“I was born in the horseracing industry,” declared Churchill Downs’ Jill Byrne. “That was my first love, and that got me into the broadcasting side of it, which in turn led me to Churchill Downs. I always wanted to be more than just a reporter and just an on-air personality.” Thus, on her way to the famed racetrack, Byrne was a TV reporter for sports-oriented TVG network, Fox Sports and NBC.
“I was always very much interested in the production side, which has led me to this great role, being a part of broadcasting the world’s greatest horserace,” she said. As Churchill Downs Director of Programming and Broadcasting, she’s also an on-air host and commentator (you can see her on YouTube). Her tasks include managing and programming the huge 4K racetrack board in-venue show, as well as the separate simulcast broadcast seen around the world.
“I’m also the contact and liaison for NBC for their Kentucky Derby broadcast and all the Derby week events,” she pointed out. “Coordinating with all the cameras and set is also part of the job. The network takes a lot of our camera feeds, so that has to be coordinated.” The simulcast channel is Churchill Downs’ own racing signal that goes out on satellite via Roberts Communications Network, whose truck is parked by the venue.