NBC Sports’ Rob Hyland has seen just about everything: the Super Bowls, the World Series, the Olympics, and more. But in the quarter-century he’s been with the network, the date — the moment — that stands out the most for him is June 6, 2015. That’s when American Pharoah crossed the line. finish line to win not only the Belmont Stakes, but the first Triple Crown in 37 years.
“Just the roar of the crowd, the scene inside the control room, you know, just the excitement but still sort of looking at the deliberate plan that we had in place and how it was executed said Hyland, who last month was named coordinating producer of “Sunday Night Football” in addition to being NBC’s Olympics primetime producer. “It all really came together.
“When the horse crossed the finish line, there was not a word after Larry Collmus ended his call by saying “He’s finally the one‘ for about 45 seconds. And it was really up to our production team led by our director Drew Esocoff to capture the scene, our audio technician Wendel Stevens to capture the sounds, and really, I felt like we were giving the viewer at home a chance to feel like they were there that day.”
However, the June 11 broadcast of the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1) will be the last time the network will give viewers the chance to be on the New York track for the foreseeable future. NBC, which originally aired the race in 2001 before losing the rights in 2005 and then re-airing it in 2011, will hand over to Fox Sports next year.
NBC still has the rights to broadcast the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), Preakness Stakes (G1) and Breeders’ Cup through 2025. The network’s coverage on Saturday will include on-air and in-studio talent in line with past Belmont Stakes.
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Hyland, who supervised the production NBC’s horse racing presentations for many years, ending with last year’s Kentucky Derby, led 10 editions of the Belmont Stakes.
So many names go to Hyland. Smarty Jones, War Emblem, Funny Cide, California Chrome, to name a few. While some of the stories were about heartbreak, it was the chance to tell those stories to millions of viewers that matter.
“I couldn’t be more proud of how we documented all of the Belmont Stakes,” Hyland said. “And I’ll come away with great, amazing memories of that game.”
From a production perspective, technology changes regularly. During his tenure as head of production at Belmont, Hyland pointed to several things that stood out for him that drove quality forward.
The first is a rail cam system on the rear section. It’s a two-point cable cam system that was rigged 30 feet in the air and used for Triple Crown sweeps in 2015 and 2018 (Justify).
“It’s such a long run, you know, having a beautifully composed, unobstructed shot for that whole back stretch was a great addition,” Hyland said.
The other was a GPS tracking pointer that showed the audience where specific horses were. This is in addition to the rider’s helmet camera, which provided an intimate image of the jockey and horse immediately after the race.
Fox takes over next year with the start of an eight-year contract.
“I love horse racing. I want the sport to flourish,” Hyland said. “So from a professional sense of muscle memory, yes, being home on Saturday may be unique or a new sensation, but I just hope everything goes well for Fox in his new venture.”