NBC Sports Group announces broadcast team, TV schedule

by | 04.27.2011 | 5:57pm

The NBC Sports Group made several additions to its coverage team for this year's Kentucky Derby, which will include 14 hours of coverage (11 on VERSUS beginning Wednesday, including the May 6 Kentucky Oaks, and the three-hour NBC Derby telecast on Saturday, May 7). In addition to Larry Collmus taking the reins from Tom Durkin as the race caller, HRTV host Laffit Pincay III will be added to anchor the VERSUS coverage, and broadcast and print veterans Randy Moss and Jay Privman will provide feature coverage, along with NBC Today Show's Jenna Wolfe. Access Hollywood's Maria Menounos will conduct celebrity interviews.

The NBC Derby coverage will be hosted again by 21-time Emmy Award winner Bob Costas, and Tom Hammond, whose first job in the broadcast world was reading racing results on a radio station in his native Lexington, Ky. Hammond has gone on to a distinguished career for NBC Sports, covering the Winter and Summer Games, NFL, NBA and other major sports. Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Gary Stevens, Mike Battaglia, Bob Newmeier, Kenny Rice and former jockey Donna Barton Brothers complete the NBC team.

Following is the NBC Sports Group press release on this year's coverage:

NEW YORK – April 27, 2011 – The NBC Sports Group will present 14 hours of Kentucky Derby coverage beginning on Wednesday, May 4 at 4 p.m. ET on VERSUS and culminating with the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby on NBC, Saturday, May 7 beginning at 4 p.m. ET.
The expanded Kentucky Derby coverage, which includes eight hours on Derby Day on NBC and VERSUS, will include many new elements:
    •    Live coverage of the Kentucky Derby Draw, which will determine the post positions
    •    Additional commentators including a new race caller, Larry Collmus
    •    New production team
    •    11 total hours on VERSUS, now part of the NBC Sports Group, including live coverage of the Kentucky Oaks and Derby Day races
    •    Three hours of “Derby Classics” (Smarty Jones, Barbaro, Mine That Bird) to air on VERSUS
27 HOURS OF TRIPLE CROWN COVERAGE: The NBC Sports Group will present 27 hours of Triple Crown coverage this season from Churchill Downs, Pimlico and Belmont, including additional “classics” from the Preakness and Belmont, live racing from all three tracks prior to the three Triple Crown races and post-race coverage of the Preakness and Belmont on VERSUS.  This marks the first time that all three races will be on one network since NBC last aired the Triple Crown in 2005.
COMENTATORS: The NBC Sports Group coverage of the Kentucky Derby will once again feature co-hosts Bob Costas, a 21-time Emmy Award-winner, and veteran NBC Sports commentator Tom Hammond; three-time Kentucky Derby winner Gary Stevens; contributing analysts/handicappers Mike Battaglia and Bob Neumeier; reporter Kenny Rice and on-track reporter Donna Brothers.
Added for this year's expanded coverage are race caller Larry Collmus, the track announcer at Gulfstream Park and Monmouth Raceway who replaces Tom Durkin; Laffit Pincay, III, son of Hall-of-Fame jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr., will host the coverage on VERSUS; veteran horse racing analyst Randy Moss; the Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman; TODAY Show's Jenna Wolfe will contribute features; and Access Hollywood's Maria Menounos will handle celebrity interviews.
PRODUCTION TEAM: The coverage on NBC Sports will be produced by Fred Gaudelli and directed by Drew Esocoff, NBC's Emmy Award-winning “Sunday Night Football” production team. The VERSUS coverage will be produced by Rob Hyland, who has worked on the network's horse racing coverage since 2001 and also produces NBC Sports' Notre Dame Football, and directed by “NHL on NBC” director Jeff Simon. The executive producer of NBC Sports and VERSUS is Sam Flood who has produced 11 Triple Crown races for the network.
FLOOD ON NBC SPORTS GROUP COMMENTATORS: “We have had the premier broadcast team for NBC Sports' Triple Crown races in place for years with Bob, Tom, Gary, Mike, Neumy, Kenny and Donna.  Now, as we significantly expand our coverage on VERSUS, we are fortunate to add Laffit, Randy, Jay, Jenna and Maria to the team, along with Larry, who is a tremendous race caller.”
FLOOD ON PRODUCTION TEAM: “Fred Gaudelli is one of the most talented and dedicated producers in television sports.  He and director Drew Esocoff set the gold standard for NFL coverage and will bring that same passion to covering the Triple Crown.  We are lucky to have them for the Derby, Preakness and Belmont.”
Wed. May 4, Derby Classics – Smarty Jones,   4-5 p.m., VERSUS
Wed. May 4, Kentucky Derby Draw, 5-6 p.m., VERSUS
Thurs. May 5, Derby Classics – Barbaro, 4-5 p.m., VERSUS
Thurs. May 5, Live from Churchill Downs, 5-6 p.m., VERSUS
Fri. May 6, Derby Classics – Mine That Bird, 4-5 p.m., VERSUS
Fri. May 6, Kentucky Oaks, 5-6 p.m., VERSUS
Sat. May 7, Live from Churchill Downs, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., VERSUS
Sat. May 7, Kentucky Derby, 4-7 p.m., NBC
Fri. May 20, Preakness Classics, 3-4 p.m., VERSUS
Fri. May 20, Black Eyed Susan Stakes, 4-5 p.m., VERSUS
Sat. May 21, Live from Pimlico, 2:30-4:30 p.m., VERSUS
Sat. May 21, Preakness Stakes, 4:30-6:30 p.m., NBC
Sat. May 21, Preakness Wrap-up, 6:30-7 p.m., VERSUS
Fri. June 10, Belmont Classics, 4-5 p.m., VERSUS
Fri. June 10, Live from Belmont, 5-6 p.m., VERSUS
Sat. June 11, Live from Belmont, 3-5 p.m., VERSUS
Sat. June 11, Belmont Stakes, 5-7 p.m., NBC
Sat. June 11, Belmont Wrap-up, 7-7:30 p.m.,   VERSUS
NBC SPORTS AND HORSE RACING: The NBC Sports Group is now the exclusive home to Horse Racing's Triple Crown.  This marks the first time that all three races will be on one network since NBC last aired the Triple Crown in 2005.  NBC has been the exclusive home of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes since 2001.
KENTUCKY DERBY: In the 10 years that Churchill Downs and NBC Sports have been together the event has experienced remarkable growth. 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).
PREAKNESS STAKES: Since NBC Sports began broadcasting the Preakness in 2001, every Preakness telecast on NBC over that period attracted more viewers than any Preakness telecast on ABC in the previous seven years.  Viewership for the Preakness is up an average of 69% in the 10 years on NBC compared to the previous seven years on ABC.
BELMONT STAKES: NBC Sports broadcast the Belmont from 2001-05, including three straight years in which the Belmont had a Triple Crown at stake.  The 2004 Belmont featuring Smarty Jones racing for the Triple Crown was seen by 21.9 million viewers, the most for a Belmont broadcast since Seattle Slew captured the elusive Triple Crown in 1977.
Since its involvement in the Triple Crown, NBC Sports has been honored with 11 Eclipse Awards for its thoroughbred racing coverage, Preakness (2002-03-05-06-08), Kentucky Derby (2007), Belmont (2004) and Breeder's Cup (2001).  Additionally, NBC Sports has won three Eclipse Awards in the features category: 2002 on War Emblem (Preakness broadcast), 2005 Afleet Alex (Kentucky Derby broadcast) and 2009 Mine That Bird (Preakness broadcast), and the 2005 and 2006 Preakness broadcasts were nominated for the Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Live Sports Special.

