They call it the race that stops the nation and, with 3.58 million television viewers tuned in, yesterday's Melbourne Cup wasn't far from delivering on that promise.
A total of 2.66 million viewers watched the Melbourne Cup in the five mainland capital city TV markets while almost one million more were watching in regional markets around the country.
The iconic race's hometown audience was impressive, with 1.345 million people watching in Melbourne.
The result immediately catapults the Melbourne Cup into the top five most watched one-off sporting events of the ratings year, inching ahead of the rugby league grand final, but behind the chart-topping AFL grand final and the rugby league state of origin.
The overall program rankings are calculated using the capital city ratings only. Because the capital cities and regional areas are discrete advertising markets, the two numbers are rarely mixed, except by media in reporting total national audiences for major events such as this.
Seven, which broadcasts the event, said a total of roughly 4.85 million people watched all or part of the network's coverage.
While the race itself was the highest rating part of Seven's broadcast, Seven split the Melbourne Cup telecast into five program blocks.
The pre-race coverage from Flemington drew a national audience (capital cities plus regional areas) of 916,000 viewers. Pre-race coverage from the mounting yard ahead of the race lifted that audience to 2.22 million.
The telecast hit its largest audience with 3.58 million people watching the race itself, the winner's presentation held 2.64 million of those viewers and post-race coverage softened to around 1.28 million viewers.
Overall the result is outstanding for Seven, not just because of the large audience volumes drawn to the race itself, but because of the powerful spread of audience across the day.
Holding an audience of 1.28 million for post-race coverage, in particular, is a big win for any network, particularly at a time when audiences are drawing their information from a number of sources, including smartphones and second screens.
The race also drew an extraordinary 95.7 per cent commercial share of the audience. That means that during the race, 95.7 per cent of television viewers were watching the Melbourne Cup.
Top five one-off sporting events in 2012
1. AFL grand final presentations (Seven) 3.22m
2. AFL grand final Hawthorn v Sydney (Seven) 2.96m
3. State of origin #3 Qld v NSW (Nine) 2.69m
4. Melbourne Cup 2012 (Seven) 2.66m
5. Rugby league grand final (Nine) 2.57m