Kentucky Derby is the winner for NBC; ABC sets American F1 record; Warriors still a big draw: sports on TV

The Kentucky Derby got something of their own old TV mojo now that he has returned to his traditional date of the first Saturday in May with the crowded Churchill Downs.

That the 80-1 shot came out in the last moments – a little-known jockey who brilliantly manages an unannounced replacement horse at 11 a.m. through a sea of ​​roaring horse muscles thanks to equipment no one knew Rich Strike owned it – it didn’t hurt. It was a sporting moment for centuries.

This year’s race averaged 16 million linear TV and streaming viewers on NBC, the network reported, and viewership peaked at 19 million between 19-19: 15 ET – a window to Rich Strike’s incredible win. That was at its peak of 18.5 million for the 2019 Derby, when Maximum Security was disqualified minutes after the race due to interference with other horses.

The average viewership on television alone on Saturday was 15.8 million, which this year’s Derby corresponds to the average before the pandemic. NBC’s pre-race coverage began at 2 p.m., and viewership increased as the race approached – reaching 3.27 million at 3 p.m., rising to 4.16 million at 4 p.m., and then 5.06 million half an hour later.

2022 Kentucky Derby top local markets

Market Rating / share


28.5 / 63

Ft. Myers

18.7 / 41


16.2 / 45

West Palm Beach

14.3 / 36


11.5 / 29


11.5 / 33


11.2 / 26


10.9 / 28


10.7 / 27


10.7 / 28

(Note: metrics only for part of the race. The score measures how many households in the local market or nationally watched the show. The share is how many TVs used at a given time are tuned to that program. Both are expressed as percentages. So for of all TV households in Louisville, nearly 29 percent were involved in Derby, while 63 percent were television in use watched during the race.)

In 2020, the race was launched on the weekend for Labor Day without attendance due to COVID-19, and viewership dropped to a record low of 9.3 million. It was held in May last year, although it had a limited number of spectators, and had an average of 14.5 million spectators. Occasional viewers are an important part of live sports events on TV, and when they are off schedule, networks lose millions of eyes.

From 2011 to 2019, Derby watched an average of 15.6 million TV viewers. That doesn’t include looking outside the house that Nielsen didn’t formally measure by 2020, so the real average is probably slightly higher. Legalized sports gambling, which has grown from state to state in recent years, is likely to increase viewership.

Much of the Kentucky Derby audience doesn’t reflect on what happens during the two minutes of the actual race. It is driven by a mixture of tradition and story accumulation (and all of Charles Bukowski’s types with their betting apps). Entering Sunday’s 148th race, the story wasn’t really horses but a drama of recent years, including the rare Triple Crown winners of 2015 and 2018, but also scandal and disqualification.

Will Rich Strike’s victory shine at its peak at Preakness, the next part of Triple Crown, later this month? We’ll see. If he wins, Belmont Stakes in June will almost certainly enjoy increased viewership and perhaps a sharp increase in attendance.

Saturday’s official personal arrival at Churchill Downs ’media offices was 147,294. Attendance peaked at just over 170,000 in 2015 and steadily declined to 150,000 in 2019, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Gamblers have invested a record $ 168.8 million in the Derby, according to the Daily Racing Form, up 9.9 percent from last year’s limited-visitor race and nearly 6 percent from the 2019 record.

Kentucky Oaks, the famous race of three-year-old thoroughbred foals taking place on Friday, had an average of 244,000 spectators at 1pm on the NBC-owned USA Network. In 2019, when it aired on the now-defunct NBCSN, it had an average of 286,000 viewers, and in 2018 an average of 363,000.

NBC broadcasts the Kentucky Derby under a 10-year media rights deal that runs through 2025 races. The previous contract was reportedly worth an average of about $ 9 million a year, but it is unclear how much NBC pays Churchill Downs under the current contract.

The network first began broadcasting the race in 2001, after winning by ABC.

CAR RACE: The inaugural Miami Formula One Grand Prix was a big TV hit. The ABC television show averaged 2.6 million viewers on Sunday afternoon, making it the best audience in the U.S. for open-wheel car racing, according to ESPN (which runs ABC Sports for the joint owner of Disney). Only the 2002 Monaco GP broadcast on ABC with a delayed recording, which averaged 2.78 million, had a larger domestic F1 audience, according to Sports Media Watch. Sunday’s race peaked with 2.9 million spectators from 4:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. ET for Max Verstappen’s win.

