar 2011 4:12 PM
Lenny

Palaceplace: I don't know how many times you can be wrong in a six-line post, but: 1) Yes, people do care what network the races are on. 2) The Belmont always outdraws the Derby when a horse is going for the TC. 3) ESPN's Breeders' Cup coverage has managed to lose half the audience that was watching on NBC.

01 Mar 2011 4:32 PM
The Fish

Tom Hammond (NBC) does a fantastic job hosting racing events and he's a true Kentucky man.  However, the ESPN/ABC benefits from Jerry Bailey, to me he is superior to Gary Stevens on NBC.

Overall I wish they didn't try to dumb down the coverage.  I don't care what the Top Chef's interpretation of a mint julep looks like.  

01 Mar 2011 4:38 PM
CHoffman

Taking away the guessing will keep viewers.  "Which channel is it on?" is not a question any event wants asked.  ESPN/ABC screwed up the Breeder's Cup by overlapping a football game.  Using cable only is a quick way to lose a lot of people who don't have satellite or cable and are dependent upon broadcast.  Yes, there are still a lot of them out there and as the economy tanks further with gas prices reaching $4 a gallon, more and more are dumping the expensive version of TV.

01 Mar 2011 4:57 PM
Funny1991

Does anyone know if NBC will offer to cover a few prep races before the Derby? Because to me that will also help to advertise the Triple Crown. I think horseracing need to be on a single network and get a deal that the major prep races to big name races (like the Derby and breeders cup) be shown on TV that will be how you bring more people into the sport.

01 Mar 2011 5:05 PM
average joe

I wholeheartedly agree ... It's about time the triple crown races are not only back on ONE station, but back on a station that is FREE to the viewing public and able to attract many many more viewers than "pay tv" can... I would take this approach further and have the Breeder's Cup return to FREE tv so as to attract a wider viewing audience ( the ratings suffered under ESPN and the coverage itself was terrible and not worthy of the sport's superbowl... We can also take it further and have all the "win and you're in" races on the same network and shown on FREE tv to generate fan support and build suspense ! ... Everyone will agree, the sport needs fans and needs ways of gathering and keeping them.

01 Mar 2011 5:13 PM
sceptre

I'm delighted that NBC now has all three Triple Crown races. Tom Hammond is simply the best around-He understands the sport, has a great way with words, and a wonderful voice. I've witnessed none better since Winn Elliot-many moons ago. Truth is the show would be even better if Tom was alone in the booth, and also without Costas on the scene. Can also do without all the handicapping. Spend the time on the horses-closer views of them physically, their pedigrees, and how they got to where they are. As far as additional "experts" on scene-seriously, I'd like to see Lenny S. and Steve Haskin. Their bi-monthly show on BloodHorse.com is wonderful.  

01 Mar 2011 5:35 PM
Vaduz

Now put someone who undertands the thrills of horseracing to design the programs. Past ones seem designed by an FBI documental-producing amateur. Cmon: even Europe racing TV has more creativity: Cameras all around, upside, below, under the horses' bellies, at the starting gate! You can feel the race. Normally, the backstretch view is basically ignored. The camera is 1 mile away, we don't see who's where (not to mention that most racetracks have a lot of nice trees or even a bad screen that actually block the direct view!). Backstretch running many times defines a race, don't ignore it.

And PLEASE, Do funnier, more entertaining interviews, where we can actually laugh and not get depressed with the long face-shoots in mid-light! Get entertaining! Interview the public, the dog, the goat; get out of the box.

01 Mar 2011 6:06 PM
Karen in Indiana

I liked Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey. Bob Costas is o.k., but he's not passionate about the sport. Won't miss Hank Goldburg at all. Being on a national, not cable only, network is a very large plus. I know Mike Repole doesn't own them anymore, but now if only Vitaminwater would sponsor...

