By Ray Paulick -- How big was Funny Cide's run for this year's Triple Crown? In terms of television ratings, no prime-time program received a higher number during the week of the Belmont Stakes than the final hour of NBC's 90-minute race telecast.
The 1 1/2-hour Belmont Stakes telecast on NBC produced an overnight rating of 10.4, the highest for any horse race since the 1990 Kentucky Derby and the highest for a Belmont since 1987, when ratings were introduced. The overnight rating for the race exceeded overnight ratings for other major sporting events over the weekend.
The national rating for the last 75 minutes of NBC's Preakness Stakes telecast May 17 was down 12% from last year's number of viewers.
Coverage of the May 17 Preakness Stakes on NBC from 5-6:45 p.m. (EDT) earned a 5.6 overnight rating and a 15 share, compared with a 6.5 overnight rating and 15 share in 2002.
Final TV ratings for last Saturday's telecast of the Kentucky Derby were down 10% from 2002 figures, following a trend of lower ratings for major sporting events in the second quarter of 2003.
Overnight ratings for NBC's coverage of major Triple Crown prep races Saturday, April 12, showed a slight increase in viewership over last year's numbers.
A three-year decline in television ratings for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships ended this year with the 19th running at Arlington Park Oct. 26.
New York Racing Association officials expected Belmont Stakes Day to be big, but what they got by the end of the day blew everyone away.
The final television ratings for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) fell one rating point from a year ago to 7.1 and captured 18% of the viewing audience.
Despite heavy competition from Tiger Woods and The Masters golf tournament, NBC's live coverage of the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes (gr. I) produced solid television ratings.
NBC, which enjoyed solid ratings in its inaugural year of covering racing's Triple Crown in 2001, partially due to cross-promoting the races with its NBA playoff games, will no longer be televising NBA games when its current contract runs out in the spring of 2002.
The five-hour Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship telecast on NBC earned a 1.7 rating and captured 4% of the viewing audience. They were the lowest ratings the championship has ever received.
The last of four programs in the NTRA Champions series on CBS earned an overnight rating of 1.1 and captured 3% of the viewing audience. The ratings equaled the combined numbers for last year's NTRA Champions on Fox series.
The NTRA Champions series is holding its own on CBS. The first three of four programs have earned a combined 1.1 rating and a 3% market share, which is identical to the combined ratings the series earned on Fox last year.
The final television rating for the NTRA Champions Series' second of four programs slid to 0.9 and earned a 3% market share. A direct comparison with last year' s series on Fox is not possible because schedules are too different, but the rating is lower than anything seen a year ago.
The first of four programs on the revamped NTRA Champions series started well with a final television rating of 1.4. The rating was an 8% improvement over best rating earned last year when the series was on Fox.
The final television ratings for the Belmont Stakes rose 61 percent to a 4.5 and 13 percent market share. The combined ratings for the Triple Crown rose 49 percent to a 6.1 rating and a 17 percent market share.
The revamped NTRA Champions Series got off to a good start June 10 with an overnight rating of 1.7 and attracted 4% of the viewing market. Last year's version of the series on Fox collectively earned earned a 1.1 rating and a 3% market share.
The NBC coverage of the 126th Preakness Stakes on Saturday delivered a 5.6 national rating/16 share from 5:00-6:39 p.m. EST.
The 5.6 rating represents an impressive 56 percent increase over last year's 3.6/10 on ABC and ties 1992 as the highest rated telecast since 1990 when it earned a 7.2/21. NBC's broadcast peaked from 6:00 - 6:30 p.m. with a 7.2/19.
NBC, which paid a reported $51.5 million to telecast the Triple Crown for five years and end a 26-year run for ABC, saw a 26% increase in the overnight ratings for Saturday's Kentucky Derby. In figures compiled by the A.C. Nielsen Co., the Derby garnered an 8.3 rating in 51 television markets nationwide and a 20% share. That's up from the 6.6 rating and 17 share the Derby received in 2000 on ABC.
ESPN's coverage of the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I), the Arkansas Derby (gr. II), and the Wood Memorial (gr. II) attracted slightly more than 435,000 viewers April 14.
Breeders' Cup lost ground in the battle to improve television ratings this year, and for the fifth consecutive year set a record low.
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