Final U.S. national household television ratings confirmed a severe dip in the number of Americans tuned to the Breeders' Cup World Championships this year. The almost- six-hour program televised by ESPN Nov. 4 from Chuchill Downs registered a national rating of .7, down 53% from the 1.5 rating garnered by NBC a year ago. Both figures represented all-time lows in the 23-year history of Breeders' Cup telecasts.
Each ratings point equals approximately 1.1-million households, meaning this year's event was seen in about 990,000 households. ESPN is available in 20 million fewer households than networks such as NBC, CBS, and ABC.
Leading markets for the Breeders' Cup telecast included Louisville (3.14 metered market average), Phoenix (2.15), Las Vegas (1.96), Seattle (1.87), Jacksonville (1.72), West Palm Beach (1.71), Albuquerque (1.67), Cincinnati (1.64), Birmingham (1.62), and Greensboro (1.54).
Moving to a cable network for the first time, the Breeders' Cup figured to have a falloff in viewership, although officials had hoped it was not so steep. ESPN did report a major increase in page views of its horse racing content on ESPN.com, which also offered coverage of the Breeders' Cup.
Network spokesmen said ESPN was concentrating on reaching new, younger consumers of the sport on platforms such as its internet sites and mobile phones.
John Skipper, ESPN executive vice president, content said, "We are off to a very successful start in the first year of our partnership with the Breeders' Cup. Our multi-media coverage allowed racing fans to follow all the Breeders' Cup racing on numerous ESPN platforms. We gratified with the results and look forward to a many more years working with our Breeders' cup partners."
Greg Avioli, president, Breeders' Cup, Ltd. said, "We could not be more pleased with the first year of our long-term partnership with ESPN. We reached a broader, far younger audience than we have reached in the past, the promotion during the run-up to the event was unparalleled and we exposed millions of sports fans to the Breeders' Cup brand."
The Breeders' Cup on ESPN competed with regional college football coverage and golf on ABC; the LSU-Tennessee college football game on CBS; and the North Carolina-Notre Dame college football tilt on NBC. All rated significantly higher than the Breeders' Cup.