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NBC wraps up Preakness, Triple Crown through 2015

The NBC Sports Group will broadcast the Preakness this spring, as well as the other two legs of the Triple Crown.

This marks the first time that all three races will be on one network since NBC aired them in 2005. The agreement, announced Tuesday, gives NBC exclusive rights to the Preakness and Belmont through 2015.

The company previously announced a renewed deal with Churchill Downs Inc. to cover the Kentucky Derby. The Belmont had been on ABC since 2006.

NBC will also include coverage of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and other Preakness-day related programming on cable channel Versus, owned by NBC Sports Group. Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed.

“We are pleased to renew our broadcast partnership with NBC Sports,” said Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, in a statement. “Our relationship with NBC allows us the opportunity to reach more than just sports fans.”

NBC began broadcasting the Preakness 10 years ago, after ABC televised the event from 1994 to 2001.

The Preakness-Belmont deal includes more than 25 hours of race programming split between NBC and Versus.

Versus will also carry the Kentucky Oaks, the filly version of the Kentucky Derby.

NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said in a statement that the network is uniquely positioned to expand the reach of the racing industry’s three biggest attractions.

“Everyone at NBC Sports Group is delighted that the Triple Crown has been reassembled,” Ebersol said.

A spokesman for NBC Universal declined to comment further on the deal.

Viewership of the Preakness has risen since NBC took over rights to the event.

The network bettered ABC’s 2000 Preakness rating by 56 percent in its first year with a 6.4 national rating according to figures released by NBC Sports and the Maryland Jockey Club.

A single national ratings point represents 1 percent of the total number of television households.

Last year, Lookin At Lucky’s win created a 5.3 national rating and drew 8.4 million viewers.

The most viewers tuned in for the 2004 win by Smarty Jones. More than 11.6 million viewers watched that Preakness and created a 7.7 rating that year. NBC ratings and viewership jumped to its second-highest numbers when Rachel Alexandra was the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness in 2009.

In the 10 years that NBC has televised the Preakness, the average rating has been 6.9.

This year’s 136th running of the Preakness will be May 21 at Pimlico Race Course.