01 Mar 2011 6:16 PM
Warren L

I will miss both Kenny Mayne and Hank Goldberg. In order to attract fans the telecast has to be entertaining and Mayne's irreverence is very entertaining to many younger fans (the kind we need at attract) and Goldberg's betting insight is helpful to many.  You cannot assume that those watching are seasoned fans, in order to survive racing needs to attract casual unseasoned fans.  To me Randy always seemed to take things far too seriously, it has to be fun.  The owner, trainer and jockey profiles are important.  Everyone associated with the horses needs to make themselves accessible.  Baffert never takes himself too seriously and he has done a lot to attract new people to the sport.  

01 Mar 2011 6:56 PM
seriously

The NFL is on four networks -- NBC, CBS, FOX and ESPN. How does that hurt it?  Lenny argues a false premise. Networks have been sharing properties for years. Silly argument.

01 Mar 2011 8:14 PM
txhorsefan

Thank you for explaining why the coverage was done so stupidly in the past - I didn't realize it was because of the competing racetracks, etc.  I'm in agreement that this will be a better deal if people know they can tune in to a channel they are familiar with.  We'll never be able to go back to the Wide World of Sports or the time of Jim McKay, but at least this is a step in the right direction.  I appreciate your clarifying many of the details for people like me who didn't understand why the thing was so wonky.  And Sceptre, I love your idea - have Lenny and Steve as the commentators!!  

01 Mar 2011 8:24 PM
Tom Wallace

Way to go Karen. Good taste.Also like your comment on Goldbreg and Mayne also is a losser

01 Mar 2011 8:49 PM
mike rullo

this is great for the sport, now all we need is the breeders cup going back to NBC and bring tom durkin back for the breeders cup.

NBC needs to forget the blimp shot during the race, you cant follow the race from that angle

01 Mar 2011 9:06 PM
HTJ West

Andy Serling, a true handicapper,  would bring some badly needed energy and insight as a replacement for Hank Goldberg. And how do we get rid of the babbling British clown with the stupid hat?  

01 Mar 2011 9:15 PM
Arts and Letters

More creative shots?  What, like the nausea-inducing and completely incoherent coverage of the races in last year's Breeders Cup?  No thanks.  Changing cameras and angles every 2 seconds is just annoying.  I want to see who's where, who's moving up or falling back, not some "artistic" shot of their hooves pounding by or some blimp shot that tells me nothing.  As for ESPN's football coverage in the middle of the race -- Ick.  Still, I guess I should be grateful for any coverage, even bad coverage, these days.

01 Mar 2011 9:25 PM
an ole rail bird

have been watching the TC on tv since the days of Swaps.& the worst reporting i have ever seen has been since NBC has taken over the last time. for the last 3 yrs . the only horses name that was ever mentioned was the favorite. the rest of the horses were just "no named props". i am sure that if they tried , they could come up with a couple of trained primates that could do better than has been done in the last 4 years.

01 Mar 2011 9:31 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Well documented and stated, Lenny.  Kudos to NBC and it is about time.  At least the viewing public knows where to watch the Triple Crown races.  They should follow suit with the Travers, JCGC, Haskell, BC, etc.  This is a step in the right direction.  They need some finetuning on it's production, offering in-depth analysis for the die-hard race fan and handicapper and trivia and frivolity for the kids and casual fan.  They'll get the right balance.  This is an industry positive.

01 Mar 2011 9:36 PM
John T

Yes I totally agree,because the American Triple Crown takes place in such a short time frame it,s so much better and less confusing when you have the same commentators

covering all three races.When NBC were covering the first two legs and ABC the final leg,the dialogue

was so different it almost seemed

the Belmont was taking place on another planet.

01 Mar 2011 10:08 PM
Wrinklez

ALL on channels we're familar with??  How many people have VS ?  (a cable channel covering a LOT of the days events)

01 Mar 2011 10:44 PM
racerdave

Lenny I think Your great , but NBC ? Please there Racing coverage was always Boring and Dry and I bet they have 18 minutes of every 30 minutes filled with commericals. And as usual they'll probably start coverage a hour before race time. NBC is a Dinasour network , We need some Zizzle and Fun to the Coverage the Kind ESPN created To attract NEW YOUNG FANS!  

