Breeders' Cup TV Ratings Reaches New Low

Breeders' Cup lost ground in the battle to improve television ratings this year, and for the fifth consecutive year set a record low.

The championship received a final rating of 1.8, which was 5.3% lower than last year's rating of 1.9. The market share remained steady at 5% of viewing audience. An estimated 1,868,000 households tuned in to NBC Sports' 4 1/2-hour broadcast from Churchill Downs, which was 2.7% less than last year. One rating point is equal to 1.02 million households, according to Nielsen Sports Marketing Service.

The final ratings contained one bright spot. The final half-hour of the broadcast that featured the Classic (gr. I) earned a 2.5 rating, which was 4% higher than last year when the race earned a 2.4 rating. Again, the market share during the last half-hour was a steady 6%.
NBC spokeswoman Cameron Blanchard also said the network was pleased with the results.

"When you look at sports across the board that are facing double digit decreases -- whether it is the World Series or Olympics -- to be off only a tick is good," she said. Ratings on the World Series fell 24% this year and the Summer Olympics ratings dropped 36% below the ratings earned during the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Damon Thayer, director of marketing for Breeders' Cup, said he was encouraged by the increased interest during the Classic and by an increase in overnight ratings, which considers only the country's 49 largest media markets. The Breeders' Cup received a 2.6 overnight rating and a 6% market share compared with last year when the championship at Gulfstream Park earned a 2.5 overnight rating and captured 7% of the market.

"There is good news in these numbers," Thayer said. "The overnights show that in the most populated areas of the country, many that have racetracks, the interest in racing is good. We expected the rating to drop as the rural areas were factored in. There are things here we can take to potential sponsors."

The Breeders' Cup faced some stiff competition on other networks. From 1-3:30 p.m., the championship was up against college football on CBS, which earned a 3.3 rating and 9% market share, and the PGA Tour Championship on ABC that earned a 2.5 rating and 7% market share. From 3:30-5:30 p.m., the competition was all college football. Four regional football games on ABC earned a collective 4.9 rating and a 12% market share.