United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing on television
In the United States, the Triple Crown races have been broadcast on television since 1960, under various individual race-broadcaster agreements. 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).
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 air 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.
NBC Sports currently has the rights to air the Kentucky Derby until 2025.
In 1948, the Preakness was televised for the first time by CBS. In 1977, ABC was awarded the contract to televise the Preakness. In October 1999, NBC Sports won the rights to broadcast the three races in 2001.
NBC Sports currently has the rights to air the Preakness until 2022.
- CBS Sports – 1960–1985
- ABC Sports – 1986–2000
- NBC Sports – 2001–2005, 2011
- ESPN on ABC – 2006–2010
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.
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 currently has the rights to air the Belmont until 2022.
- John Scheinman, "ABC Will Broadcast Belmont Stakes Starting in 2006," The Washington Post, Tuesday, October 5, 2004.
- "Preakness is final leg of NBC's Triple Crown deal". USA TODAY. Retrieved May 6, 2018.