Breeders’ Cup Races Move to ESPN

NEW YORK ESPN has acquired the rights to televise the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships under an eight-year deal beginning in fall 2006.

This will be the first time the Breeders’ Cup races are not televised on NBC since the competition’s inception in 1983.

The Breeders’ Cup consists of eight races in various categories, with purses totaling $14 million. On NBC, the race day telecast airs for five hours. Under the new agreement, the coverage will expand to seven hours. Leading up to the big race day, ESPN and ABC Sports will air five two-hour telecasts from June to October, featuring major stakes races leading to the Breeders’ Cup.

The agreement also extends from 2008 to 2013 the Racing to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the World Thoroughbred Championship series currently featuring 30 telecasts and more than 40 hours of annual racing programming on ESPN and ESPN2.

The deal also includes high definition coverage rights, Spanish language coverage on ESPN Deportes, and for programming on ESPN Classic, ESPN International, and ESPN360, the recently launched broadband service, as well as on ESPN Mobile cell phone service that will be launched next year.

“The Breeders’ Cup agreement ushers in a new era for thoroughbred horse racing on ESPN, reflecting our increased commitment to the sport,” said Mark Shapiro, executive vp of programming and production at Bristol, Conn.-based ESPN.