Ratings Roundup: Kentucky Derby on NBC Up Slightly; UFC Programming Fuels FUEL TV Gains
By: Jason Dachman, Managing Editor
Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 9:57 am

NBC’s coverage of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby drew 14.8 million viewers, the third most-watched Kentucky Derby in 23 years, and up 2% from last year’s Derby (14.5 million). The household rating of 9.0/20 is up 6% from last year’s race (8.5/19). Since implementing NBC Sports’ ‘Big Event Strategy,’ the last four Kentucky Derby races have all recorded at least 14.5 million viewers. NBC Sports’ coverage of the Kentucky Derby over the last 12 years averages more than 2 million more viewers than the previous 12 Kentucky Derby broadcasts on ABC (14.1 million vs.12.0 million, up 17%). The Kentucky Derby once again proved to be very popular with female viewers. In fact, 51 percent of Derby viewers 18+ were women, making it the only annual sporting event that draws more female than male viewers…

…Fueled by the addition of hundreds of hours of UFC-related programming, FUEL TV has claimed the title of TV’s fastest-growing cable network last month and for the year. FUEL TV has recorded the largest year-to-year percentage increases of total viewers in prime time (up 275%), total day (up 260%), and latenight (up 767%) in April and this year among all rated, ad-supported cable networks. The male 18-49 demographic is alo skyrocketing (up 450%, 250%, and 1000% respectively). April 2012 was the network’s second most-watched month ever behind February 2012. Primetime (up 209%) and total day (up 125%) viewership is up over the first four months of 2012…

…FOX’s acquisition of UFC rights may be boosting FUEL’s ratings but last Saturday’s UFC on FOX 3 failed to match the first two live fights on the mother network due to a lack of starpower and a head to head matchup with the Mayweather-Cotto PPV HBO boxing match. The telecast drew 2.4 million viewers, compared to 5.7 million for UFC on Fox 1: dos Santos vs. Velasquez and 4.6 million or UFC on Fox 2: Evans vs. Davis…

…Despite huge regular season numbers, the NBA has yet to catch ratings fire in the postseason; through Friday, 12 of the 19 NBA playoff games on ABC, ESPN/ESPN2 and TNT suffered declines compared to last year. Here is a roundup of the weekend NBA ratings:

  • Game 3 of the Lakers/Nuggets NBA playoff series drew 3.594 million viewers on ESPN Friday night, down 21% from Lakers/Hornets Game 3 last year (4.578M).
  • Hawks/Celtics Game 3 earlier on Friday drew 2.883 million viewers on ESPN, down 15% from Celtics/Knicks Game 3 last year (3.411M).
  • Friday’s Game 3 of the Bulls/Sixers series drew just 1.069 million viewers, down 20% from Magic/Hawks Game 3 last year (1.342M).
  • On Saturday, Game 4 of the Magic/Pacers series drew a 1.6 overnight rating, down 43% from Bulls/Pacers Game 4 on TNT in the comparable window last year (2.8).
  • Later on Saturday, Grizzlies/Clippers Game 3 drew a 2.2 overnight, down 19% from Mavericks/Trail Blazers Game 4 on TNT last year (2.7). The game went head-to-head with the Kentucky Derby on NBC.
  • Game 4 of Heat/Knicks drew a 5.3 overnight rating on ABC Sunday afternoon, up 6% from Celtics/Knicks Game 4 last year (5.0) and marking the highest overnight for a first round playoff game on ABC since Lakers/Rockets Game 4 in 2004 (5.8). Overall, the game is tied as ABC’s third-highest rated first round game in the metered markets, behind only Lakers/Rockets in 2004 and Trail Blazers/Mavericks Game 7 in 2003 (6.1).
  • Earlier Sunday, Game 4 of the Bulls/Sixers series drew a 3.5 overnight rating, down 13% from Heat/Sixers Game 4 last year (4.0)…

…As for the other playoff race currently underway, the Stanley Cup Playoffs, NBC remains on pace to post its highest-rated playoffs ever despite a postseason low on Sunday:

  • Game 4 of the Kings-Blues series on Sunday, in which LA completed its sweep, drew a 1.0 overnight, the lowest for a Stanley Cup Playoff game on NBC this post-season. That is tied for the second-lowest playoff overnight ever on NBC. Stanley Cup Playoff action on NBC is averaging a 1.7 overnight rating through four weeks and 10 telecasts. It
  • Game 4 of the Rangers/Capitals notched a 1.6 overnight rating on Saturday afternoon, the highest of the season for a Saturday afternoon Stanley Cup playoff game on NBC. The previous three telecasts — including Capitals/Rangers Game 1 a week earlier — each drew a 1.5 overnight…

…The NASCAR the Sprint Cup Aaron’s 499 from Talladega drew a 4.7 overnight rating on FOX Sunday afternoon, up slightly from last year (4.6). Excluding the rained-out 2006 race, the 4.7 is the third-lowest for the spring Talladega race since FOX began televising the event in 2001, ahead of only last year and 2009 (4.5).

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