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NBC Sports to Air Kentucky Derby Through 2015

NBC Sports and Churchill Downs have reached an agreement in principle to keep the Kentucky Derby on the broadcast network through 2015. The deal also includes rights to the Kentucky Oaks, which is held the Friday before the Derby.

Terms of the agreement, including the price paid, were not disclosed, but sports Business Daily reports that the deal is worth around $5 million a year.

“I don’t think America truly moves to springtime until the first Saturday in May and I am delighted that we will be bringing this iconic American event to homes across America for five more years,” said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports & Olympics in a statement. “We’re excited to extend our relationship with the Derby and our business partnership with Churchill Downs, a partnership that is one of the finest examples of two organizations coming together to build an event.

More information in the press release after the jump.

CHURCHILL DOWNS AND NBC SPORTS RENEW KENTUCKY DERBY AGREEMENTNEW YORK – October 7, 2010 – Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) and NBC Sports have reached a five-year agreement in principle extending the network’s exclusive rights to the Kentucky Derby through 2015. The announcement was made today by Bob Evans, President and CEO, Churchill Downs Incorporated and Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics. The new agreement extends the partnership, which began in 2001. The agreement also includes rights to the Kentucky Oaks and Derby and Oaks day programming, including coverage of the Kentucky Derby Red Carpet. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Our approach of showcasing four key elements surrounding the race – food, fashion, party and purpose – has elevated the Kentucky Derby from simply an iconic sporting event to a transcendent cultural experience,” Evans said. “Together, NBC and Churchill Downs have changed the presentation of horse racing on TV, and it paid off earlier this year with 16.5 million viewers. We’re excited to continue our relationship and build upon the momentum we’ve created over the past several years. NBC’s combination of world-class sports programming and a spectrum of news and entertainment assets make it an ideal partnership for Churchill Downs.”

“I don’t think America truly moves to springtime until the first Saturday in May and I am delighted that we will be bringing this iconic American event to homes across America for five more years,” Ebersol said. “We’re excited to extend our relationship with the Derby and our business partnership with Churchill Downs, a partnership that is one of the finest examples of two organizations coming together to build an event. The extraordinary growth the Derby has experienced in recent years is a testament to the vision of Bob Evans and his team at Churchill Downs who have worked so closely with Ken Schanzer and Mike McCarley at NBC Sports – I thank and congratulate them on creating a successful partnership.”

CHURCHILL DOWNS AND NBC SPORTS ‘BIG EVENT STRATEGY’ DRIVES RECORD VIEWERSHIP: In the 10 years that CDI and NBC Sports have been in business together, the Kentucky Derby is now seen by 7.4 million more viewers than the last Kentucky Derby broadcast by ABC in 2000 (16.5 million vs. 9.1 million, up 51 percent).

The shared vision of Churchill Downs and NBC Sports’ successful ‘Big Event Strategy’ to assemble the broadest possible audience led to the 2010 Kentucky Derby being the most-watched Kentucky Derby in 21 years, in addition to the year prior which was the most-watched Derby in 20 years. Last year’s Kentucky Derby averaged 16.5 million viewers, the most watched Kentucky Derby since 1989 when Sunday Silence won the Derby (18.5 million).

The Kentucky Oaks, which aired on NBC Universal-owned Bravo the last two years, saw a dramatic shift in its viewership.The average age of the viewer dropped by nearly a decade (58.1 on ESPN to 49.1 on Bravo) and the male-female audience skew was much closer to the audience delivery for the Kentucky Derby.

The Kentucky Derby stands as America’s oldest continuously held major sporting event; the 137th Run for the Roses is Saturday, May 7, 2011.

CRITICS PRAISE NBC’S KENTUCKY DERBY COVERAGE:

“The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports has morphed into the Greatest Two Days in Sports Marketing…nearly every NBC property is involved.”

- Louisville Journal Courier

“NBC’s Kentucky Derby coverage represents a triumph of packaging. It transforms a sports event that lasts about two minutes into a three-hour TV show and creates story lines around athletes who literally aren’t quotable…and it scores at the TV box office.”

- USA Today

“NBC’s broadcast had a little something for everyone, from the diehard horse racing enthusiast to the casual observer who tunes in just to watch celebrities in silly hats sipping mint juleps. There were compelling features on owners, horses and jockeys that were interesting, informative and entertaining, even to those who watch this one horse race a year. Host Bob Costas did his usual masterful job running things, while reporter Donna Brothers was the star of the broadcast with her reports, mostly from horseback. You didn’t have to be a horse racing fan to thoroughly enjoy NBC’s Kentucky Derby coverage and, when you think about it, that’s the sign of a tremendous production.”

- St. Petersburg Times

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