02 Mar 2011 12:02 AM
batman

tom hammond great nbc the best for racing.

02 Mar 2011 1:29 AM
Deacon

I think that this is positive, I certainly will miss Jerry Bailey though. Not a big Gary Stevens fan but Hammonds is ok. Bring Chris McCarron in as well, he is very intelligent and knows the sport inside out. I also liked the fact that back in the day they would play the song by Dan Fogelberg, Run for the Roses. That song to me, brought the thoroughbred into the spotlight and set the stage for the race. At least we have a telecast and I am sure NBC will do its best..............

02 Mar 2011 3:18 AM
Jim C.

Lenny, you are way off base.  Now we have to endure listening to the insufferable Bob Costas THREE TIMES.  

Hank Goldberg and Kenny Mayne were tolerable because they did not take themselves seriously, and have some knowledge of the wagering aspect of the game.  Costas knows nothing, but acts like he knows everything.

02 Mar 2011 3:43 AM
christy tate

so happy i can watch all three races on the same network instead of having to bounce around. Nbc has always done a good job with the Derby and Preakness telecasts, will be interesting to see how they do with the Belmont. hopefully, we'll get another Smarty jones, Funny Cide, or Big Brown, and then the public will care enough to watch,and it'll be very exciting.

02 Mar 2011 4:27 AM
joeywoge

Best case scenario is NBC hires Randy Moss, Jerry Bailey and Kristine Edwards. They are all good. Bailey is 500 times better than Gary Stevens. He is a nightmare. But seriously does it really matter who televises it?? The bottom line is when you bet a race you want to watch it!! Whether it's on ESPN, NBC or ABC!!

02 Mar 2011 8:33 AM
Walt Gekko

Once Disney pulled out, this move was widely expected. NBC already had renewed its rights to the Derby and Preakness, and with Comcast now having majority ownership of NBC will attempt to use its Versus channel along with NBC to expand horse racing coverage.

Disney's pulling out is no surprise to me. It seems that NYRA wanted the Belmont to remain on an over-the-air outlet, and Disney likely was under pressure from ABC stations in the mountain and pacific time zones to reduce sports coverage as much as possible (it appears that many ABC affiliates that are not owned and operated by Disney in the west don't want sports on their stations at all as they seem to make more money from infomercials than regular programming). This is a situation where the sport needed to stay on a network and NBC needed the sport.

The next move that I think can be beneficial to both NBC and the sport would be to create a monthly series of made-for-TV race cards that would be three hours in length from varying tracks across the country designed to air in prime time on Saturday, a night that has become a virtual wasteland. NBC I suspect would be very happy to have such fill a night of the week that draws little TV ratings at all while the sport would gain some badly needed exposure from a format that would usually feature 9-10 stakes events in a fast-paced three hour format, with 1-3 major stakes anchoring a telecast filled out by 6-8 other significant stakes events.

A perfect example of how this could be done would be this example that would air on Saturday, June 18, the Saturday after the Belmont Stakes as potentially a perfect follow-up to the Triple Crown races (all times for the races in this example are eastern time):

8:09 -- The Grade 2, $250,000 New York Stakes (F-M Turf) from Belmont Park

8:25 -- The Grade 3, $100,000 Jefferson Cup (3YO Turf) from Churchill Downs

8:41 -- The Grade 2, $150,000 Hollywood Oaks (3YOF) from Hollywood Park

8:57 -- The Grade 3, $125,000 Regret Stakes (3YOF Turf) from Churchill Downs

9:13 -- The Grade 2, $150,000 A Gleam (F-M Sprinters) from Hollywood Park

9:29 -- The Grade 3, $125,000 Norther Dancer (3YO) from Churchill Downs

9:45 -- The Grade 1, $300,000 Triple Bend (3+ Sprinters) from Hollywood Park

10:04 -- The Grade 2, $200,000 Fleur de Lis (F-M) from Churchill Downs

10:22 -- The Grade 1, $350,000 Charles Wittingham (3+ Turf) from Hollywood Park

10:40 -- The Grade 1, $600,000 Stephen Foster (3+) from Churchill Downs

This is how horse racing can be presented outside the Triple Crown on the networks in a fast-paced format with 10 races contested in a little over two and a half hours of a three-hour broadcast.  Such a night can also include special wagers that include:

Pick 4s on the first and last four races of the telecast (each with a guaranteed minimum pool that can be determined).

