On March 16, it was noted that NBC made an announcement that likely didn’t make too many waves (and was overshadowed entirely by the beginning of that event known as the NCAA Tournament, aka “March Madness”), however, it’s something that may see a big change with Horse Racing’s single biggest event as early as 2018:
For the first time ever, Saturday Night Live will actually be live throughout the US, including the west coast where it will be airing in prime time (as noted in an article in The Comeback at: http://thecomeback.com/pop-culture/saturday-night-live-will-actually-be-live-for-west-coast-for-last-four-episodes-of-season.html)
For this four-episode run this spring, I’m suspecting NBC has Stanley Cup Playoff games that will be airing all of the Saturdays noted in prime time (April 15, May 6, 13 and 20), which makes it easier for NBC to air SNL live on the west coast since it would be after such games conclude.
While that won’t affect the Kentucky Derby this year, officials at Churchill Downs and people involved in Horse Racing may not realize that should this prove to be successful (and if it is, NBC is planning to do this with ALL editions of Saturday Night Live next year, airing in the west at 8:30 PM Pacific Time), it could force a change that I think has been needing to happen anyway for other reasons, namely being able to get hundreds of millions of dollars in new handle from the Asia-Pacific region.
Local officials in Louisville have not been happy with the prospect of the Kentucky Derby eventually being run under the lights at Churchill Downs. While Churchill has had permanent lights installed since 2010 (which were needed for a variety of other reasons, mainly to allow workouts to start earlier in the morning during the spring and fall months when sunrise can be as late as 8:00 AM and to allow for a handful of night cards each year that in 2018 could include the Breeders’ Cup if NBC wants that to go to 11:00 PM Eastern Time), Saturday Night Live actually airing live in the entire country could be the push Comcast (parent company of NBC) needs to make Churchill Downs move the Kentucky Derby back a few hours so NBC can have their telecast run entirely in prime time from 8:00-11:00 PM Eastern Time, likely with the Derby itself going off around 10:15 PM Eastern Time to allow for post-race coverage to wrap up at 11:00 PM ET so NBC stations can air local news ahead of SNL that usually starts at 11:29 PM ET. Traditionalists and locals may not like the prospect of the Derby being run in prime time and with post time after 10:00 PM locally (and if so, the Oaks on Friday likely also moved to prime time in a telecast on NBC from 10:00-11:00 PM ET with Oaks post time that Friday at 10:35 PM ET), but the fact is, with SNL airing live everywhere, it gives Comcast/NBC, especially when there is a big telecast like the Derby (which in recent years would have been the top-rated show of the week it aired had it aired in prime time) to do a blockbuster SNL with even bigger stars hosting the show than have in recent years and NBC likely doing heavy cross-promotion of the Derby and Saturday Night Live that week, making for a potential of an even bigger crossover between the two events.
The prospect of bringing in the Asia-Pacific region may force this move anyway since if post time for the Derby were 10:15 PM Eastern Time, that would translate to it being Sunday at 10:15 AM in Hong Kong, 11:15 AM in Tokyo and 12:15 or 1:15 PM locally in Melbourne and Sydney. Foreign interests likely would force this move anyway, but the prospect of Comcast/NBC being able to make it a huge night with the Derby in prime time and Saturday Night Live airing live everywhere afterwards could be what moves the Derby to prime time.