This may not seem like a big deal to a lot of horse players, but the continued and evolving presence of NBC with the 2016 Triple Crown is an important aspect when it comes to the sport’s growth. This year’s telecast was split on both the main distribution channels of the network and its subsidiary NBC Sports. They’re also aggressively pumping up the online presence.
It’s not simply important to have an outlet like NBC televising the Triple Crown. It’s vital that they take it seriously, and by all accounts the team did a tremendous job trying to capture the atmosphere, excitement and stories that make the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes such captivating events.
Top-10 Moments in 2016 Triple Crown
#10 – Rivalries Are Born on Derby Trail
#9 – Everyone Loves Lani
#8 – Creator Wins Belmont Stakes
#7 – Danzing Candy’s Debut
#6 – Uncle Mo Emerges As Major Stallion
#5 – Gun Runner The Route Runner
#4 – Doug O’Neill Has Another With Nyquist
Helping matters immensely is the ever-lasting presence of Bob Costas, who is genuinely endeared by the sport in a way that Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir are not. Now, a lot of the older grumps who take in thoroughbred racing probably hated how much the fashionista duo rambled on about clothes and hats because it ate up a lot of air time. But there’s a lot of space to fill in a three hour broadcast concerning a two-minute race, and they’re attempting to capture a part of the audience that may not be so in to the sport of horse racing in and of itself. I mean, look at Johnn Weir’s hat. The guy is in to the Kentucky Derby even if he doesn’t know anything about it.
Finding handicappers that are better at their job than Bob Neumeir and Eddie Olczyk would probably also help, but at least they’re entertaining and fun personalities that openly glossed on betting trends and topics during the NBC broadcast.
The fact that NBC pulled out all the stops for the Kentucky Derby and the 2016 Triple Crown – despite having the Stanley Cup playoffs running at the same time – speaks largely about how committed they are to bringing a broader audience to the paddocks. And that’s a good thing.
NBC also did a tremendous job to tell the stories of the horses thoroughly. Candid interviews with Doug O’Neill and Keith Desormeaux peppered the broadcast and colored it in a way that brought personality to a sport that is based on horses that can’t speak to themselves. That stuff adds drama and context for the mainstream audience that don’t tune in to the derby trail.
Ratings continue to boom for NBC in the 9 million-plus range, staying constant with the last four years. Eventually master story tellers like Bob Costas will find ways to promote the Triple Crown without the presence of a Triple Crown winner, and more people will tune in bringing even more cash flow in to a sport that needs it. More eyes means more dollars, and NBC is bringing the viewers in droves.