Kentucky Derby: Overnight Ratings Drop 7%, Hit Six-Year Low


The 2012 Kentucky Derby hit a six-year low in the overnights.

The race portion of the Kentucky Derby drew a 9.0 overnight rating on NBC Saturday evening, according to USA Today — down 7% from last year (9.7), and down 13% from 2010 (10.3).

The 9.0 overnight is the lowest for the race portion of the Kentucky Derby since 2006 (8.9), and ranks as the third-lowest of the past decade.

For some perspective, the telecast drew a higher overnight than the final round of The Masters (8.1) and the Daytona 500 (7.7), but trailed every game of the 2011 NBA Finals and six of seven games of the 2011 World Series.

CORRECTION 5/7/12: The Daytona 500 drew a 7.7 overnight, not the 8.0 previously stated.

Overnight Ratings For the Race Portion of the Kentucky Derby
Past decade

(Saturday’s numbers from USA Today)

  • wallyhorse

    The TV Rating for the Derby was still not bad at all when you consider that the Derby was opposite Game 3 of the NBA first-round playoff series between the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers (with Blake Griffin, who is quickly becoming one of the NBA’s biggest starts) on ESPN, and that was actually the second game of a doubleheader where Game 1 (Game 4 of Indiana Pacers at Orlando Magic) went to overtime, with a lot of people simply staying with ESPN for Grizzlies-Clippers afterwards.  The NBA’s TV ratings have shot up like a rocket ever since LeBron James made his “decision” to go to the Miami Heat two summers ago, and it appears not even a lockout has hurt the NBA at all (and in fact may have helped given the NBA regular season this year began on Christmas Day, which is usually when more casual sports fans start to really care about the NBA).  In this environment, and especially opposite an NBA playoff game when the NBA has again become “fashionable,” a 9.0 rating is very solid and likely would have had the Derby in the top 5 TV shows of the week had it aired in prime time (as except for sports and certain event programming, TV ratings have in recent years have fallen off a cliff).

    My opinion has been for some time that the Derby would do at least the same numbers if it is moved to prime time (most likely if so on NBC from 7:00-10:00 PM Eastern Time, post time at 9:30 PM ET with the Kentucky Oaks on Friday also in prime time on NBC from 10-11:00 PM ET, Oaks post time 10:35 PM ET in that scenario), which would be good for NBC because that would mean the number would qualify for the prime time TV ratings during the “May Sweeps.”  The only reasons this year in my opinion Churchill Downs did not make the shift to a nighttime Derby that I thought would happen had to do with two factors:

    1. The NBA Lockout pushing the start of the NBA Playoffs back one week.  This caused the NBA to be in the middle of the first round (this weekend had Games 3 and 4 of most playoff series) as opposed to this being a “dead” Saturday for the NBA barring any first-round Game 7s being necessary on the Saturday of the Derby.

    2. Major concerns a much-anticipated boxing bout between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao would not only happen, but be scheduled for this past Saturday night (May 5) at the time a decision had to be made on whether or not to make the Derby a prime time event.  If that boxing match ever happens, it is expected to shatter ALL records for pay-per-view events by a lot.  

    Both Churchill officials and NBC likely had to be concerned at the time the decision was made to stay with the Derby where it has been in recent years (early evening east coast time) that by moving it under the lights this year, it would have created a major conflict with a Mayweather-Pacquiao match should that have been scheduled for that same night since although the match itself would have not been until around 11:00 PM Eastern Time (if not later), the pay-per-view telecast itself would have started at 9:00 PM Eastern Time if not earlier.  That would have created a big problem if the Derby had been scheduled for a 9:30 PM post time as though not at Churchill Downs, many simulcast and off-track locations along with bars and other places that normally host Derby parties would have had a big conflict with those who were specifically going to such locations to see such a fight, plus I’m sure Churchill Downs would also have had to pay a considerable price of their own to be able to show the fight at Churchill itself given of course there were a record 165,000+ fans at Churchill Downs, as the promoters of a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight would have demanded a hefty price for Churchill to show the fight at the track following the Derby.

    I’m sure those on top at NBC Sports are quite pleased with a 9.0 rating for the Derby telecast given the current television environment.  It is still far and away better than just about any other program that can air on a Saturday in mid-Spring, especially given how popular the NBA has become once again in the last two years.

    • DBB

      Thanks, WallyHorse, for you insightful feedback!