Race Portion of Belmont Telecast Tops Weekly Ratings

NBC's telecast of the June 7 Belmont Stakes finished in the top five among the 122 primetime network programs for the week of June 2-8 and the race portion of the telecast rated as the No. 1 show on network television.

Saturday's Belmont, which Empire Maker won to deny Funny Cide the Triple Crown, produced a 9.5 national rating and a 23 share for the 5:30-7:02 p.m. ET telecast. It is the highest rated Belmont Stakes since 1981, when Pleasant Colony's failed Triple Crown bid delivered a 12.6/36 on CBS. The figures were released today by Nielsen Media Research.

The 10.7/25 for the Belmont race segment (6-7:02 p.m. ET) ranked first among the 122 primetime network programs for the week of June 2-8. The overall telecast rating of 9.5/23 (5:30-7:02 p.m. ET) ranked fourth among all primetime programs for the week, trailing only CBS' "Everybody Loves Raymond" (10.1/16), CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (9.8/17) and the ABC News Special featuring Barbara Walters' interview with Hillary Clinton (9.6/18).

NBC Sports Research estimates that 24 million viewers tuned in - an increase of 33% over last year's audience of 18 million.

"This rating underscores the continuing re-emergence of horse racing in general and the Visa Triple Crown in particular," said Ken Schanzer, president of NBC Sports. "What's most encouraging is that the star of this year's drama, Funny Cide, is likely to be a star in racing for years to come. The unbelievable saga of Funny Cide brought all kinds of new fans to horse racing, which bodes well for the future."

The national rating was up 25% jump from last year's 7.6/21 (5-6:45 p.m.) national for War Emblem's failed Visa Triple Crown try.

Saturday's telecast peaked from 6:30-7 p.m. ET with an 11.6/27 national rating. The pre-race segment (5:30-6 p.m.) delivered a 7.0/18 national -- up 27% from the 5.5/16 for last year's 5-5:30 p.m. ET pre-race.

The race-segment (6-7:02 p.m. ET) produced a 10.7/25 - up 27% from last year's 8.4/22 for the 5:30-6:45 p.m. ET race segment.

Overall, NBC's coverage of the 2003 Visa Triple Crown earned a 6.8/18 combined national rating for exclusive broadcasts of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. The 6.8/18 matches last year's number (for War Emblem's Visa Triple Crown attempt) as the series' best combined rating since 1990, when Unbridled's unsuccessful bid generated a 7.5/21 on ABC.