'Access' preps special Derby coverage


NEW YORK -- "Access Hollywood" will become "Access Louisville" for a short time with a half-hour expansion of NBC Sports' Kentucky Derby coverage May 3.

The Derby coverage will span 2 1/2 hours for the first time in NBC's history, beginning at 4 p.m. EDT with a special "Access at the Derby" hosted by Billy Bush. Bush and NBC's racing team will do a special red-carpet treatment for the Derby. Stars will be interviewed by Bush at Churchill Downs.

"The Derby attracts celebrities unlike a lot of other sporting events," NBC Sports president Ken Schanzer said. "It provides us with an opportunity to extend the coverage and bring that element of celebrity to the viewers."

A previous half-hour of coverage devoted to celebrities last year drew an average of 4.3 million people tuning in, Schanzer said.

Schanzer added that in the seven years since NBC began Derby coverage, there have been a lot of celebrities attending.

"I've stood in the row behind a former president of the United States, the current president of the United States and the queen of England," he said.

At 5 p.m. EDT, the race coverage begins with Tom Hammond, Bob Costas and Gary Stevens, among others. The network has seen a 23% increase in ratings during its seven years (compared with the previous seven years). Last year's 11.5 million viewers was the best in six years.