Pick 3s on every possible set of consecutive races.

Doubles on every possible pair of consecutive races.

A 10-cent pick-nine on the Churchill and Hollywood races with a $1 Million guaranteed pool.  Such a wager can serve as a test for the Breeders' Cup, where I think a 10-cent pick nine (with nine races on Saturday instead of eight) would be VERY appealing to lottery players who might not normally play the horses, but would enticed at the opportunity to win millions on a 10-cent wager (as for the Breeders' Cup, I would have such a wager carry a $5 million guarantee).

There would be additional opportunities to do such throughout the year in varying formats, but this particular opportunity on Fathers Day weekend looks like one that would work very well coming off the Triple Crown as it could serve for casual fans as the first big day of racing in the second half of the season.

As for The Breeders' Cup, I can definitely see that going back to NBC after ESPN's contract expires, most likely where it is in prime time with Friday dropped back to five races and split between USA Network or Versus (8:00-10:00 PM ET) and NBC (10:00-11:00 PM ET), while NBC has all of Saturday from 4:30-11:00 PM ET for the same reasons why I would have a monthly series of Saturday prime time telecasts, plus the fact that BC Ltd. can then tap into the lucrative Asia-Pacific region for new wagering dollars (that could be in the hundreds of millions if not billions).

02 Mar 2011 9:02 AM
Rick Capone

While I am happy that one network will have the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, I don't consider this a win-win for race fans. Putting the Oaks, which I also really enjoy, on Versus, a station that only the "rich" can afford because most cable companies, like Time Warner here in Georgetown, put it on a tier that is way to expensive for working folks to afford, is very disappointing. I haven't been able to watch ice hockey since I moved to Kentucky in 2006, now I won't get to see the Oaks anymore. Definitely, not a win-win for this race fan.

02 Mar 2011 9:47 AM
Sue M.

I'm thrilled the races will be on one network - no more wondering or searching around, changing channels, etc. Mayne makes me laugh, I like both Bailey and Stevens, but Goldberg can go. Just not that articulate or personable to me, I find him irritating. It will be interesting to see what they offer up. I really couldn't care less about celebs and drinks/food. I really love hearing about different owners, horses, trainers, the jocks, anything that gives me more of an inside view.

02 Mar 2011 9:57 AM
trackjack

Lenny, great article and well done.

I agree with others that you and Steve should offer commentary on NBC.  You keep things light, enjoyable, not too seriously AND you know your stuff.

I agree with sceptre that the cameras must be showing us the horses, especially when they're in the paddock, walking ring and out on the track.  It drives me up the wall when these magnificent warriors, primed for battle, leave the paddock and then the network cuts to talking heads or a trainer interview and we may never see a post parade.

A handicapping segment HAS to be involved, however simple, too engage and keep younger fans to this game.

NBC and an overall sponsor (or the three tracks)should come up with an on-line TRIPLE CROWN FANTASY STABLE GAME, similar to roadtotheroses.com or WinStar's Fantasy Stable game.  This could be advertised and begin a couple of weeks before the Derby.  The lock-in could be early on the Derby Day telecast after heavy advertising and include some of the major stakes on the undercards or just the 3 y.o. for the Triple Crown.  It would run through all three broadcasts, keeping fans, especially the younger ones, engaged as they accumulate points leading to the finale at the Belmont Stakes.  We are all well aware of the importance of Fantasy Football for the NFL.  The same could be done for Thoroughbred Racing even leading up to the BC.

As sceptre said, we need to see these competitors, know their pedigrees, learn how they got to where they are.  In short, the casual fan needs to identify with these magnificent competitors and stay engaged.  It can be done!

