Ratings Roundup: NBC’s Kentucky Derby Up Slightly Over 2014; ESPN, NFL Net Notch Second-Best NFL Draft Day 1 Ever

NBC Sports’ coverage of American Pharoah’s victory in Saturday’s 141st Kentucky Derby averaged 16.0 million viewers and posted a 9.6/23 national rating– up 4% (15.3 million for California Chrome’s victory) and 2% (9.4/22) from last year, respectively. The race is the most-watched Saturday afternoon sporting event since NBC’s telecast of the AFC Divisional Playoff on Jan. 10, 2015 (Baltimore-New England, 34.0 million viewers). Viewership peaked at 17.9 million viewers from 6:30-6:45 p.m. ET when American Pharoah crossed the finish line. This is the fifth time in seven years (2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015) that NBC’s Kentucky Derby coverage averaged more than 15 million viewers. From 1991-2008, Kentucky Derby average viewership did not reach 15 million.

Saturday’s pre-race coverage averaged 8.8 million viewers – third-highest for a pre-race show since 1992. NBCSN’s live weekday coverage from Churchill Downs, beginning with Wednesday’s Kentucky Derby Draw Show, posted viewership increases each day with an average viewership increase of 32% from Wednesday through Friday.

NBC Sports Live Extra’s live stream of the Kentucky Derby – which required authentication for the first time – delivered 221,000 unique visitors, up 12% from last year (198,000), and the largest-ever Kentucky Derby audience on NBC Sports Live Extra.

Louisville, the home of the Kentucky Derby, topped the metered markets with a 35.0 rating/65 share followed by Ft. Myers (19.7/39), Cincinnati (17.7/38), West Palm Beach (16.8/32), and Dayton (15.8/31)…

…Day 1 of the 2015 NFL Draft averaged a combined 5.65 US HH rating and 8.842 million viewers on NFL Network and ESPN. That makes 2015 the second highest Day 1 in terms of overall viewership for the 3-day Draft – trailing only 2014. NFL Network averaged a 1.16 US HH rating and 1.816 M Persons 2+ from 8p-11:32pm. ESPN averaged a 4.49 US HH rating and 7.026 M Persons 2+ from 8p-11:38p. For comparison’s sake, these numbers bested the 8.77 million viewers for the NFL Pro Bowl in Arizona on ESPN (1/25/15) and the 7.2 million viewers for NBA All-Star Game on TNT (2/15/15).

On the ESPN side, Day 1 of the Draft was the third most-viewed and third highest-rated opening day draft in ESPN’s 36 years of presenting the event (since 1980). The 2014 NFL Draft – which included former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel falling to the 22nd pick in the first round – ranks as the highest-rated (6.1 rating) and most-viewed (9,943,000 viewers) opening night for ESPN. The 2010 draft – which included another former Heisman winner, Tim Tebow, picked at No. 25 by the Denver Broncos – ranks second (4.6 rating and 7,290,000 viewers). ESPN’s telecast peaked at a 5.4 rating and 8,446,000 viewers between 8:30-9 p.m. ET. The top 10 metered markets included Cleveland (11.4), New Orleans (8.6), Philadelphia (8.0), Columbus, Ohio (7.4), Birmingham, Ala. (7.4), Tampa-St. Petersburg (6.8), Greensboro, N.C. (6.7), Norfolk, Va. (6.6), Charlotte (6.4) and Baltimore (6.4).

WatchESPN logged 603,000 unique viewers and 31 million total minutes, up 32 percent and 16 percent, respectively, compared to Round 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft.  It also had an average minute audience of 144,000, up 23 percent…

…The World Golf Championships–Cadillac Match Play at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco on NBC posted the best rating for Saturday’s quarterfinal matches since 2008 (1.66 US Rtg/2.525 million viewers). Viewership was up 44% over 2014 (1.28 US Rtg / 1.756 million viewers on CBS) and was the highest in seven years. Sunday’s rating for the semifinals on Golf Channel (.47 US Rtg / .70 Cvg Rtg/ 613,000 viewers) was up 27% year over year…

…The 2015 Major League Baseball season has started strong on FOX Sports 1, with average viewership up 26% compared to the season’s first three Saturdays a year ago (597,000 vs. 472,000).  That includes a 28% season-to-date growth in the key Adult 18-49 demographic (204,000 vs. 160,000) which is being driven by the Adult 18-34 segment which is nearly double this point last year (110,000 vs. 58,000).  On April 25, the Indians-Tigers game delivered FOX Sports 1 its largest MLB audience ever (817,000), while the Yankees-Mets game that followed posted 647,000 viewers, also a channel record for a non-exclusive regular season game.

