With Triple Crown on the Line, NBC Is Set for Its ‘Biggest’ Belmont Ever

So here we are again. California Chrome is the latest horse to flirt with immortality, and NBC Sports Group’s production and engineering team is pulling out all the stops to provide unprecedented coverage of the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes.

BelmontNBCNBC has slated a whopping 16 hours of Belmont Stakes programming, including live coverage from Belmont Park in New York beginning Friday night at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and culminating in prerace coverage Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on NBC.

“This is the biggest Belmont production that NBC has produced in terms of broadcast schedule, the technical facilities, and our field announcers,” says Coordinating Producer Rob Hyland. “We’re all excited to be a part of this event, and, perhaps, just before 7:00 Eastern, we will be a part of the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.”

NEP Broadcasting’s ND3 production unit is onsite to complete its third leg of the Triple Crown and is supporting a production that promises upwards of 45 cameras, including 10 handhelds, three super-slo-mos, and a FOR-A FT-ONE 4K device. NBC will also produce the event in 5.1 surround audio.

NBC Sports Group has been down this road before. Four times before, to be exact.

I’ll Have Another (2012), Smarty Jones (2004), Funny Cide (2003), and War Emblem (2002) were all poised to give thoroughbred racing its first Triple Crown winner since the Carter Administration. All four — for various reasons — fell short.

Naturally, when California Chrome locked up his Preakness win nearly three weeks ago, NBC set the wheels in motion to boost its Belmont production.

“[Director Drew] Esocoff and I took a walk … the Monday after the Preakness,” says Hyland, who has worked with the Sunday Night Football director on the Triple Crown for more than a decade. “What do we want to enhance or supplement our coverage? We ended up adding about six or seven cameras. But, again, our philosophy for how we cover a Triple Crown race will not change from what you saw at the Preakness or the Derby. We’ve added, essentially, some nice bells and whistles to hopefully enhance the viewers’ experience. But the way we document the race will still, essentially, be the same.”

The 4K camera will be used with the Evertz Dreamcatcher as part of a 4K replay and zoom system that the network has used for the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness already. SMT real-time graphics will again fill the screen and keep viewers informed via its Live Leaderboard System as the horses round the mile-and-a-half–long track. Also included in SMT’s graphics offerings are the ISO Track System (point and track two specific horses), Autograph Ticker (real-time odds updates), and SMART System (charting distance to finish).

On the digital front, NBC has some special goodies lined up for those streaming the race live on NBC Sports Live Extra. An online-only isolation camera on Triple Crown contender California Chrome will stream during the race. There will also be exclusive analysis by NBC Sports commentators in the days leading up to the race, plus post-race, online commentary by NBC commentators.

Social media will play a role in the telecast as well. Viewers will be encouraged to join the conversation at #TripleCrown, and Hyland and Esocoff will work tweets from celebrities, horseracing experts, and more into the on-screen presentation.

“There’s so much out there, and, if it makes sense as an element within the show, we include it,” says Hyland. “But there are a lot of different platforms where we can display social media with our Website. It is such a big part of our broadcast. So we’re constantly monitoring how we can incorporate the relevant information.”

Online, NBC will implement its All-Access social-media strategy, where fans can access content from the Belmont at a “social center” housed on NBCSports.com/Belmont. Belmont All-Access aggregates what’s trending around the race. On Facebook, viewers can vote in various polls that will be shared throughout the broadcast.

Prerace coverage on NBCSN is produced by Billy Matthews and directed by Patrick McManus. The executive producer of NBC Sports and NBCSN is Sam Flood, who has produced 11 Triple Crown races for the network.