Though numbers fell short of last year's figures, NBC Sports said the television viewership for the May 7 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) reflects the race's status as a "premier" network television event.
This year's Derby, won by 50-1 shot Giacomo, attracted 16.1 million viewers, compared with 17 million in 2004 when Smarty Jones won. The complete Derby broadcast delivered a 7.3 national rating, down a tick from 7.4 last year, and 18 share, even with last year.
NBC officials said the average audience over the five years the network has broadcast the Derby is 16.5 million viewers, and the average national rating 7.3. NBC just signed a five-year contract to continue broadcasting the Derby and Preakness Stakes (gr. I), second leg of the Visa Triple Crown. After this year, the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) will move to ABC.
Last year's 7.4 rating tied the 1996 figure as the second-highest national rating since 1994. NBC's 8.1 rating in 2001 is the highest Derby rating since the 8.9 in 1992.
Before 2001, the previous five Derby broadcasts on ABC were watched by an average of 13.5 viewers.
"At a time when sports television audiences generally have been in decline, this increase over the past five years is stunning evidence of the uniqueness of the Kentucky Derby," NBC Sports president Ken Schanzer said. "The 16 million viewers for the Derby demonstrate its continued growth as a premier network television event."
The rating for this year's Derby broadcast peaked from 6-6:30 p.m. EDT with a 10.5 rating and 25 share. Pre-race coverage (4:58-5:44 p.m.) delivered a 5.0/13. The race segment (5:44-6:47 p.m.) drew a 9.0/22.
NBC's live coverage of the May 21 Preakness from Pimlico Race Course will begin at 5 p.m. EDT.