11/07/2006 1:00AM

Breeders' Cup TV audience at new low

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The final television rating for the nearly six-hour broadcast of the Breeders' Cup on ESPN on Saturday was a 0.8, the lowest rating ever for the event and a 47opercent decline from last year's 1.5 rating.

The broadcast, which aired from noon to 5:45 p.m., was watched by approximately 9.6omillion people, according to Mark Mandel, a spokesman for ESPN. The estimate for the number of people came from ESPN's research department, Mandel said.

Each rating point equals approximately 1.6 million households, meaning that ESPN estimated that an average of six people per household watched the telecast.

ESPN, the cable sports network, is in its first year of an eight-year contract to broadcast the Breeders' Cup. The event was broadcast by NBC for its first 22 years. The contract includes elements that allow Breeders' Cup and the network to share revenue from advertisers and sponsors.

"We always look at deals in the long-term, and this is a building process," Mandel said. "We know we have the resources and the platforms to grow the sport and the rating."