NBC Sports Brings Production Team Back On Site, Launches Live Drone, Live JockeyCams


NBC Sports backstretch Bat Cam returns for the first time since 2019

Typically one of the largest annual productions on the live sports calendar, NBC’s Kentucky Derby broadcast last year had a significantly reduced footprint and was produced remotely due to the pandemic. This year, a sign that live sports production is returning to some normalcy, Peacock’s production and announcement teams are back on site at Churchill Downs, and they have plenty of new tech toys to play with.

“The big difference is that last year we produced the show from our [Sports Production Operations Center in] Stamford, Connecticut, ”says Rob Hyland, Coordinating Producer, Horse Racing Coverage, NBC Sports. “This year we are back in Louisville and we are very happy to be back.

For the first time, a live drone and two live RF JockeyCam systems will be deployed in Derby coverage. Additionally, NBC Sports’ Bat Cam Backstretch returns for the first time since 2019, offering a perspective 15 to 18 feet above the track and moving up to 80 mph.

NBC’s production team returns to Churchill Downs

NEP ND1 mobile units A, B, C and D are available for NBC’s Derby production.

Last year’s Kentucky Derby late show was produced from NEP EN1 mobile units parked at the Stamford loading dock (and used NBC Sports’ NEWBERT remote flypack to bring the streams back), and almost all of the on-air talent was located in Stamford. On Saturday, the Hyland production team and the 200-plus team will return to Louisville, operating NEP ND1 A, B, C and D mobile production units, and more than a dozen advertisers are attending Churchill Downs.

Hyland, who has been part of the broadcaster’s horse racing coverage since his first Derby in 2001, joins director Drew Esocoff to the front bench inside unit A of ND1. Coverage on NBCSN today and earlier Saturday will be provided by producer Billy Matthews and director Kaare Numme.

“Twenty years ago I was in NBC’s first Kentucky Derby,” says Hyland. “It was a show of about two hours, with a small team of journalists, some elements of reporting, and it was the preparation for the big race. This year, we have over a dozen advertisers, a production team of over 200 people and around 15 hours of coverage.

Over 50 cameras in the park range from robots to airships

Producer Rob Hyland expects NBC’s new drone to deliver unique new views of the iconic Twin Spiers of Churchill Downs.

NBC has scattered over 50 cameras in and around Churchill Downs this year, including 12 wireless RF systems, six slo-mos, two robots, an airship, a two-point Bat Cam aerial system, two live RF JockeyCams and a live drone.

According to Hyland, the concept of using a drone first surfaced after the 2019 Derby, and NBC explored the use of a drone for the 2020 race before the pandemic overturned those plans. This year, with the Derby in full swing, NBC has chosen to introduce the drone into its production.

Supplied by Beverly Hills Aerials, the drone system was fitted with a Canon CJ20ex5B 4K broadcast zoom lens. The Hyland team conducted rehearsals with the provider on Wednesday and Thursday to establish a comfort level on its use on the show.

NBC has deployed over 50 cameras at Churchill Downs this year for the Derby.

While Hyland says the exact plan for the drone is still being worked out, he envisions it covering the front stretch in the same way the Bat Cam covers the back stretch. He hopes to get at least one infield drone shot for each race.

“We can use [the drone] and take you to places we didn’t have before with our traditional cameras, ”says Hyland. “Specifically, wrap around the twin arrows, go between the twin arrows to the paddock, from the paddock to the front, around the track, to the drop off where the kilometer drop is – where it is difficult to get cameras, a very narrow area. We think this camera perspective will be a great – call it a magic carpet – for the Derby viewer during five hours of our show.

NBC worked closely with Churchill Downs to ensure the drone did not interfere with racing and pose a danger to customers on the track.

Although the Live JockeyCam has been used often in Europe, this is the first time it will be used on an NBC Sports Kentucky Derby production.

“We were worried about this with Bat Cam years ago, but the horses never noticed it in a race,” says Hyland. “Churchill Downs has been great working with us, and the supplier has been great. Our number one priority is safety.

Another novelty for this year’s production is a pair of RF systems supplied by UK-based JockeyCam mounted on board jockey helmets. NBC used JockeyCam for the Breeders Cup World Championships, but this is the first time the system will feature race action in the Derby.

“We think this will be a really cool rerun for turf races and gravel races,” said Hyland. “[It’s] an effort to bring viewers closer to the action and give them a feel for the speed and decision-making that goes into each race and how fast.

Kornacki and SMT Extend Data-Centric Conversation in Derby Broadcast

SMT is once again providing data feed for NBC’s Derby coverage, which will be used by handicapper / reporter Eddie Olczyk (pictured) and Derby newcomer Steve Kornacki.

SMT once again provides a wealth of race and betting data, helps drive graphics for NBC broadcast, and provides the interface for the interactive touch screens used by handicapper / journalist Eddie Olczyk and newcomer Derby Steve kornacki.

After capturing the cultural zeitgeist as a data-driven political analyst for NBC News on coverage of the 2020 presidential election, Kornacki joins this year’s Derby broadcast team to bring a focused angle on horse racing data. He previously provided election-style ‘big advice’ for NBC Football night in America during the NFL playoff race and for his “Triplecast” coverage of the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes and Santa Anita Derby this month.

“Steve will be integrated throughout the show with the trends and what history says about the Kentucky Derby as we take a look at the field,” said Hyland. “Steve will have more of a holistic view of Derby trends, of what history tells us, of where the money is going. “

Although Churchill Downs is not at full capacity, up to 48,000 spectators are expected to pass through the gates on race day.

NBC will work closely with SMT to take snapshots of money movements throughout the day – something new on NBC’s Derby show.

“[Kornacki] will have a lot of data, “Hyland notes,” and it will have a big table. It will look a lot like his presentation on NBC News or MSNBC. Steve will be able to follow the money that comes in to one of the individual horses in the race on the night of the Derby, and we can take snapshots of that and explain it to the public.

Coverage of 147 by NBC Sports Groupe The Kentucky Derby begins today on NBCSN with coverage of the Kentucky Oaks and continues with Saturday’s Derby coverage at noon ET on NBCSN, followed by NBC airing starting at 2:30 p.m.


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