Louisville TV Stations To Rotate Thunder Coverage

By Eric Flack

(LOUISVILLE, January 31st, 2005) -- The future of Thunder Over Louisville looks bright tonight, with word of a new agreement between all four local television stations. The deal will put in place a system for broadcast rights. But it will also provide a fundraising tool that could return Thunder to its glory days. WAVE 3 Investigator Eric Flack has the story.

The only thing stealing some thunder from Thunder Over Louisville in recent years has been a lack of money.

At one time, the show had six corporate sponsors, but was down to three last year. That meant fewer fireworks, and no public sound system.

"We'd love to have all the bells and whistles the public was used to at one time," said Kentucky Derby Festival spokeswoman Stacey Yates, "especially the public sound system. We think that's an integral part of the show."
 
But Thunder could return to form this year, thanks to a new agreement between all four local television stations, to be announced next week.

As part of the deal, a fund raising event called "Thunder Funder" will get televised coverage by all four local stations.

The hope is that the publicity will lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, that will go directly to the show.

In return, WAVE TV will forgo the last two years of its exclusive broadcast rights package, in favor of rotating broadcast rights among all the stations.

"Would I like to have Thunder for the next three years totally exclusive, yeah that'd be my preference," said WAVE General Manager Steve Langford. "But putting on my community hat, which I did, I thought there was safety in numbers."
 
Langford sais, for business reasons, WHAS TV has opted not to be part of the broadcast rotation. But it will provide promotion and coverage for the fundraising drive.

"I am very proud of our local industry," Langford said. "We've done a good thing here."
 
The deal should erase memories the squabble that preceeded Thunder last year, over exclusive broadcast rights to the event.

"It's great to know we can all get along, and have a wonderful thunder without bickering and fighting," Louisville resident Brenda Stoney said. She thinks a donation to keep Thunder, thunderous, is money well spent.

"My son enjoys Thunder and I do too," Stoney said. "In order to make it big and better, sure I would, I would give."
 
The fundraising drive will be held sometime in March. Thunder is April 23rd -- less than three months away.

Online Reporter: Eric Flack

Online Producer: Michael Dever