America's Cup: Gripping saga eclipses other sports blockbusters

By Steve Deane

Television viewer numbers steadily increase as Team NZ close in on Cup.

The America's Cup may have dragged on into a third week but Kiwis aren't losing their appetite for watching it.

Team New Zealand's agonising failure to clinch the Cup on Saturday morning was watched by over 1.2 million Kiwis, making it one of TVNZ's most-watched programmes ever.

The network reported that 1,225,000 viewers tuned in to Saturday's first race, which was called off with Team New Zealand leading by over a kilometre and within sight of the finish line when the 40-minute time limit expired.

The vast majority of the audience hung around to watch the Kiwi boat blow a handy position in the re-run, with 1.2 million viewers watching Oracle Team USA take out race 13 to keep the regatta alive. "It's phenomenal, those are big numbers," TVNZ publicist Nicole Wood said.

The yachting attracted more viewers than several other notable TVNZ sporting blockbusters, including the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2011 Rugby World Cup.

It even out-rated the One Network News special on Princess Diana's funeral.

Viewing figures today aren't likely to rival the anti-climactic weekend. The largest viewing audience for a mid-week race was 415,100 for races six and seven last Friday.

However viewer numbers have steadily increased as Team New Zealand have closed in on the Cup.

Initially scheduled for two weeks, the Cup has dragged on due to cancellations for winds being too high and - for the first time on Saturday - too low to produce a finish in time. Yesterday brought a new twist, with racing cancelled because the wind blew from the wrong direction.

Organisers were optimistic wind conditions would return to normal for today's racing.

TVNZ blockbusters

1997
One Network News Diana Funeral
Rating 28.6
Average viewers: 893,200

2000
Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony
Rating 34.6
Average viewers: 1,155,200

2011
RWC 2011 Opening Ceremony
Rating 28.5
Average viewers: 1,157,200

2013
America's Cup Race 13
Rating 29.5
Average viewers: 1,225,000
*Rating is percentage of total viewers aged over 5

Source: Nielsen TAM

- NZ Herald

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