Human interest stories are fine and need to be told but not in place of showing us the horses.  Celebrity interviews, talking heads and wide, sweeping shots of the crowd and track are OK, if kept to a minimum, but not in place of showing us the horses.

NBC and the three tracks have a golden opportunity to engage a new and younger generation to this game which this sport so desperately needs.  IT CAN BE DONE!

02 Mar 2011 10:02 AM
BILL O'REILLY

Lenny,

You sure you weren't a DJ in a previous life? You got some spin going...

In 1994 the BC ratings on NBC were 1.4 and had steadily declined for virtually 14 years in a row (since it was NEVER promoted). The show was a 4 or 5 hours on a Saturday that Notre Dame wasn't on...Since the move to ESPN, the show expanded and now is over 9 hours along and has changed as the BC has changed- of course, the pure "rating" will go down with more hours avail (2 mins of action ever hour - tough to hold an audience). You know that since you know TV. In any event, the ratings from BC Saturdays last year were higher than any BC event since pre 2000. Please get some of your facts straight - just a few. Side note: NBC would never let the BC run past 6pm ET because of the all important Nightly News. Finally, NBC has MILLIONS of reasons to promote the Derby - the are on the hook for the ad rev not the other way around...

Bill

02 Mar 2011 10:15 AM
Shib Neddeff

Racing should be ashamed that NONE of the Derby prep races are being televised... Hopefully NBC will bring Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss.... Being on different networks doesn't bother..NFL...NBA...College Basketball..College Football.. MLB ...very very weak argument..the BIGGER problem as I stated Horse Racing  should be ashamed that Prep races and Summer triple Crown are NOT on TV...

02 Mar 2011 10:43 AM
Deltalady

If we had a national racing commission, it would certainly make it much easier to coordinate publicity for the marquee events to be a springboard for covering the run-up events to all the big races:  Dubai, Triple Crown, Breeders Cup.  A coordinated effort for the entire sport would benefit the sport and by raising viewership throughout the year, would certaily mean more revenues for the networks covering all the events.  A little more variety in the type of racing -- steeplechasing, harness, etc. -- might also add some spice to the mix. Unfortunately, in the U.S. the emphasis is so much on the shorter, flat races, it frankly can be boring to the average viewer/fan after awhile. It is a known fact that women show up in record numbers for the marquee events, so some attention paid to this demo might be worth exploring as well, as a way to move some of these "new" fans to regulars. We've got to get some creative thinking or the sport will continue to decline...it is heart breaking that such a beautiful sport has to almost go begging for national coverage!

02 Mar 2011 11:09 AM
average jeff

I think that it is a good thing having all Triple Crown races on one channel but I am not convinced that NBC is the right channel.  I am a horseman and appreciate the build up to the races as much as I do the races themselves.  I'm afraid that the "pre-race" show is going to be broadcast on Versus rather than NBC.  To be honest, I haven't heard of Versus until this article and I am not even sure that I get this channel.  I am holding judgment until the Derby to decide whether this is good or bad.  As for the argument that this will help the viewer because they won't have to search for the channel.  Maybe it's because I'm old but I'm going to have to search for it anyways lol.

02 Mar 2011 11:11 AM
Dick Fiscus

I am glad that they are all together now but hope that NBC does

not do what they and the other networks have done in the past, and that is: Do talk while there is

live racing going on!!! The past few years, we have missed the race prior to the big races because of talk. They have the camers there,

let them work!!

02 Mar 2011 11:51 AM
It Doesn't Matter

Lenny, explain why, other than your guess, a one-network plan means a series-wide sponsor suddenly becomes interested? If the only consistently marketable product in the series (the Derby) can only get $1 million from hometown Yum Brands, what about putting the Belmont on NBC suddenly means a sponsor will come along for all three? Since the demise of the Visa deal, there was one chance for a Triple Crown, and NYRA did a pretty good job of securing their own sponsorship deals (NetJets, Darley, UPS)

NBC got the series for a song because Churchill signed up before seriously taking bids from anyone else. No one has announced the new revenue splits or the payoffs for the new deal. Why? Because even though they touted how much ratings went up on NBC, Churchill did nothing to leverage that into a higher rights fee. They discounted the fee and let FOX and Disney know they didn't care about more money because they were happy with NBC. That in turn meant NYRA was going to be forced to discount any deal they could make, because the prospect of a Triple Crown chance is a riskier proposition, as ESPN found out the hard way over the last five years.

