Skip Dickstein

Belmont Television Ratings Hit Rock Bottom

Lack of a Triple Crown possibility leads to lackluster TV ratings.

With no Triple Crown on the line and no Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands or Preakness Stakes (both gr. I) winner in the field, the June 5 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) may have boasted a full field and fine wagering opportunities, but it did not have the buzz to attract a substantial television audience.

ABC’s coverage of the last jewel of racing’s Triple Crown aired from 5:24-7:10 p.m. EDT and measured a national rating of 3.0 , down 32% from last year’s 4.4, when Calvin Borel was going for a personal Triple Crown and Derby winner Mine That Bird was in the field.

The rating indicates the number of viewers tuned in to the telecast, with each ratings point representing approximately 1.14 million viewers.

The 3.0 is believed to be the lowest rating ever for a Belmont Stakes telecast in the 50 years for which ratings are available. Previous lows were reached in 2007, when the rating hit 3.2, and in 2000 and 1996, when it registered a 3.1.

Neither Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver nor Preakness victor Lookin at Lucky ran in the Belmont, and while a full field participated, there was no standout horse for viewers or marketers to latch onto.

“It was a fine day of racing, and we’re sure fans at Belmont and watching on television enjoyed it,” said Mark Mandel, spokesman for ESPN and ABC.

ESPN provided coverage from Belmont Park earlier in the day.

This is the last year of a five-year contract under which the Kentucky Derby and Preakness were televised on NBC, and the Belmont by ESPN/ABC. Negotiations are under way on new TV deals for 2011, with each of the three Triple Crown entities acting as their own agents.