Final TV Rating for Breeders' Cup Soars 18%

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.

Final television ratings for the $13 million, eight-race championships rose 18% to 2.0 and captured 5% of the viewing audience. The estimated number of households tuning in during NBC Sports' five-hour telecast rose 19% to 2.13 million, up from 1.79 million last year. The ratings peaked at 5:30 p.m. with 2.7 rating and 6% market share during coverage of the $4 million Classic.

"Obviously, we would like to see them higher, but it is headed in the right direction," said D.G. Van Clief Jr., president of Breeders' Cup.

The increase was a pleasant surprise to some who worried about the stiff competition Breeders' Cup faced from premier college football games. A nationally broadcast game between undefeated Notre Dame and Florida State aired from noon to 3:30 p.m. EDT on ABC, ending right before the Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT). The football game was immediately followed by a showdown between Ohio State and Penn State. Many Kentucky racing fans were pulled away by a game between Georgia and the University of Kentucky, which aired on CBS and dragged down Breeders' Cup television ratings in the Louisville market.

Van Clief said he was optimistic about the ratings being higher.

"There were plenty of indicators that the event was being well-received in the market place," he said. "Most importantly, the Racing to the World Thoroughbred Championships (television) series and the implementation of a ranking system seems to have created a greater comprehension of the event among fans."

This year's final rating was the highest since 1998 when the Breeders' Cup, which was held at Churchill Downs and the Classic (gr. I) was won by Awesome Again, earned a 2.2 and 6% market share for a 4 1/2-hour telecast.