By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
May 3, 2013
With profits up $15.3 million since 2008 and strong viewership across NBC’s networks attracting a wide swath of sponsors, the Kentucky Derby is certainly worth its weight in gold.
Over the past five years, Churchill Downs boosted its profits by following stick-and-ball sports stadiums down the well-trod turf of seat licenses. About 55% of Churchill Downs’ Derby Week profit comes from racetrack admission, including premium tickets, seat licenses costing as much as $75,000, and Derby infield fees. A $120 million facelift added revenue-intensive luxury suites and a new Mansion luxury seating area, comparable to Augusta National’s recently unveiled Berckman’s Place.
Churchill Downs’ ability to extract more money out of the Derby has helped lift its stock by 50%. While other racetracks have gone bankrupt, Churchill’s 2012 profit was more than double its 2008 results.
NBC alse looked forward to its annual thoroughbred Return on Investment. In 2012, 14.8 million viewers watched the Derby on NBC, the fourth straight year NBC’s viewership surpassed 14.5 million. The net anticipated it would once again meet or exceed those numbers this year.