Horse racing used to be "The Sport of Kings" and the Kentucky Derby is still called “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” But TV ratings say otherwise. The Derby has had declining ratings since the mid-‘70s. The loss of appeal isn’t specifically related to the Kentucky Derby, but the sport of horse racing in general.
One of the main reasons for horse racing’s popularity is betting. For years it was the best and in many places, the only, option to gamble legally. But with the rise of casinos, online sportsbooks and state-sponsored lotteries, America began to abandon the tracks.
There have been recent signs of a revival for the Kentucky Derby. When NBC took over the broadcasting rights in 2001, the network made it into a cultural event instead of a sporting event. They began appealing to women, with cooking segments for Derby parties and a red carpet show discussing the opulent fashion of the elite. TV ratings have had a slight uptick since adapting this new approach, but it’s still only half of the viewership it had 35 years ago.