SBD/June 9, 2014/Media

NBC Finishes With Second-Best Belmont Stakes Viewership Since '88

NBC finished with a 12.0 national rating and 20.6 million viewers for the race segment of the Belmont Stakes telecast on Saturday from 6:23-7:15pm ET, marking the race’s second-best audience since such viewership records started being kept in ’88. The last Belmont Stakes with a Triple Crown on the line in ’08 on ABC earned an 8.2 rating and 13.1 million viewers, and saw Da’Tara deny Big Brown’s attempt. NBC drew a 13.1 rating and 21.9 million viewers in ’04 for Smarty Jones’ failed attempt at the Triple Crown. Saturday’s race also delivered NBC the most-viewed weekend sporting event since the 10th night of the Sochi Games drew 21.3 million viewers. Louisville led all markets with a 21.1 local rating for Saturday’s telecast, followed by Ft. Myers-Naples (19.2), Sacramento (19.2), West Palm Beach (19.2) and Baltimore (17.3). Among the 56 metered markets, 53 saw a local ratings increase compared to the last Triple Crown attempt in ’08 (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

HIGHEST-RATED BELMONT STAKES TELECASTS SINCE '72
YEAR
NET
RATING
VIEWERS (000)
WINNER
HORSE SEEKING
TRIPLE CROWN
'73
CBS
17.5
n/a
Secretariat
Secretariat
'77
CBS
17.2
n/a
Seattle Slew
Seattle Slew
'04
NBC
13.1
21,889
Birdstone
Smarty Jones
'81
CBS
12.6
n/a
Summing
Pleasant Colony
'14
NBC
12.0
20,600
Tonalist
California Chrome
'76
CBS
11.2
n/a
Bold Forbes
none
'74
CBS
11.0
n/a
Little Current
none
'78
CBS
10.9
n/a
Affirmed
Affirmed
'03
NBC
10.7
15,703
Empire Maker
Funny Cide
'80
CBS
9.6
n/a
Temperence Hill
none
           

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME: SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote NBC's Kenny Rice deserves credit for his "handling of the post-race interview" with California Chrome co-Owner Steve Coburn, who was "itching to go off on the Triple Crown requirements for horses." Rice "listened to his initial answer and asked the right follow-ups." Meanwhile, analysts Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey after the race "embarked on an interesting discussion about Victor Espinoza's ride of California Chrome." Moss noted Espinoza "should have taken Chrome to the lead," while Bailey said Espinoza "rode 'a really good race' and that the campaign and length got to him." Deitsch: "No screaming, no nonsense, just two broadcasters intelligently discussing the replay" (SI.com, 6/8).

ALL CHROME, ALL THE TIME: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir wrote NBC "bought into the buzz" about California Chrome's run at a Triple Crown and "did not do enough justice to the rest of the field." After Tonalist won, on-track reporter Donna Brothers "went to Espinoza first" instead of winning jockey Joel Rosario. NBC also "remained true" following the race when instead of going to Tonalist owner Robert Evans "when he won," the net instead showed the "disappointing faces of California Chrome's owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, and the colt's trainer, Art Sherman." From 4:30-5:30pm ET during the pre-race coverage, Chrome "was the star and the other 10 horses a bunch of four-legged ghosts." Sandomir: "NBC was turning us all into Chromies. The colt had become the equine Tiger Woods" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/8). In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes the 2 1/2-hour pre-race show provided a "graphic example of how network and cable sports operations attempt to capitalize on major events by creating a humdrum atmosphere to produce huge advertising revenue." Saunders: "Such 'pregame' coverage ... could have been dramatically covered in an hour" (DENVER POST, 6/9).

BRINGING IN ALL THE EXPERTS: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth wrote NBC's move to add NHL analyst Ed Olczyk to the Belmont coverage "as part of the NBC crossover build-up to the race for his handicapping know-how wasn't such a bad idea." Olczyk has been involved in racing for years "as a full- and part-owner of many horses." NBC's Bob Costas introduced Olczyk as "someone who 'hit the trifecta at the Preakness' a few weeks earlier" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 6/8).

RADAR DETECTORS: In St. Louis, Josh Renaud noted viewers flooded KSDK-NBC "with complaints when the station delegated coverage of the Belmont Stakes to a split screen in favor of weather coverage." The St. Louis area was experiencing a severe thunderstorm Saturday afternoon, but several viewers "raged on Twitter against weathercasters Chester Lampkin and Cindy Preszler" (STLTODAY.com, 6/7).

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