  • Mike R

    Mike Battaglia lost some credibility a couple weeks ago in my mind when following Uncle Mo’s loss he said he would make The Factor the morning line favorite if he had to make it at that time. The Factor is a very nice middle distance horse and Bob Baffert is a very good trainer, but at no point did The Factor have a realistic chance of winning the Derby–sorry Mike B. And Kenny Rice, c’mon man–he bombed at the Eclipse Awards and adds very little as far as I am concerned.

  • Regular

    @Mike R – The M/L is NOT supposed to be the opinion of the M/L-man as to who would win but rather an approximation of what the expected betting would be. The Factor was widely considered the favorite at that point, so it would have been Battaglia’s job to make him as such in the M/L. He was 100 percent correct at that time. Sorry, but Battaglia actually is a very good M/L setter and his comment was accurate at that time.

  • Canarse

    Hopefully Versus will actually cover the stakes races prior to the Derby. By that I mean showing the post parade, odds and payouts. Is that too much to ask? One thing I am looking forward to on NBC….no Kenny Mayne!

  • Miss Bug

    This is insane.

    The vast majority of coverage, including the Kentucky Oaks itself, will be broadcast on the VERSUS Network.

    Who in hell can receive the VERSUS Network??? I have Dish Network Top 200, and the VERSUS Network is NOT included in that package.

    Paulick should have a poll. How many readers of this site can even receive the VERSUS Network?

    I, for one, will deeply miss ESPN’s all-day coverage on Kentucky Derby Day.

  • Robert

    Hammerin’ Hank is on the sidelines too.

  • Glimmerglass

    I’m glad that NBC Sports picked up (for the Verses Channel coverage) Laffit Pincay, Jr. and Randy Moss. The only non-HRTV racing broadcast opportunity Laffit has had that I can recall was CBS Sport’s semi-recent coverage of the Virginia Derby from Colonial Downs.

    Randy brings a good eye, even tone, passion for the sport and an informed perspective that everyone can appreciate. It’s a shame that Jerry Bailey (equally skilled with broadcast as Moss) couldn’t have been swapped out for Stevens but such is life.

    Hopefully Donna Brothers is better used then in years past. She has been providing good detail for TVG’s Keeneland coverage while seemingly NBC has used her as merely an on-horseback novelty for past years.

    Please, NBC, don’t clone your Bravo! coverage into Verses for Oaks day. It just get’s tiresome seeing just cooking and clothes on parade by idiots.

  • matt m

    Thank goodness.. Durkin is overdramatic and IMO years past his prime. This should’ve happened long ago.

  • furlong

    Will HRTV be carrying the Derby undercard tape delayed?

  • Miss Bug

    Apparently, a vast number, if not the outright majority, of people in this country can view the VERSUS Network, either in the air, or as a part of their cable/satellite subscriptions.
    Who knew?

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