Horses

Opportunities to see WEG on TV plentiful

Preparation for the Sept. 25 opening of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games continued Tuesday at the Kentucky Horse Park. A crew with Proteus On-Demand of Austell, Ga., was building an octagonal structure at the Alltech Experience pavilion in the front entrance parking lot.
Preparation for the Sept. 25 opening of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games continued Tuesday at the Kentucky Horse Park. A crew with Proteus On-Demand of Austell, Ga., was building an octagonal structure at the Alltech Experience pavilion in the front entrance parking lot.

If you're content to skip the Kentucky Horse Park this fall in favor of watching the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games from your couch or Barcalounger, you're in luck. The Games' organizers have secured a television home for the event's many competitions on NBC Sports and cable network Universal Sports.

Those outlets, along with major coverage planned by Lexington stations, means you'll get your equine fix wherever you might be during the Games.

"It's the largest investment of time that equine sports has ever gotten in the U.S.," said Terry Johnson, vice president of sales and marketing for the Games' organizers.

The centerpiece of the Games' television coverage will be 61/2 hours on NBC Sports spread over the three Sundays during the competitions. The coverage will include a live presentation of events, including the closing ceremonies.

The organizers have paid NBC Sports for the time, Johnson said, declining to state how much it cost. The Games get all of the network's commercial time to sell to advertisers, though affiliates still retain some time, and have included it in sponsorship packages.

The only presence the Games, which have always been held in Europe until this year, have had on U.S. network television until now was a 90-minute special about the 2006 Games in Aachen, Germany, that the organizers paid to have on NBC Sports after the events concluded.

Johnson said the network was willing to take a chance on airing dramatically more coverage of the Games because it has seen good ratings for its highlights from the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.

In fact, the organizers have hired Carr-Hughes Productions, which films Rolex, for the Games, because NBC does not do the production itself.

Johnson said the time on NBC has been crucial to securing sponsorships.

"When I'm able to say we're going to have 61/2 hours of coverage on NBC Sports, everybody understands what that means," he said.

The Games also will have a cable home on the Olympic sports channel Universal Sports, which will air 30 hours. The channel is not widely available in Central Kentucky, but Johnson said organizers are working with area cable-TV providers to arrange for temporary carriage.

Of the 30 hours, 15 will be live and 15 delayed, Johnson said, and the organizers are splitting the commercial time with the cable network.

As in years past, the greatest amount of coverage, though, will be available internationally. Johnson said the details on how many European, Middle Eastern and other foreign networks will be airing the Games remains to be determined, but he noted that there were about 320 hours of coverage in 2006.

The Games' organizers don't see any money or commercial time from that coverage, though, as that is all handled by the FEI, Johnson said. Advertising signage at the Horse Park, however, will be prominently visible during the coverage.

Johnson said the goal is to also have the entire Games available for viewing online, but that plan is still being worked out.

Locally, the Games are also expected to have a prominent home on several affiliates across the state. The organizers are working on creating a statewide network, but the deal has not been finalized.

"Most of us working on the event here are Kentuckians, and we want this event to be seen around the state and region not just as a Lexington event but also a Kentucky event," Johnson said. "There is a piece or two of the event that we would like to deliver live to the state, and we're working on the ways to do that."

Lexington's television stations are also planning major coverage of the Games.

NBC affiliate WLEX (Channel 18), which has a partnership with the organizers, plans to do its newscasts live from the Horse Park on the Games' opening day and the day before, said News Director Bruce Carter.

"We're going to be covering a lot of stuff out there, but the most important thing we'll be covering is everyone from our area out there to see it all," he said. "That's the excitement of it."

While local stations can air interviews with attendees, they are restricted from airing the competitions. The stations can air only less than a minute of competition highlights per show and can get that footage only from the Games' production team.

But as the other stations have noted, they've always planned for their coverage to be about much more than the competitions.

CBS affiliate WKYT (Channel 27) is sponsoring the Spotlight Lexington Festival downtown, just as ABC affiliate WTVQ (Channel 36) is sponsoring the International Equestrian Festival at Lexington Center.

"While the actual events are important and we'll have coverage of that, in so many people's minds, WEG is going to be much more than just the Games themselves," said WKYT News Director Robert Thomas. "There are going to be so many people at the Horse Park and at Spotlight Lexington downtown that the actual events will be part of the story, not the whole story."

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