11/01/2001 1:00AM

Cup ratings hit all-time low


Final Nielsen ratings for NBC-TV's five-hour Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships broadcast on Saturday dropped to an all-time low this year, according to figures released Thursday.

The final rating of 1.7 was down 5.5 percent from last year's rating of 1.8, which had been the previous low. The share was a 5, identical to last year's broadcast. Each rating point represents 1,060,000 households, and share represents the percentage of households watching a specific program.

Ratings for the championships have been in decline since the first event in 1984, when rating was a 5.1 with a 13 share. Networks have blamed the declines on the proliferation of cable channels and the inability of racing to attract new fans.

This year, NBC officials said that the broadcast had stiff competition from a college football game between Oklahoma and Nebraska, the number one and two ranked teams in the country at the time.

"We had the misfortune of going against the biggest game of the year so far in the season," said NBC spokeswoman Cameron Blanchard.

Blanchard also said the retirement of Point Given, the winner of the Preakness, Belmont and Travers Stakes, had an effect on viewership.