Calvin Borel's second consecutive victory in the Kentucky Derby grabbed lots more eyes this year in Central Kentucky.
The recently released local television ratings for May showed a significant jump from 28 rating points a year ago to 35 in 2010. That means 35 percent of total television households in a 40-county viewing area in Central and south-central Kentucky were watching Super Saver's victory.
Also up was the share of viewers, a measure of the percentage of households watching TV at that specific time. In 2009, 60 percent of those watching TV saw Mine That Bird win. This year, that number soared to 71 percent.
The Derby performed even better in Nielsen's designated metro area of Fayette, Bourbon, Clark, Jessamine, Scott and Woodford counties. In those areas, the Derby scored a 41 rating and 87 share. That's up from a 28 rating and 69 share a year ago.
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The airing of the Preakness didn't fare as well, though. Lookin At Lucky's victory scored a 13 rating and 45 share in the 40-county area. A year ago, when filly Rachel Alexandra beat Mine That Bird, the event scored a 16 rating with 42 percent of homes watching.
Lexington's NBC affiliate, WLEX (Channel 18), ran several hours of on-site coverage before the Derby, an effort that's always a boon to the station, said News Director Bruce Carter.
"It certainly helps us attract new viewers who maybe haven't seen our news talent or product," he said. "But most importantly, it's just a fun community event."
Newscasts during May continued to be dominated by WLEX and CBS affiliate WKYT (Channel 27).
WLEX won four of the competitive time slots based on household ratings, while WKYT won three. In a rarity, the two tied in both rating and share during the 5:30 p.m. newscast.
"That shows you exactly how tight it is," said WKYT News Director Robert Thomas. "Normally you come up with a tie because you round the numbers, but this is to the 10th of a point and the share. It's a dead heat."
Carter said the overall picture shows that it's a "horse race" between the two stations.
"That's a good thing for the viewers," he said. "It makes both stations work really hard to put on a very good product."
A year ago, the two stations split the eight newscasts.
The ratings book did contain some troubling news, though. The number of households watching TV was down year over year during each of the eight competitive newscast time slots.
The drop was most pronounced in the morning, which saw a 22.7 percent drop from 5 to 6 a.m. and a 13.1 percent fall from 6 to 7 a.m. The remainder of the time slots saw drops ranging from 0.7 percent to 7.1 percent.
WLEX's Carter said good weather during parts of May could have contributed.
"May had a lot of warm weather," he said. "When it's sunny, warm and nice, people just go out and get away from TV."
Thomas also noted that part of those drops, according to Nielsen's report to WKYT, came because more people watched television together instead of separately.
Despite the lower viewing audience, the stations managed to eke out gains at some time slots. Among the most notable was distant third-place ABC affiliate WTVQ (Channel 36).
The station saw gains during all of its evening newscasts and more than doubled its rating at 11 p.m.
"We were pleased that we feel we're moving our news product in the right direction," said WTVQ General Manager Chris Aldridge.