Derby TV ratings down

Published 3:04 am Wednesday, May 11, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) — There were high hopes that the popularity of horse racing would be energized a year after American Pharoah won the Triple Crown.

NBC’s ratings for televising the Kentucky Derby indicate it hasn’t happened yet.

The audience for Nyquist’s Derby victory Saturday dropped 3.1 percent from last year, when American Pharoah won the Derby to begin his Triple Crown run.

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NBC announced Tuesday that the Derby averaged 15.5 million viewers with a 9.0 rating and 21 share. American Pharoah’s Derby drew an average of 16 million viewers and a 9.6/23, which was a 2 percent increase over California Chrome’s 2014 Derby win.

The drop of a half-million viewers doesn’t bother NBC.

“The Derby has broad appeal as illustrated by an average viewership of more than 15 million for the sixth time in eight years,” NBC said in a statement.

The president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association was encouraged with the numbers, adding that a variety of digital and social media performed well.

“Engagement by fans with this year’s Kentucky Derby through an array of digital and social media platforms reached an all-time high and television viewership remained exceptionally strong,” the NTRA’s Alex Waldrop said in a statement. “Few major sporting events in the United States draw a larger TV audience than the Kentucky Derby.”

A year ago, there seemed to be much more pre-Derby hype surrounding American Pharoah, a dominating force in winning his Derby prep races for talkative owner Ahmed Zayat and trainer Bob Baffert. Nyquist won all of his races in workmanlike fashion for low-key owner J. Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill. There was not much buzz in the weeks leading up to the Derby even though Nyquist was the only unbeaten horse in the field.

Nyquist, who is named for hockey player Gustav Nyquist, may have helped NBC’s ratings rise for Game 5 of the Penguins-Capitals NHL playoff game immediately after the Derby. It ranked as the second most-watched non-Stanley Cup Final game in at least 23 years, averaging 4.2 million viewers.

“This year’s show provided an excellent lead-in for our Stanley Cup playoff coverage, which had near-record viewership,” NBC said. “Last year the Derby was the most-watched show on all TV in May, and may well be again.”

The Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown, is May 21 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

Ratings represent the percentage of U.S. homes with televisions tuned to a program. Shares measure the percentage in use at the time.