The Zenyatta vacuum is still being felt a year later in the television ratings for the just-completed Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which were shown on a combination of ESPN2, ABC, and ESPN Nov. 4-5 from Churchill Downs in Louisville.
Overnight ratings, which measure the top U.S. markets, reflected downturns in viewer interest as neither Havre de Grace nor Uncle Mo captured the imagination of the public as the then-undefeated Zenyatta did in 2010.
For the portion of the Nov. 5 program shown on ABC from 2-3:30 p.m. ET, the Breeders’ Cup telecast earned a 1.2 rating and a 3 share, both down from 1.7/4 a year ago. The share measures the percentage of TVs in use that were tuned to the program.
When ESPN took over the coverage Nov. 5 at 3:30 this year, the rating inched down to 1.1 for the remainder of the telecast. The corresponding segment last year registered a 2.4. The results for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) were even starker, as Zenyatta earned a 3.1 rating a year ago for her battle with Blame, while this year’s Classic managed barely one-third of that at 1.2.
The advent of running the final Friday race under the lights at Churchill has not proven fertile in attracting viewers. The entire Nov. 4 telecast, which crested with the Ladies’ Classic at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, drew a .3 rating, down a tick from .4 a year ago.
Zenyatta’s appearance created the highest Saturday ratings for the Breeders’ Cup in at least the past decade. Since ESPN/ABC took over the Breeders’ Cup telecast in 2006, the highest ratings for a Saturday other than Zenyatta’s 2.4 was the 1.2 drawn in 2008. In 2009, 2007, and 2006, the ratings were all less than one ratings point.
From 2001-2005, NBC televised the event to better success, garnering a 1.7 in 2005, 1.9 in 2004, 2.2 in both 2003 and 2002, and 2.1 in 2001 for its Saturday programs.