While Exaggerator’s defeat of Nyquist (who finished third) in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes ended the chances we’ll see a Triple Crown winner this year, the event still worked out very well for NBC. In fact, the network averaged 9.4 million viewers for its broadcast, up six per cent over the 8.9 million who tuned in to watch American Pharoah’s Preakness victory en route to his Triple Crown last year, pulled in a 5.8/14 household rating/share (up five per cent from 2015’s 5.5/13), and hit a peak of 11.4 million viewers for the actual race between 6:45 and 7 p.m. Eastern. The question now is if Kentucky Derby champion Nyquist’s Preakness loss and subsequent illness-related withdrawal from the Belmont Stakes (which take place in three weeks and are also broadcast on NBC) will hurt that event’s ratings.

The Preakness ratings are excellent for NBC, and they show that there’s still plenty of interest in big-event horse racing. In fact, this was the third year out of the last four that the Preakness drew over nine million viewers (9.6 million for California Chrome in 2014, 9.7 million for Oxbow in 2013); the last run of three nine-million-plus ratings for the Preakness came from 2004 to 2006. It’s interesting to ponder what role Triple Crown hype played in that; there was plenty of pre-Preakness hype for American Pharoah last year, and he didn’t pull as great of a rating, but some viewers may have been disappointed by California Chrome’s failure to close the Triple Crown in the 2014 Belmont.

As American Pharoah went on to win last year’s Triple Crown, the first one since Affirmed in 1978, that certainly helped hype the sport overall. The discussion of Nyquist as a potential heir given his pre-Preakness dominance probably helped to give this Preakness a boost, too. We’ll see if those viewers stick around for the Belmont even with no Nyquist; there are still plenty of interesting horses involved, but there’s no Triple Crown on the line, and there’s no Kentucky Derby champion. It could be that Exaggerator will describe the potential ratings as well as the possible winner.

[NBC Sports Group Pressbox]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

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