11/10/2016 5:33PM

Breeders' Cup Classic television viewership declines sharply

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Viewership of the Breeders’ Cup Classic on NBC during prime-time Saturday night plummeted last year compared with the same race last year, which featured Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in his career finale, according to figures obtained by NBC on Thursday.

Viewership peaked at 2.6 million viewers at 8:45 p.m. Eastern on Saturday night, just prior to the Classic being run, according to the figures, which were provided by Dan Masonson, the vice president of NBC Sports Group communications. Last year, viewership peaked at 4.6 million viewers at 6 p.m. Eastern, when American Pharoah entered the gate for the Classic en route to a dominating win.

The sharp decline in the rating demonstrates the popularity of American Pharoah among the general public. This year’s Classic featured California Chrome, who won two-thirds of the Triple Crown in 2014 but has fallen off the radar of the general sports fan since his 3-year-old campaign despite a stellar 2016 campaign.

The decline this year, though, is also well off the viewership figure for the 2014 Classic, when 3.3 million viewers watched the race. California Chrome ran in that race as well.

The average rating for the one-hour prime-time Classic broadcast on NBC Saturday night was a 1.5, down 42 percent from the 2.6 rating last year, which was generated from a broadcast that ran from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Eastern. Share was a 3, down 50 percent from share last year. Share is a measure of the televisions in use tuned to a specific broadcast.

A 5 1/2-hour Breeders’ Cup broadcast on Saturday on NBC Sports prior to the Classic averaged 364,000 viewers, Masonson said. The Friday Breeders’ Cup broadcast on NBC Sports from 5-8 p.m. Eastern averaged 200,000 viewers, according to Masonson.