06/13/2002 12:00AM

Belmont TV rating best since '89

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NBC-TV's broadcast of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday had a final rating of 7.6, well below the 9.2 overnight rating but still the highest-rated Belmont since 1989.

Each rating point equals approximately 1 million households. The broadcast also had a 21 share, a measure of the percentage of televisions in use at the time that were tuned to the telecast.

The 7.6 rating was 69 percent higher than last year's 4.5 rating. Last year, however, no Triple Crown was on the line, as it was this year. In 1999, the last time there was a chance for the Triple Crown, the rating was a 6.0.

Overall, NBC's three Triple Crown broadcasts this year had an average rating of 6.8, an 11 percent increase over the average rating of 6.1 last year, NBC's first year of broadcasting the Triple Crown. The Kentucky Derby had a 7.1 rating this year, and the Preakness Stakes had a 5.7 rating.

On Monday, NBC said the broadcast had a 9.2 overnight rating. The overnight rating is measured in the 53 largest U.S. markets, while the final rating takes into account all U.S. markets. The significant drop-off from the overnight indicates that the broadcast drew a larger percentage of urban viewers than rural viewers.