Fact is, NBC, FOX or ESPN coverage does nothing for the future growth of the sport. There have been more Triple Crown opportunities spread over different networks than there were on one network. And NBC is not going out and announcing an extensive new schedule of racing shows as Walt (#2) hopes. In fact there probably won't be any prep races, and as far as NBC is concerned, the racing season starts on Oaks Day and runs through the Belmont; six weeks. At least ESPN had a legacy of showing far more racing on a week-in, week-out basis.

But at least we get an announcer like Durkin, because he was so good at telling us who Mine That Bird was and remembering Drosselmeyer's name.

02 Mar 2011 12:07 PM
The Rock

Whatever happened to Chris Lincoln who hosted Racehorse Digest on ESPN? That guy was awesome. Jerry Bailey is horrible with his post race interviews. Randy Moss I can do without. And that host whatever his name is. Hank Goldberg should just stick with football. Kenny Mayne....eh, I can tolerate him, but I don't think horse racing is his thing.

Can't stand Bob Costas. Tom Hammond at least knows something about the sport. I think Chris Lincoln or Laffit Pincay anchoring, Kurt Hoover & Matt Carothers would be an awesome mix. Kurt & Matt have good chemistry during the Breeders Cup races. Seeing as how they're usually bound by their contracts to their respective networks, who knows how that's going to work, but the races should be taken over by people who watch these races everyday and can provide insight in to the races to where it won't make you fall asleep.

The point is when these races are being televised, it should be geared towards gambling. Everyone loves to make a buck, especially when you're dealing with people who know what they're talking about. Plus we'll get a glimpse as to what these horses have done instead of focusing on the favorite. These major networks turn a blind eye towards but that's what's going to get these ratings up. I mean with 60 minutes to fill leading up to the derby, we can't be talking about 15 feel good stories about all the connections. You just tune out. We need to show viewers why we are all so passionate about horse racing. Competition, competition amongst handicappers, competition between the jockey's and why there's an ambulance tracking them every step of the way. Let's get in depth.

Say what you want about the englishmen "mutton chops", but he knows what he's talking about if you watch him on "At the Races" in the UK. He just has a strong opinion and can be contaversial. How does that not sell ratings? Simon Cowell anyone?

02 Mar 2011 1:07 PM
slee

I'm not sure having all races on NBC is win-win-win, but it could be if NBC wants it to be.

1.  I like the idea of hiring Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey over from ESPN.  Spring - work at NBC.  Fall - work at ESPN.  But whoever gets the job (I like the idea of Steve H. and/or Lenny S.), please hire somebody who knows the sport!

2.  When Bob Costas was first assigned to horse racing, I believe his response was "why me?"  He knew little about the sport and agreed to be "the face" to do intros because NBC needed somebody the public already knew.  Fine, he's a smart guy, and has a voluminous sports database, so keep him on intros and play to his strengths.

3.  ADVERTISE!  ADVERTISE!  And then advertise MORE!  I saw a commercial for the Super Bowl one fall in OCTOBER!  We should be seeing commercials for the Derby right now.  Have one that shows the dates of all 3 races names, places, dates and time.  After the Derby have the Derby winner listed, and the names, places, dates of the Preakness and Belmont.  And advertise in prime time.  Every night.

4.  Figure out a workable camera structure.  While I agree the Breeder's Cup experiment last fall was too wild, why not look at the European view?  Put a camera on a truck or on the inside rail.  Put one on the ambulance, be creative, but Rule #1 - LET US SEE THE RACE!  Having a pan shot at the top of the stretch that covers a full furlong is not very engaging.  I like the blimp view, but more for post-race analysis than for in-race watching.

