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Monday, October 4, 1999
NBC agrees on five-year contract to broadcast Triple Crown


LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Ticker) -- NBC Sports and Triple Crown Productions agreed today on a five-year contract that gave the network exclusive American broadcast rights to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

The deal begins in 2001 and ends ABC's long-time coverage of the Triple Crown. USA Today reported in today's editions that NBC paid $51.5 million for the package, outbidding ABC's offer of $35 million.

NBC Sports is entering its second year without any TV rights to the NFL, a commitment normally in the billions of dollars. The network, which has spent billions on the TV rights to the NBA and the Olympics, also has the broadcast rights to the Breeders' Cup.

"We are thrilled to be joining the NBC Sports family," said Thomas H. Meeker, president of Triple Crown Productions and president and chief executive officer of Churchill Downs Incorporated. "We have always been extremely impressed by the passion with which NBC approaches all of its properties and how it has telecast such events as the Olympics, the NBA and the Ryder Cup."

The agreement marks the first time that any of the three races in the Visa Triple Crown series will be telecast nationally by NBC. ABC gained rights to the Kentucky Derby in 1975 and has televised all three races since 1987. NBC has been the exclusive home of the Breeders' Cup since the inception of the event in 1984.

"NBC Sports is proud to be starting this relationship with the Visa Triple Crown partners," said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC sports and Olympics. "We have defined ourselves by our unprecedented lineup of major championship events, and today we are enhancing the roster."

Fifty years ago, an NBC affiliate provided the first television coverage of the Kentucky Derby. The 1949 Derby, won by Ponder, was televised locally in Louisville by the network's affiliate WAVE. CBS provided the first national telecast of the Derby in 1952 and initiated national broadcast of the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in 1960.

The Belmont Stakes, first run in 1867, is the oldest of the Triple Crown events, followed by the Preakness Stakes in 1873 and the Kentucky Derby in 1875.