NBC Sports’ coverage of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby was the most viewed Kentucky Derby in 20 years according to data provided by Nielsen Media Research. The race (6:09-6:57 p.m. ET) averaged 16.3 million viewers, two million more than last year’s 14.2 million (up15 percent) and the most since 1989 when Sunday Silence won the Derby (18.5 million).
NBC Sports coverage of the Kentucky Derby now reaches seven million more viewers than the last Kentucky Derby broadcast by ABC in 2000 (16.3 million vs.9.1 million, up 51 percent).
“In this time of a fragmented television landscape amassing this large audience is a real accomplishment, a testament to the common vision we share with Bob Evans and his team at Churchill Downs and a shared strategic approach between partners to execute that vision,” said Dick Ebersol, Chairman NBC Universal Sports and Olympics.
Saturday’s race coverage notched a 9.8 national rating and a 23 share, the highest rating in 17 years (1992 won by Lil E Tee, 10.3/30) and an 11 percent increase over last year’s race (8.8/21) that was fueled by the hype of “Super Horse” Big Brown.
DERBY PULLS THE WOMEN: Once again the Kentucky Derby proved a strong pull for female viewers with two percent more female viewers than male viewers. Along with the Winter Olympics and Summer Olympics, the Kentucky Derby is one of only three major sporting events to pull more female than male viewers.
NBC’S STRATEGIC ‘BIG EVENT’ MARKETING PAYS OFF: NBC Sports used its strategic ‘Big Event’ approach to promote the Kentucky Derby. The marketing began with its first Derby promotion on Super Bowl Sunday. The promotion was designed to broaden the Kentucky Derby’s audience by targeting the casual viewer and more women in the “TODAY” show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC Primetime, Bravo, Oxygen, IVillage and its companion service BlogHer.
The “TODAY” show, America’s No. 1 Morning Show for 699 straight weeks over more than 13 years, gave the Kentucky Derby unprecedented promotion with Derby-related segments for eight consecutive days. The “TODAY” show was live from Churchill Downs with Al Roker and Amy Robach on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the winning jockey, trainer and owners were interviewed live on the “TODAY” show Monday morning.
NBC SPORTS PURE PRODUCTION PHILOSOPHY: Saturday’s broadcast featured the triumph of 50-1 long shot Mine That Bird and jockey Calvin Borel’s spectacular run from last place as he maneuvered his horse along the rail to win by nearly seven lengths. The NBC Sports production team of producer Sam Flood and director David Michaels provided eight straight minutes of uninterrupted coverage to capture the raw emotion of Borel’s rare victory lap.
NBC Sports horse racing analyst Gary Stevens said of the scene, “There is something going on right now that I have never seen here at the Kentucky Derby in all my years. It’s very reminiscent of the movie Seabiscuit where he came down and paraded in front of the fans. He’s letting the crowd enjoy the horse.”
PREAKNESS STAKES ON NBC SPORTS, MAY 16: In two weeks, Mine That Bird will take one more step to try to become the first to win the Triple Crown in 31 years, since Affirmed in 1978. NBC Sports’ coverage of The Preakness Stakes from Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, Md., begins Saturday, May 16 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
CRITICS PRAISE NBC’S KENTUCKY DERBY COVERAGE:
“David Michaels directed the perfect race. He let the pictures speak for themselves as Borel and Mine That Bird took what amounted to a victory lap and the viewers could see and hear the joy. Producer Sam Flood had the perfect replay form the blimp.”
– Washington Examiner
“NBC wisely stuck with network outrider Donna Brothers as she allowed countrified jock Calvin Borel to offload one emotion – crying, howling, laughing, hooting after another.”
– New York Post
“NBC focused on a story that kept viewers riveted and that was jockey Calvin Borel and his masterful ride. Almost as masterful was NBC’s direction, which kept a camera on Borel as he took what amounted to a five-minute victory lap around Churchill Downs before then cutting to replays and interviews. Best of all, commentators knew to shut up and let viewers listen to Borel, and he whooped it up around the track.”
– St. Petersburg Times