NBC Sports attracted 11.5 million viewers to its May 5 coverage of the 133rd Kentucky Derby, according to national ratings released Thursday by Nielsen Media Research. That number marked an 8% increase over 2006, and represented the highest viewership total since 2001, according to the network.

NBC's total program rating over the course of its 5-6:42 p.m. ET show was a 7.5, with an 18 share, a 7% jump from last year's 7.0/18. NBC's pre-race coverage averaged 8.4 million viewers, up 9% from 2006's 7.7 million, and drew a 5.7/15, up 10%. Each ratings point in national figures represents 1.14 million viewers, while the share represents the percentage of televisions in use that were tuned to the program.

Over the past seven years, since NBC took over the Derby telecast from ABC, the Peacock Network has averaged 10.9 million viewers, up 20% over the prior seven years, when ABC averaged 9.1 million viewers, according to NBC figures.

As previously reported, the race portion of the Derby telecast (5:41-6:42 p.m. ET) averaged 13.8 million viewers, a rise of 7% from 2006 (12.9 million).

Fans apparently switched off their televisions before "Barbaro: A Nation's Horse," a documentary about last year's Derby winner, hit the airwaves at 8 p.m. ET and PT. The one-hour  program on NBC earned just a 2.3 national rating and a 5 share.

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