ABC Sports legend Jim McKay at least once said May was his favorite month in sports — starting with My Old Kentucky Home at the Kentucky Derby, followed by Maryland My Maryland for the Preakness Stakes in his home state and on to Back Home Again for the Indianapolis 500. At that time all the events were on his network.
Fast forward 30 years and it seems one of those towers over the others in television ratings — the Derby.
The 500 drew its lowest overnight rating, a 3.6, over Memorial Day weekend since 1986 when the event was first televised live, according to published reports. (Yes, there’s a sport that had as much difficulty embracing television as thoroughbred racing. I remember listening to the 500 on radio as a boy and then watching the ABC delayed broadcast that night. The ruling family of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway feared no one would come if the event was on live TV. Apparently it’s still blacked out in Indy.)
The Derby, by comparison had an overnight of 10.5. Excluding online watchers, the final ratings were a 9.3 rating and 22 household share for the race portion of the broadcast, peaking at 19.1 million viewers and averaging 16.5 million.
The Preakness got a 4.9 rating and an 11 share, down from last year but better than the 500.
With no Derby or Preakness winner in the Belmont Stakes, anyone want to wager whether its overnight beats the 500?