from Richard Sandomir at The New York Times
Last year the Nathans hot dog eating contest drew 1.46 million viewers, a total that was probably surpassed this year. On May 30, Anaheim's 3-2 victory over Ottawa in the opener of the Stanley Cup finals was watched in 523,000 households. Ouch.
ESPN started carrying the Nathan’s event in 2004, and it drew 926,000 viewers. In 2005, it dipped to 860,000, but it leaped to 1.46 million last year, a level it probably reached on Wednesday.
“We’ve done other competitive eating contests,” said David Berson, an ESPN executive vice president. “But we focus on the hot dog. It’s the marquee event.” But with ESPN’s deal now expired, Spike wants to take gluttony (not entirely a male pursuit, as the M.L.E. star Sonya Thomas shows) to its male-focused network as a companion to its Ultimate Fighting Championship franchise. Spike has shown one Major League Eating event (the St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage, jalapeños and green doughnuts show from Savannah, Ga., attracted 739,000 viewers) and is scheduled to carry three more.
“We want to be known as the home of competitive eating,” said David Schwarz, a spokesman for Spike.