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Kentucky Derby most-watched sports event in US since Super Bowl

Prestigious horse race clocks TAD of 8.4m viewers across NBC and NBC Sports Digital.

8 Sep 2020 Sam Carp

Getty Images

  • Audience down 49% on controversial 2019 edition of race
  • 2020 viewership peaked at 9.8m as Authentic crossed the finish line

US coverage of the Kentucky Derby on 5th September achieved a preliminary total audience delivery (TAD) of 8.4 million viewers across NBC and NBC Sports Digital, according to data from Nielsen and Adobe Analytics. 

The viewership figure makes the horse race, which is one of three legs of the American Triple Crown, the most-watched sporting event in the US since February’s Super Bowl. It also represents the biggest audience for a sporting event on Labor Day weekend since 2017.

The audience peaked at approximately 9.8 million viewers on NBC as Authentic crossed the finish line to win the 146th running of the prestigious race, which was rescheduled from its traditional spot on the first Saturday in May as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite being one of the most-watched sporting events of the year, the domestic audience for the Kentucky Derby was down 49 per cent on last year, when the race roped in 16.3 million viewers and achieved a 9.4 rating. 

However, that massive audience was largely driven by the controversial end to the race, which saw Maximum Security disqualified and Country House declared the winner after the race had ended.   

Nielsen’s preliminary figures for this year’s event do not include out-of-home data, which will be incorporated when the final figures are released later this week.

Coverage of the race capped a busy day for NBC, which later saw an average TAD of 2.57 million viewers watch the New York Islanders beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 in game seven of their second round series in the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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