05/11/2006 12:00AM

Derby TV ratings dip 4 percent


The final television ratings for NBC's 98-minute broadcast of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday was a 7.0, a 4 percent decline from the final rating for last year's broadcast.

The 7.0 rating represents approximately 7.7 million households. The final share, a measure of the percentage of televisions in use tuned to the broadcast, was 18, equal with last year's share.

The rating for the Derby last year was a 7.3. In 2004, the rating was a 7.4. Every year for the last three years, share has been measured at 18.

NBC officials said that the Derby was the highest-rated sports broadcast of the weekend. Though the ratings were lower this year for the Derby than last year, many racing officials believe that ratings for the Preakness will be strong because of the growing popularity of the Derby winner, Barbaro, who is undefeated and trained by an Olympic silver medalist, Michael Matz, who also had a role in rescuing three children in the aftermath of a plane crash in Iowa in 1989.

Also on Thursday, NBC officials said that the network had fired a producer who wrote a portion of the script to two pieces during its Derby broadcast. The pieces included lines that were taken nearly word-for-word from episodes of "The West Wing," a prime-time drama on NBC.

Alana Russo, a spokeswoman for NBC Sports, declined to name the producer on Thursday in a prepared statement, but said, "A young freelance producer wrote the copy which, regrettably, made it on the air. The producer will not be working with us again."

The plagiarized lines were contained in pre-produced features on Matz and the trainer-jockey team of Dan Hendricks and Alex Solis.