One of horse racing’s biggest events is likely going to change networks, possibly as soon as next year.
According to Michael McCarthy at Front Office Sports, Fox is most likely going to be taking over the Belmont Stakes from NBC. As you’d probably expect for a horse racing rights deal in 2021, there’s also a key gambling component to the change, with Fox Bet taking over as a title sponsor of the event itself.
Fox is expected to quadruple combined rights fees and sponsorship spending for the Belmont to $12 million, sources told Front Office Sports.
Fox is promising an annual rights fee of $5 million vs. $3 million to renew with NBC, said sources. Sister company Fox Bet is then expected to spend an additional $7 million to title sponsor the oldest of the three Triple Crown races.
Formed in 2019, Fox Bet is a partnership between Fox Sports and Flutter Entertainment, the global gaming giant that owns FanDuel and PokerStars.
McCarthy notes that while the current deal isn’t set to expire until after 2022, there’s a chance NBC would just sell Fox the rights a year early and cut ties now, which is a fairly common thing for non-premium rights. The gambling aspect is also unsurprising; horse racing and gambling are inherently connected, and networks are always going to push for as much cross-platform synergy as possible. (I feel sick writing “cross-platform synergy” without a hint of irony.)
The Belmont doesn’t come with the same intrigue as the Kentucky Derby (the big one) or the Preakness (when a Triple Crown chance is always still alive heading in.) But in years where the same horse captures the first two legs, the Belmont suddenly becomes a crossover event (inasmuch as horse racing can become a crossover event anymore.) That doesn’t happen often, but considering the amount Fox is paying for the Belmont, it might be worth it to them for the years it happens.