NBC Sports Surrounds ‘Fastest Two Minutes’ With 15.5 Hours of Kentucky Derby Coverage
Grab your mint julep and wide-brimmed hat, because the most festively dressed sporting event of the year returns this weekend. The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday night will cap a record 15.5 hours of race coverage across NBC and NBC Sports Network.
Beginning with Wednesday’s Kentucky Derby Draw on NBCSN, NBC continued its Derby coverage on Thursday and Friday with Kentucky Derby Classics, Kentucky Derby Access, and the running of the Kentucky Oaks. On Saturday, NBC goes wall-to-wall with Derby Day coverage, starting on NBCSN at noon ET before switching over to NBC at 4 p.m. ET for “the fastest two minutes in sports.”
“For me, the Kentucky Derby is the ultimate bucket list sporting event, and our job over the next few days is to showcase all that makes this day and this event so special,” says Coordinating Producer Rob Hyland. “Our telecast will be a blend of sports and entertainment, but we’ll educate and inform the viewers on all of the major story lines of this year’s race.”
NBC will deploy more than 50 cameras to cover the 140+ acres of Churchill Downs, including a hard camera suspended 80 feet high on the video-board structure, an 86-foot crane on Turn 1, and – weather permitting – a blimp. For the first time at the Kentucky Derby, NBC will station an ultra-slow-motion camera at the finish line for a reverse finish angle.
“Our director [Drew Esocoff] and I looked at the Derby after last year’s race and said, what can we do to make sure that the race is covered from every angle unobstructed?” says Hyland. “As you know, the infield at Churchill Downs is covered with thousands of people and tents and structures. This ensures that the viewing audience will have an unobstructed look at every point during the race.”
To capture the horses coming down the homestretch, NBC will use Sony’s newest model — the HDC-4300 — which comes equipped with up to 3x super-slow motion; 4x, 6x, and 8x progressive high-frame rates; and 4K crop and zoom capability.
For the play-by-play angle, NBC will capture that in 4K and feed the signal into an Evertz DreamCatcher at a high frame rate. “We can analyze the start of the race, the horses going into Turn 1, the horses going into Turn 2, and the finish of the race,” explains Hyland. “So, key moments in the race will be captured on this 4K camera.”
Once again, Hyland’s crew will operate out of NEP’s ND1 (A, B, C, and D units) for NBC coverage and SS24 (A, B, and C units) for NBCSN, as well as two satellite trucks. Broadcast Sports, Inc. will provide RF support.
Throughout NBC/NBCSN’s four-day Kentucky Derby extravaganza, 15 different commentators will contribute, including hosts Bob Costas and Tom Hammond; analysts Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey; and analysts Mike Battaglia and Eddie Olczyk, who joins NBC’s Kentucky Derby broadcast team for the first time. In addition to Hyland and Esocoff, who will handle NBC’s Kentucky Derby coverage, producer Billy Matthews and director Charlie Dammeyer will helm NBCSN’s show. Returning for his 13th Triple Crown race is Sam Flood, who will serve as executive producer for both productions.
Because Churchill Downs stretches over more than 140 acres, not only must NBC manage the whereabouts of its 15 commentators, it must relay this information to fans watching at home. Battaglia might be at Barn 40, says Hyland, while Olczyk may be in the paddock or on the fifth-floor balcony. Hyland hopes to better orient viewers this year by tweaking the on-screen graphical presentation.
“One thing I’ve really tried to do over the past year is to give the viewers a better sense of place, how this day actually works,” says Hyland. “We’ve added graphic transitions that our technical director will trigger to visually orientate the viewers as to where we’re going, always passing through the Twin Spires on our way to the next destination. We won’t use those every time we go from reporter to reporter, but at the top of every hour, we’ll reorient the viewers as to where our announcers are.”
For those looking for extra additional coverage of Derby Day, NBC Sports Live Extra will feature four exclusive camera angles that showcase the activity around Churchill Downs, bonus analysis by NBC Sports commentators, and replays and footage from key ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ prep races.
After last year’s successful turn at the “Run for the Roses,” Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski return as NBC Sports Group’s Derby fashion and lifestyle experts. Weir and Lipinski will take over NBC’s various social media outlets in the week leading up to Derby Day.
As part of the NBC’s social media strategy, the Peacock Paddock – the first stop on the Kentucky Oaks Pink Carpet and the Kentucky Derby Red Carpet — will house will house a Vine 360 Booth, where celebrities can show off 360-degree views of their hats and outfits in a continuous loop, and a 55-inch touch screen monitor to showcase various social media trends, Kentucky Derby parties across the country, and fashion on-site and online.
In addition, a host of NBCUniversal properties will participate in the festivities, focusing on the food, fashion, celebrity, and entertainment spectacle that is the Kentucky Derby.