By Ryan Berenz (Twitter: @ChannelGuideRAB)
The 137th Kentucky Derby takes place Saturday, May 7, at 4pm ET live on NBC from Churchill Downs in Louisville, for the first leg of horse racing’s elusive Triple Crown (sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes). Dialed In, Archarcharch, Pants on Fire, Midnight Interlude, Nehro, Soldat, Stay Thirsty, Toby’s Corner, Mucho Macho Man and Comma to the Top might be among the top horses in the starting gate this year. Jockey Calvin Borel rode Super Saver to victory in last year’s Run for the Roses. NBC has coverage of all three Triple Crown races, airing the Preakness (May 21) and the Belmont (June 11).
There’s also plenty of Derby-related programming on TV and online from the NBC Universal networks leading up to the race. Here’s the complete schedule and release from NBCU:
NBCUNIVERSAL SURROUNDS THE KENTUCKY DERBY
NBCU Marketing Council Designates Derby a “Cross-Channel Priority”
TODAY Show Segments Live from Churchill Downs Starting Thursday
Features and Segments from NBCUniversal Properties Including CNBC, Access Hollywood, Weather Channel, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, E!, Style, iVillage, Daily Candy
NEW YORK – May 3, 2011 – The NBC Sports Group will present 14½ hours of Kentucky Derby coverage beginning Wednesday 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 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, making it the most-watched Kentucky Derby since 1989 when Sunday Silence won (18.5 million).
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).
CROSS-CHANNEL PRIORITY: Kentucky Derby coverage on NBC and VERSUS has been identified by NBCUniversal’s Marketing Council as a cross-channel priority. It is receiving the benefit of extensive promotion across NBCUniversal’s 20 channels and more than 40 websites. Also, once again this year, a host of NBCUniversal properties will participate in promoting the food, fashion, celebrity and entertaining spectacle that is the Kentucky Derby.
Below is a summary of the NBCU properties that are supporting the Kentucky Derby:
TODAY Show: The TODAY Show, the No. 1 morning news show (averaging 6 million viewers/week), is featuring Derby segments highlighting the food, fashion, celebrity and entertaining elements of the Derby everyday this week. Al Roker and Jenna Wolfe will be live from Churchill Downs Thursday, Friday and Saturday and their coverage will include interviews with NBC Sports horse racing analyst Gary Stevens and reporter Donna Brothers, who last year in a live interview with Roker was thrown from her horse and became a viral hit.
The Today Show with Hoda and Kathie Lee (4th hour): For the second straight year, Hoda and Kathie Lee are featuring a Derby trip giveaway contest for the fan who creates the most interesting Derby hat. The contest began Wednesday, April 27 and concludes this Wednesday. Viewers are asked to send in pictures of their originally-created hats, and one viewer will be selected to win a trip for two to the Derby. KLG and Hoda are promoting the contest through the show, on TODAYShow.com and through their Facebook page and Twitter accounts.
TodayShow.com: TodayShow.com is featuring a special Derby video player for viewers to replay all the Today Show Derby segments that are running throughout the week.
Weekend Today: The No. 1 weekend morning news show will air live segments from the Derby this weekend with Jenna Wolfe featuring interviews with NBC Sports talent on Saturday and scheduled to interview the winning connections on Sunday.
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon: Jimmy Fallon and his creative team developed a Derby sketch that will premiere in Saturday’s Derby coverage on NBC. Fallon also created pre-Derby coverage that will air in his show this week.
Access Hollywood and AH Live: Access Hollywood and Access Hollywood Live will highlight the Derby in a segment featuring Derby attendee and Celebrity Apprentice’s Niki Taylor shopping for her hat for Derby weekend. In the past years, Access shopped with Paris Hilton and Tinsley Mortimer as they prepared for the Derby.
CNBC: CNBC’s sports-business reporter, Darren Rovell, will report live from Churchill Downs all day Friday.
WEATHER CHANNEL: Al Roker and Stephanie Abrams will broadcast live from the Derby Friday and Saturday morning with “Wake Up with Al.” Abrams will also host “Your Weather Today” and “Weekend View” from the Derby.
E!: E! News is featuring Derby segments this week, including hat shopping with Sports Illustrated model and Derby attendee, Marisa Miller, and an interview with Jordin Sparks, who will perform the National Anthem at the Kentucky Derby. Eonline.com is the premiere destination for breaking entertainment news and celebrity inside information to over six million unique users per month and will feature five distinct Derby-themed photo galleries each day of Derby week.
Style: MyStyle.com premieres Derby-themed photo galleries each day of Derby week and will also feature a Derby Day photo gallery with up-to-the minute Derby pictures from Churchill Downs.
Local Media & Comcast sports nets: Feature clips from NBC Sports Group’s Kentucky Derby coverage are being distributed to all 235 affiliates as well as the 11 CSN’s this week. NBC is also producing a satellite media tour with Betsy Berns, horse racing expert.
IVillage: iVillage, the essential digital brand for women, which reaches over 30 million unique visitors per month, will celebrate this year’s Derby by hosting a “Derby Yourself” application on its thriving Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ivillage), where fans can enter to win a fabulous new wardrobe and accessories from Vineyard Vines’ brand-new Kentucky Derby collection. Users can visualize themselves at the historic Churchill Downs race by creating their own avatar and dressing them in the height of Derby fashion, with fancy clothes, outrageous hats and all the accessories perfect for watching the event that marks the official start of the racing season.
DailyCandy: DailyCandy.com will feature Derby editorial content on its homepage each day of Derby Week and feature Derby fashion in their new feature, “Round-Ups.” In addition, a Derby-themed “Party Time” section will be featured in all DailyCandy editions and links to Derby content in DailyCandy Local and Everywhere emails will be present all week.
Swirl by DailyCandy: DailyCandy’s sister sample sale site, Swirl, launched a Derby-inspired sale this week featuring spring dresses, hats and other Derby attire. DailyCandy and Swirl content will link with iVillage Derby content.
NBC SPORTS GROUP KENTUCKY DERBY COVERAGE (All Times ET):
KENTUCKY DERBY – 14½ Hours
Wednesday, May 4, Derby Classics – Smarty Jones, 4-5 p.m., VERSUS
Wednesday, May 4, Kentucky Derby Draw, 5-6 p.m., VERSUS
Thursday, May 5, Derby Classics – Barbaro, 4-5 p.m., VERSUS
Thursday, May 5, Live from Churchill Downs, 5-6 p.m., VERSUS
Friday, May 6, Derby Classics – Mine That Bird, 4-5 p.m., VERSUS
Friday, May 6, Kentucky Oaks, 5-6 p.m., VERSUS
Saturday, May 7, Live from Churchill Downs, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., VERSUS
Saturday, May 7, Kentucky Derby, 4-7 p.m., NBC
Saturday, May 7, Kentucky Derby Wrap-up, 7-7:30 p.m. VERSUS
Photo: Credit: Kinetic Corporation/NBC