Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest Tanks in the Ratings

The Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest took place on Saturday as Americans celebrated Independence Day. This outing was a very different competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it performed poorly compared to previous years. The 2020 hot dog eating contest tanked in the ratings.

According to The Wrap, Saturday's contest averaged 966,000 viewers. This number is the lowest draw since 2005 when the hot dog eating contest had 860,000 viewers. ESPN aired the live event, albeit in a different manner considering the lack of fans. After first acquiring the rights in 2003, the Worldwide Leader in Sports has broadcast the contest live every year since 2004 while documenting Joey Chestnut's rise to become the "sport's" biggest star.

The prolific eater entered Saturday's contest facing a smaller group of competitors. The coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions narrowed the field to only five men and five women. They faced off with each other while remaining inside plexiglass booths.

Despite the lack of fans to cheer him on, Chestnut still broke the record. He downed 75 hot dogs and buns, topping his own personal best and capturing his 13th Mustard Belt in 14 years. The only time he lost was 2015 when Matt Stonie ate the most hot dogs en route to an upset victory.

The female division, on the other hand, saw another multi-time champion continue her reign. Miki Sudo ate 48.5 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes, easily outpacing her fellow competitors. She also set a new world record, topping Sonya Thomas' best of 45, while capturing her sixth-straight Mustard Belt.

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While the ratings did not impress, the hot dog eating contest did create several conversations on social media. Twitter users had no shortage of opinions about Chestnut's continuing dominance, the whole concept of an eating contest or the lack of fans in attendance. Although some viewers simply wanted to express their disgust after the ESPN cameras kept zooming in on Chestnut's face as he shoved hot dogs into his mouth.

Some fans, on the other hand, wanted to talk about George Shea. The longtime announcer of the contest was on hand for the event, wearing his signature straw hat and a facemask. He stirred up debates on social media due to the way he called the action and how he kept removing his mask every time he made a call. Some fans even wondered if Shea does anything throughout the year other than show up for the hot dog eating contest.