Kentucky Derby Draws 16.2 Million for NBC — Second Biggest Tune-In Since 1989

That makes it one of last week's most-watched shows, behind only two CBS primetime series

Kentucky Derby Ratings
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

One of last week’s most-watched telecasts did not air in primetime, as NBC ‘s coverage of horse racing’s Kentucky Derby averaged a big 16.2 million viewers early Saturday evening.

This year’s audience was up 9% from last year (14.8 million) and 12% bigger than 2011 (14.5 million) — making it the event’s second largest tune-in since the 1989 race drew 18.5 million on ABC. The only Kentucky Derby in the last 14 years to draw a larger audience than Saturday’s victory for Orbit came in 2010 when Super Saver’s triumph was watched by 16.5 million on NBC.

Among all programs last week, the Kentucky Derby drew a larger audience than everything except CBS’ “NCIS” (18.29 million) and “The Big Bang Theory” (16.29 million).

NBC notes that roughly 52% of Derby’s adult viewership was female, making it the only annual sporting event that draws more women than men.

The top-rated local markets for Saturday’s race were Louisville (43.7 household rating/69 share), Ft. Myers (19.7/37), Cincinnati (18.6/37), Knoxville (18.4/31) and West Palm Beach (18.4/35).

NBC’s coverage window for the race was 6:05-6:53 p.m. ET, which included some time before and after the race.

Next up for the Peacock in its coverage of horse racing’s three Triple Crown events is the Preakness Stakes on May 18.