Stevens back in saddle, but still part of NBC team
No, jockey Gary Stevens won’t be wearing a helmet cam at today’s Kentucky Derby. But the veteran jockey will be wearing a microphone as he rides in the race for the first time in several years.
Stevens, who has been an analyst for NBC Sports Group’s horse racing coverage since 2006 after retiring at the end of 2005, will be riding Oxbow in the Derby.
NBC Sports’ coverage starts at 4 p.m., and will be seen in the Capital Region on NBC13 (WNYT) and NBC13 HD. NBC Sports Network and NBCSN HD will have the pre-Derby coverage starting at 11 a.m.
“I am very excited to be back in the saddle,” Stevens said during a Thursday conference call. “Very appreciative of the support that NBC Sports Group has given me.
“I just hope that I am going to be a little bit greedy here and hope to become a main storyline of the race. I hope that everybody has a great show and everybody enjoys and everybody gets around there safe.”
Rob Hyland, who is producing the Kentucky Derby coverage, is very thankful that Stevens will wear a mic for the race.
“He’s agreed to do anything and everything we’ve asked during Derby week, which is a hectic week for him as a jockey,” Hyland said. “And he will be doing an interview with us on Saturday. But, you know, he’s given us everything we’ve asked. But we are fully respecting the fact that he is trying to win the race. So he’s not going to do anything that would affect that goal.”
Stevens, who is racing in the Derby for the 19th time, has a newfound respect for racing after sitting in the booth the past few years.
“I’m looking at things a whole lot differently now than when I was active before,” Stevens said. “I’ve got a new appreciation for what I have, and what I have now and the opportunities that I’ve received.
“And I don’t feel a lot of pressure going into this Derby. And I’m very at ease with it. And as Rob said, I am still part of this team. And that’s why I’ve offered to do anything to make this show better.”
Bob Costas and Tom Hammond will co-host the Derby. They will be joined by analysts Randy Moss and Hall-of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, analysts/handicappers Mike Battaglia and Bob Neumeier, NBCSN host Laffit Pincay III, reporters Kenny Rice, Donna Brothers and Jay Privman and race caller Larry Collmus.
So much for the NHL lockout driving away viewers.
NBC Sports Group saw increases in viewership during the shortened 48-game season this year. NBC Sports averaged 1.5 million viewers, up 15 percent from 2011-12. NBC Sports Network averaged 392,000 viewers, up 18 percent from last year (332,000), and is the most-watched regular season on cable in 19 years. ESPN/ESPN2 averaged 474,000 viewers in 1993-94.
The Southeastern Conference and ESPN are combining forces to create the SEC Network.
On Thursday, the two sides signed a 20-year agreement through 2034. The SEC Network will debut in August 2014. AT&T U-verse will distribute the network when it launches. Don’t be surprised if Time Warner Cable adds the channel when it launches. It already has the Big Ten and Pac-12 networks.
The SEC network will televise approximately 45 SEC football games, more than 100 men’s basketball games, 60 women’s basketball games, 75 baseball games, and events from across the SEC’s 21 sports annually.
We’re getting closer to the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament.
There are several conference tournament championship games on TV this weekend. ESPNU has the America East championship today at 10 a.m. The game pits UAlbany against UMBC. That will be followed at noon by the Big East championship.
On Sunday, Time Warner Cable SportsChannel 50 and TWCS-1803 HD will have the MAAC final at 1 p.m. ESPNU as the Ivy League championship at 11 a.m.
The NCAA tournament selection show will be on ESPNU at 9 p.m. Sunday.
On the women’s side, CBS Sports Network will have the Patriot League final at 1 p.m. today.
TWCS-50 and TWCS-1803 HD will have the high school boys’ lacrosse game between Shenendehowa and Niskayuna at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. On Friday, it will have a high school baseball double-header from Joseph L. Bruno
Stadium. Game 1, a Suburban Council matchup between Guilderland and Bethlehem, starts at 4:30 p.m. The nightcap, a Big 10 game between CBA and Troy, will be at 7:30. . . .
ESPN will cover all 16 NCAA baseball tournament regionals May 31-June 3. It will mark the first time every first-round game of the event — up to seven games from each of the 16 locations for a total of a possible 112 matchups over four days — will be available to fans live on a national platform. ESPN provided coverage of six sites in 2012, four in 2011 and two the previous six years. . . .
FOX23 (WXXA) and FOX23 HD will have the Washington Nationals-Pittsburgh Pirates game today at 4 p.m. . . .
Game 7 of the NBA playoffs Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets will be on at 8 tonight on YES, YESHD, TNT and TNT HD.