5.  A little celebrity talk and smile is fine.  "See?  The rich and famous actors and singers you love are here so you should watch too."  It's good press, but how much of that do you see at baseball games?  Football?  Ok, in the NBA they often pan the sidelines and show you who's there.  But then be done with it.

6.  Stop doing promo interviews for upcoming shows.  Last year on Preakness day, Costas did an interminable interview with an Olympian who "just happened" to have a guest role on an upcoming show on, you guessed it, NBC.  It's horse day, not self-promo day.  And what was going on while this interview was running?  Nicanor, one of Barbaro's brothers, was running in one of the pre-Preakness races.  Would that draw a crowd?  SURE!  But they didn't broadcast it, and, worse, they blocked TVG and HRTV from broadcasting it live.  Brilliant move.

7.  Limit the amount of time you spend on Preakness Day talking about the Derby winning horse, trainer, jockey and owner.  They may have fascinating stories, but there are a dozen or so other horses in the race!  I kept switching back to TVG to get background information on the Preakness field, because if you went by what NBC was saying, just about the only horses in the field were Super Saver and Looking at Lucky.

Oh, and talk Churchill Downs into a 2-gate field.  No more of these 20-horse traffic jams.  We want a fair race.

02 Mar 2011 1:55 PM
MagicfaninDC

I am very sorry that NBC will carry this.  Not only will I miss Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey, but I could not stand the NBC coverage in the past. There was a lot of fashion, Desperate (or was it Real?) Housewives, and cooking but very little about horse racing.  Does it have to be so silly to attract viewers?  

02 Mar 2011 3:38 PM
Trebloc

What if, NBC could get Charlie Sheen on a horse to interview the winning jockey?

02 Mar 2011 5:46 PM
Jon Rand

Like him or not, Costas adds credibility to any event he covers. Like them or not (and I do), Mayne and the Hammer actually pick horses and discuss gambling. And how come I'm familiar with all three but have never heard of Lenny Shulman before today? And probably never will again.

02 Mar 2011 6:26 PM
HappyHoof

Mike Repole, can your Pirate's Booty snacks entice NBC with some advertising dollars?

02 Mar 2011 6:48 PM
Trebloc

I know this is off topic, but I just finished watching, "And They're Off" and I have one question:  Was the uniform of the day a maroon short sleeve shirt over a black shirt or a black short sleeve shirt over a maroon shirt?  Check out what Lenny and Stable Boy are wearing?  

02 Mar 2011 8:08 PM
HTJ West

No need to take cheap shots at Lenny, Trebloc. I suppose you never heard of Stable Boy, either.

02 Mar 2011 8:42 PM
Arts and Letters

Picture the situation in Western Canada - we get the non-cable channels (NBC etc), and the Canadian sports channel covered the Belmont and the Breeders Cup, plus we get coverage from Woodbine every Sunday, but no ESPN, no TVG, no HRTV.  Nothing, nada, zip.  Basically, if it doesn't air on a non-cable channel, we don't get it.  A few years back, I remember wondering what the big deal was about Smarty Jones since I hadn't seen him in a single race before the Derby.  The Dubai World Cup has never aired on any Canadian channel, as far as I know.  The first year ESPN carried the Breeders Cup, I had to wait two weeks until a friend in Texas could mail me the tape.

So, no matter how bad the coverage may seem in the US, just remember - it could always be worse.

That said, thank heavens for Blood Horse's race replays and some of the streaming options that are starting to appear.  

02 Mar 2011 9:48 PM
Jim C.

Jon Rand said:  "Like him or not, Costas adds credibility to any event he covers."

Oh, please.  He knows nothing about horse racing, and takes himself WAY too seriously.  He is insufferable.  

Why not have Lenny and Steve anchor the Triple Crown coverage?

02 Mar 2011 9:51 PM
Convene

For those oft-overlooked fans north of the border, this is good news. Unless we're among the affluent instead of just workin' folks, we can't get ESPN (which is why, if I didn't subscribe to HPiTV, I would have missed most of the Breeders Cup) so having NBC running the show means everyone gets to watch. I have friends who love the sport but don't get HPiTV. Now they can be sure of seeing all.

