NBC’s telecast of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, won by 20-1 longshot Animal Kingdom, drew 14.5 million viewers.
Peacock owns all three legs of the Triple Crown — the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes — after finalizing a deal that brought the Belmont over from ABC.
The 14.5 million is 2 million less than last year’s Derby, but is the fourth best in the last 21 years. Since 1990, the only other Derby viewership to surpass Saturday’s race was in 2004 when Smarty Jones won (14.6 million).
Following the Comcast merger, NBC has been utilizing sports cabler Versus, which telecast pre-Derby coverage. The net also aired the Kentucky Oaks, which was run the day before.
NBC is clearly hoping that Animal Kingdom wins the May 21 Preakness, which would mean the 3-year-old would have a chance to be the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. The threat of a Triple Crown would bring millions of extra viewers to the June 11 Belmont Stakes telecast.