NBC's Kentucky Derby coverage draws 15.3 million viewers

NBC's Kentucky Derby coverage draws 15.3 million viewers
15.3 million people watched the Kentucky Derby on NBC. Above, jockey Victor Espinoza celebrates atop California Chrome after crossing the finish line. (Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

NBC's broadcast of Saturday's 140th running of the Kentucky Derby -- which saw the 3-year-old chestnut California Chrome capture the crown -- drew 15.3 million television viewers.

The TV audience was down nearly 6% compared with last year, when an estimated 16.2 million people watched Orb win at Churchill Downs, according to numbers from ratings giant Nielsen.


Nonetheless, NBC celebrated its strong showing, noting that the weekend race marked the fourth time in six years that NBC's coverage of the Kentucky Derby had topped 15 million viewers.

The Comcast-owned TV network also said it set a record for the number of minutes of coverage streamed on its digital platforms: 4.4 million.

The numbers represented NBC's best showing on a Saturday since the Winter Olympics in February.

More than 164,900 people crowded into Churchill Downs in person, including 21st Century Fox Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch, who attended as the guest of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Kentucky Derby viewership, networks and winners:

2014    15.3 million    NBC    California Chrome
2013    16.2 million    NBC    Orb
2012    14.8 million    NBC    I'll Have Another
2011    14.5 million    NBC    Animal Kingom
2010    16.5 million    NBC    Super Saver
2009    16.1 million    NBC    Mine That Bird
2008    14.2 million    NBC    Big Brown
2007    13.7 million    NBC    Street Sense
2006    12.9 million    NBC    Barbaro
2005    13.6 million    NBC    Giacomo
2004    14.6 million    NBC    Smarty Jones
2003    11.8 million    NBC    Funny Cide
2002    12.8 million    NBC    War Emblem
2001    13.5 million    NBC    Monarchos
2000    9.1 million      ABC    Fusaichi Pegasus
1999    9.9 million      ABC    Charismatic
1998    9.5 million      ABC    Real Quiet
1997    11.3 million    ABC    Silver Charm
1996    11.0 million    ABC    Grindestone
1995     9.3 million     ABC    Thunder Gulch

Source: NBC Sports