02 Mar 2011 10:36 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Lenny

   Brilliant monologue in the latest segment of "And They're Off," concerning our overuse of drugs in racing horses. I agree 100% that it is detrimental to the health of the horse and to the breed. We need to crawl out of our cave and get in step with the rest of the world and join civilization in this matter. Racing horses do not need drugs. If they need therapeutic drugs at minimal doses during time off to help them recover and to ease their pain then that's OK but they still need to be monitored for abuse. And the penalties for abusing horses with drugs need to be much stiffer. I also agree with you on the SA Fall racing dates and the GP Dec dates. I'm especially excited about the possiblity of Dec at GP enhancing the Derby Trail and helping to get them on the ball earlier and more often. Would you be interested in running for President of a newly formed national body to implement and enforce necessary changes in the sport for the health and safety of these magnificent animals in our care? It can only help the sport and it's stature in the public eye, and help bring new fans into the sport.

02 Mar 2011 11:16 PM
sceptre

NBC would like to attract a large audience. The Industry, first and foremost, would like to attract new fans. The goals are similar, but not identical. As to the latter (attract new fans)-I'm fairly certain the best approach would be through appealing to emotion. In the week, or weeks, leading up to the Derby offer short snippets/background (on TV), perhaps one at a time (i.e., only one per brief segment), of the contenders. Then, on the Derby show itself, fashion it from an emotional perspective. Tom has the right voice, and could set the right tone. Be extra careful regarding choice of background music, and display as much beauty as possible-try also to display the horses in their best "light". Please, please, have the cameras exclusively on the horses (jocks up) as they play My Old KY Home and throughout the entire post parade (as was done years before). Do the same with Maryland My Maryland (for Preakness), and same, and return to Sidewalks Of NY for the Belmont. Appeal to the heart-the beauty of it all-and foster rooting interests. That's how you'll attract new fans. It's what captured me, more than 50 years ago.    

02 Mar 2011 11:36 PM
AngelaFromAbilene

Racing on NBC sucks!  I'll wait for the replays on TVG and not suffer through any of NBC's commentary.  

03 Mar 2011 8:48 AM
Rowner

Lenny,Steve and Stable boy would get my vote. Love, And They're Off never miss it. What we need is a good mix of celeb vs horses and handicapping. I too still pine for the days of Wide World of Sports and Jim Mckay.

03 Mar 2011 11:51 AM
Arts and Letters

Re: getting new fans and focusing on the beauty and thrill of the sport -- I always thought it would be a good idea on special occasions for tracks to give away copies of kid's horse racing books (Walter Farley, Joanna Campbell, etc) to all the children that show up that day.  Literacy and horse racing!  What could be better?

03 Mar 2011 8:55 PM
paul

Lenny hows about an update as to the whereabouts of jockeys in the past ,what they are doing now,examples robby davis,jean cruget,jacinto vasquez,helidoro gustines,george martens,baeza and ycaza,pincay,jorge velasquez,and others.

06 Mar 2011 11:24 PM
theoph1000

1. good idea on consolidating the three to one network

2. Randy Moss is by far the best

3. Kenny Mayne is funny

4. Hank Goldberg and Tom Hammond are both simply painful to watch

07 Mar 2011 3:05 PM
predict

Good to hear that NBC will be handling the triple crown races, I haven't been much of an NBC fan in the past, but this could be a beginning to gaining my respect for this network. Didn't Comcast just become a majority owner in this network? Maybe the influence they now have was a big part of this programming. Hurray, for monopolies.

07 Mar 2011 8:12 PM
Ellie

OUCH!!!! That's gonna hurt to not have Jerry Bailey commentating. I

was so grateful when he started commentating on the races-he made things so much more interesting. Loved to see things from his point of view, and better interviews from the jocks as they all obviously respect and like Jerry. Back to the boring fluff.

09 Mar 2011 12:47 AM

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