Thoroughbred Racing on NBC

Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing on television

Triple Crown Productions was formed in 1985 after CBS terminated its contract with the New York Racing Association. Prior to that, the individual racing associations made their own deals with the TV networks (ABC and CBS). ABC Sports won the rights to broadcast all three races, as well as many prep races. Ratings went up after the package was centralized. This arrangement continued until 2001, when NBC Sports took over. Under NBC, ratings continued to go up, by as much as 20 percent in some years. It didn't hurt that many horses, like Funny Cide and Smarty Jones, were making Triple Crown runs during those years (although all of them failed).


Kentucky Derby

On May 3, 1952, the first national television coverage of the Kentucky Derby took place.

In 1985, a group of people wanted to increase the stature of the Triple Crown on television. Other than the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes were considered the two "other" races. ABC Sports, which had broadcast the Derby since 1975, wanted to operated all three races. CBS Sports, which showed the other two races, had much lower ratings for them, with the possible exceptions of years in which the Crown was at stake like 1973, 1977, and 1978.

Preakness Stakes

In 1948, the Preakness was televised for the first time by CBS.

In 1977, ABC was awarded the contract to televise the Preakness.

Belmont Stakes

Broadcast history:

From 2002 to 2004, the Belmont had the highest ratings of any horse race on television.

As of May 21, 2005, the VISA Credit Card company officially withdrew its sponsorship of the U.S. Triple Crown, effective in 2006. It relieves VISA of paying the $5 million bonus to the owner of the horse that wins the Triple Crown. Triple Crown Productions has sponsored the races since 2006. The $5 million bonus remains intact.

Some believe VISA withdrew its sponsorship as a result of the New York Racing Association's decision to break with the other two tracks on a television contract. On October 4, 2004, NYRA announced that the American Broadcasting Company and ESPN would hold television rights to the Belmont Stakes, breaking from Triple Crown Productions' deal with NBC Sports. NBC Sports holds the broadcasting rights to the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes until 2010.

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