The Kentucky Derby became the third-most watched, non-football event of the year — drawing 14.37 million viewers, according to Sports Media Watch. The horse race saw a 48% ratings increase from last year, when the event averaged a record-low 9.26 million.
Only the men’s NCAA Tournament final and semifinal had a bigger viewership than the Derby for all non-football sporting events. The NFL, even after ratings declined by 7%, still dominated homes, accounting for 69 of the 100 most-watched shows on television in 2020.
The Derby, however, did draw a bigger rating than the NFL draft, which averaged 12 million viewers during Thursday’s first round.
The Derby is always horse racing’s biggest event with many high-profile celebrities attending. This year’s bump can also perhaps be attributed to the race returning to its normal schedule. Last year, the Kentucky Derby took place in September because of the pandemic instead of the first Saturday in May.
Television ratings have generally declined over the past few years, and sports are no exception. According to Sports Media Watch, this year’s race was still the second-lowest rated Derby since NBC acquired the event in 2001.
On Saturday, Medina Spirit won the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby.