NBC Sports' debut broadcast of the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) attracted 40 percent more viewers than a year ago.
The national rating for the 5 p.m. to 6:42 p.m. program earned an 8.1 rating and captured 21 percent of viewers compared with last year when the Derby earned a 5.8 rating and a 17 percent market share. The rating is the highest since 1992 when the Derby earned a national rating of 8.9 and a 26 percent market share. Each rating point currently represents slightly more than one million households.
Viewer interest peaked between 6-6:30 p.m. when the race was run. The national rating for this time slot reached 11 and 28 percent of households with the television turned on were tuned in.
The higher ratings have been attributed to a later post time, better pre-race promotion by the network, and no head-to-head competition with the NBA playoffs, which are also aired on NBC. This year's Derby marked the beginning of a five-year, $51.5 million contract NBC has to telecast the Triple Crown. ABC Sports carried the Kentucky Derby for the previous 26 years and the Triple Crown for last 15 years.
Scheduling the Derby before Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference semifinal between San Antonio and Dallas gave a boost to both programs. The NBA game drew a 4.4 national rating, which was 26% better than last year's Game 1 between Philadelphia and Indiana. Last year, the playoffs competed with the Derby.