Joey Logan’s victory on Sunday at NASCAR’s Goodyear 400 in Darlington averaged 2.61 million viewers on FS1, down from 3 million last year at the same time, date and network.

NBA: Golden State remains the golden child of the NBA and TV networks. The biggest audience in the playoffs last week were the semifinal matches of the Warriors-Grizzlies conference. Golden State lost to Memphis 142-112 averaging 6.09 million (20:30 ET on Saturday, ABC) and 5.32 million to win the Warriors 106-101 on May 4 (21:41, TNT).

The series started with 7.71 million viewers Warriors lost their first match on May 1, which was the biggest opening semifinal of 9.17 million views of Celtics-Heat 2011, according to Sports Media Watch.

Golden State now leads 3-1 in the series and may finish Wednesday in Memphis. The announcement is at 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT.

Six other playoff games averaged at least 4 million viewers last week.

WNBA: The lone game for which ratings metrics are available is Saturday night’s 18:00 ET season announcement between the Connecticut Sun and New York Liberty. It averaged 337,000 on ESPN. Last season, W had an average of 306,000 viewers on ESPN, up more than 49 percent from the 2020 pandemic and 24 percent from the 2019 pre-pandemic.

NHL: Four playoff games last week surpassed one million viewers, and three were Pittsburgh-New York. The weekly hockey list topped with 1.32 million for the Rangers-Pinguins match 3 at 19:14 ET Saturday’s puck broadcast on TNT. It was followed by 1.03 million for the first game of that series – three overtimes! – at 7 pm on May 3 at ESPN. Thursday The second game averaged a million at 7pm on TNT. Sunday’s fourth Hurricanes-Bruins game at 12:30 averaged 1.01 million on ESPN.

MLB: NBC’s new Sunday morning baseball package (“MLB Sunday Leadoff”) debuted with 1.34 million linear TV viewers for the White Sox-Red Sox at 11:38 p.m. calls Total Audience Delivery.

The package, announced in March, is a Peacock paid streaming property that will be exclusive to the NBC service until the end of the season, and the network doesn’t just reveal Peacock metrics. ShowBuzz Daily, which publishes Nielsen data, had a show without Peacock at 1.29 million, suggesting 50,000 watched via streaming. This includes the Peacock and NBC Sports app.

1.29 million Sunday viewers were the second best MLB audience last week in the ShowBuzz sports scores, just behind the Dodgers-Cubs, who averaged 1.78 million on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast.

The remaining 17 games, starting with the Padres-Braves on May 15, start at 11:30 or noon.

USFL: Fourth week of Fox-owned spring league made-for-TV enjoyed 1.15 million viewers for Sunday’s Houston-New Orleans broadcast (15:00 ET, NBC / Peacock) and 1.05 million for Tampa Bay-Birmingham prime time on Saturday (19:00, Fox).

As for the third-tier sports assets that are ultimately meant to fill the gaps in the schedule in the spring, these are solid network TV numbers. The USFL can survive on such figures, although the networks have not revealed any metrics of financial success that will determine the long-term fate of the league.

Other USFL TV numbers from this weekend were not good: Michigan-Philadelphia, starting at 22:20 on Friday, which aired on FS1, was watched by an average of only 207,000 viewers – pretty bad even for that date. Saturday’s New Jersey-Pittsburgh game aired exclusively on Peacock, and NBC said it would not make public data only on the USFL broadcast.

COMING UP: Major TV sporting events include Preakness Stakes (4-19: 30 ET on May 21, NBC), PGA Championship (CBS coverage of the final round from 1 to 7 p.m., May 22) and Indy 500 (11-4 p.m., May 29) , NBC). Plus: The NBA and NHL playoffs continue, the WNBA regular season increases, and the inaugural season of the USFL continues.

All viewership data is from Nielsen and Adobe Analytics, and other metrics from TV networks, Nielsen, Sports Media Watch, ShowBuzz Daily and the league. All times east unless otherwise indicated.

(Photo: Brian Spurlock / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


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