The online entertainment-news publication Deadline’s headline read:  “Kentucky Derby Tramples Oscars & Almost Everything Else in Viewership, Down from 2019 But On Par With 2018.”  The accompanying article reported:

“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 compared with the 2020 Kentucky Derby.  While no Super Bowl (96.4 million for the February 7 game, a multi-decade low), Saturday’s Derby was up 38% in sets of eyeballs from the Oscars and 15.2% from the ABC-ESPN- NFL Network airing of day one of the NFL Draft.

That’s an all-time first for the Derby to beat the Academy Awards, which usually are viewed by 20 million or more.”  The Derby telecast also bested the final round of the Master’s Tournament in early April and was NBC Sport’s top-rated telecast since the NFL playoffs in January.

The Derby telecast averaged an audience of 14.5 million viewers and peaked at 15.7 million viewers at race time from 6:45 to 7 p.m.  In addition, NBC’s digital presentation had 139,000 viewers.  The Derby telecast had a household rating of 7.1 and a share of 22, a strong showing given that TV viewership is down in general.  By comparison, the 2019 Derby telecast had a rating of 10.9 and a share of 25.

The official pandemic-restricted Derby-Day attendance at Churchill Downs was 51,838, or about a third of the usual crowd. 

All-sources betting on the Kentucky Derby Day card was $233 million, up 85% over 2020. All-sources handle on the Derby alone was $155.4 million, an increase of 96% from 2020.

The Kentucky Derby and horse racing in general offer fans an entertainment oasis in the current era of politicization of sports events. For the most part, racing is a place where folks of all political persuasions and backgrounds can gather and enjoy themselves. The sterling TV results from the 2021 Kentucky Derby, as, say, compared to the Oscars, bear this out.

Copyright © 2021 Horse Racing Business