05/06/2003 12:00AM

Derby ratings decline


The final rating for the last hour of the 90-minute Kentucky Derby broadcast on NBC on Saturday was a 7.6, down 8 percent from the last-hour rating in 2002, NBC officials said Tuesday.

The 5:30-6:30 p.m. Eastern portion of the broadcast included the race itself, which went off at 6:08. The final rating for the entire 90-minute broadcast will be available on Thursday, the officials said.

Each rating point equals 1,067,000 households, meaning the final hour of the show was broadcast in 8.1 million homes. Share, or the percentage of television sets in use tuned to the broadcast, was down 5 percent, from 21 to 20.

Kevin Sullivan, a spokesman for NBC, said the network was not concerned that the final rating for the last hour of the broadcast dipped, citing a "down year" for most sports broadcasts.

"We've seen all year that almost all sports programming has been down 5 to 15 percent," Sullivan said.

The Derby broadcast was the highest-rated sports broadcast of the weekend, easily beating the 4.6 rating posted by the next highest-rated program, the final game of an NBA playoff best-of-seven series between the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trailblazers.