Locally, game telecasts of five teams on FOX RSN’s – the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres – rank as the No. 1-rated programming in primetime since the start of the season in their respective home markets, beating both broadcast and ad-supported cable competition head-to-head.  Three other teams – the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Bay Rays – rank second best in prime time locally.  Additional local highlights follow:

Royals telecast ratings on FOX Sports Kansas City are up +129% year-to-year (through 4/26), while setting household (HH) ratings records three times this season, including the current record (17.3) on Sunday (4/26) in a game vs. the White Sox.

Padres ratings on FOX Sports San Diego are up +67% year-to-year (through 4/28), and game telecasts have broken or tied a ratings record seven times this season.  The current record (7.2 HH) was set Friday (4/24) night in a loss to the Dodgers.

Diamondbacks ratings on FOX Sports Arizona are off to their best start in 10 years, averaging a 4.5 HH rating, up +36% season-to-date vs. 2014.

Streaming of games televised by FOX Sports continues growing at a lightning fast clip.  Unique streams are up +178% through the season’s first three weeks compared to a year ago, while minutes viewed are up an even more impressive +268%.  For the second straight year, all MLB regular season games and jewel events televised by FOX Sports – the All-Star Game, Division Series, League Championship Series and World Series – are streamed live on the FOX Sports GO mobile app and FOXSportsGO.com…

…On Sunday, April 26, the New York Mets at New York Yankees ‘Subway Series’ match-up on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell delivered a double-digit ratings increase, according to Nielsen. The telecast generated a strong 1.9 overnight rating, up 36 percent from the comparable game in 2014 (Boston Red Sox-Baltimore Orioles), which drew a 1.4. Locally, the game generated an 8.4 rating in the New York market, which is the best rating for a Major League Baseball telecast on ESPN in the market since the 2011 season… 

…Comcast SportsNet Chicago posted significant television ratings for the first month of the 2015 MLB season, which resulted in solid game & post-game ratings increases compared to last April.  Comcast SportsNet’s Cubs ratings averaged a 3.28 household rating in April (approx. 114,055 Chicago market TV households watching per game) — a 110% increase over last April’s 1.56 average.  The 3.28 Chicago market household average is also the highest April Cubs average on Comcast SportsNet in SIX YEARS (4.51 avg. in 2009). Comcast SportsNet also experienced notable April ’15 vs. April ‘14 ratings increases in EVERY key advertising demo category, including Men 18-34 (up 102%)…Men 18-49 (up 175%)…Men 25-54 (up 184%)…Adults 18-34 (up 98%)…Adults 18-49 (up 165%)…and Adults 25-54 (up 135%).  Through its first ten telecasts this season, Comcast SportsNet’s Cubs game ratings have already averaged “at least” a 3.8 household rating on six occasions.  The network’s highest-rated Cubs game in 2014 (among 80 total game telecasts) was a 3.4 (occurred on May 5 vs. White Sox).

On April 14 vs. Cincinnati and April 18 vs. San Diego, Comcast SportsNet delivered its highest Cubs regular season game ratings in four years as these back-to-back CSN telecasts each posted a 4.22 household rating (approx. 146,742 Chicago market households tuning in for each game).

In addition to its ratings increases for game telecasts, Comcast SportsNet’s Cubs Postgame Live household ratings went up 94% compared to last April…

…Golf Channel posted its most-watched April ever and served 16.3 million unique viewers, which was driven by increases across the network’s programming schedule. For 24-hour Total Day (6AM-6AM), 132,000 average viewers per minute were tuned into Golf Channel in April, representing a 2% year-over-year increase compared to April 2014 (130,000) and the network’s most-watched month since August 2013 (138,000), as well as a 53% increase since Golf Channel joined NBC Sports Group.

Golf Channel Digital posted 90.98 million page views (+40% YOY, 17.23 million visits (+37% YOY), and GolfChannel.com had 5.6 million unique visitors (+23% YOY) – all best month ever records. Additionally, Golf Live Extra generated 674,000 live stream starts (+38% YOY) and 13.33 million minutes watched (+93% YOY) so far in April 2015…

… HBO Boxing’s coverage of heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko on Saturday was a hit for the channel, delivering an average viewership of 1,637,000 viewers. The bout, which Klitschko won by unanimous decision, peaked at 1,742,000 viewers and marked the “top performing bout on premium or basic cable this year.” The entire HBO telecast on April 25th from Madison Square Garden averaged 1,300,000 viewers, marking the most watched World Championship Boxing event since June 2012. (Cynopsis Sports).