Kentucky Derby Tramples Oscars & Almost Everything Else In Viewership; NBC Broadcast Up From 2020, Down From 2019

Right now, it really bites to be Essential Quality and the 93rd Academy Awards.

Things are dire for the former because the odds favorite to win this year’s Kentucky Derby came fourth at the May 1 race. As, for the latter, after crashing to an all-time viewership low of 10.4 million for its April 25 show, the Oscars are now being repeatedly trampled in comparison to events that previously barley even nipped at the heels of Hollywood’s biggest night.

On April 29, it was the first day of the NFL Draft. Now, it’s the turn of the 147th Kentucky Derby on NBC on Saturday to take the crown.

As Medina Sprit took first place at a socially distanced Churchill Downs, the Comcast-owned network’s evening broadcast of the fabled race snagged an audience of 14.4 million.

In a year of declining and dead letter office awards shows and small screen viewing overall, the 2021 Kentucky Derby was up a stellar 53% in viewers over the 2020 Kentucky Derby. While no Super Bowl (96.4 million for February 7 game, a multi-decade low), the 2021 Kentucky Derby was up 38% in sets of eyeballs from the Oscars and 15.2% from the ABC, ESPN and NFL Network airing of the NFL Draft Day 1.

That’s an all-time first win for the Derby over the usually 20 million and more viewed Academy Awards.

However, compared to the drama deep and Country House winning 2019’s race, the 2021 Derby was down about 12% in viewers – which is kind of a sports average this year from pre-pandemic results. In fact, the 2021 Kentucky Derby is pretty much on par with the 15 million that tuned for the race on May 5, 2018.

According to Nielsen, the May 1, 2021 race peaked at 15.7 million in the 6:45 – 7 PM ET time period as Medina Sprit galloped towards the end and the Winner’s Circle. That win was the seventh for trainer Bob Baffert, a Kentucky Derby record.

Now, a bit of context. The 146th Kentucky Derby was held on September 5, 2020. Shifted from its traditional slot of the first Saturday in May because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 146th Derby also had no spectators. That’s a far cry from this year, when it was back in its old slot and had around 52,000 in attendance, most masked. Having said that, the Louisville-based Derby usually draws an in-person well-dressed crowd of about 150,000 – so things were still a little different

With that, if some smart producer hasn’t optioned the rights to Bob Baffert’s life, I suggest you send that email now. There’s always the 95th Oscars to consider, if you know what I mean?

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