2021 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials Averages 2.7 Million Nightly Viewers

The 2021 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials held its own against other network viewership over eight nights of racing in Omaha, with the competition averaging just under 2.7 million viewers per finals session on NBC.

While viewership has drastically declined compared to previous Trials, largely due to the increasing number of cord-cutters who are now streaming what they had previously watched on cable or satellite, the meet still managed to rank either first or second against other network programming on four of the eight nights of competition.


(Ratings data courtesy of The Sports Examiner, per Nielsen via SpoilerTV.com)

  • 13 June (Sun): 8 p.m. = 2.198 million viewers (no. 4)
  • 14 June (Mon): 8 p.m. = 2.878 million viewers (no. 3)
  • 15 June (Tue): 8 p.m. = 2.994 million viewers (no. 2)
  • 16 June (Wed): 8 p.m. = 2.748 million viewers (no. 2)
  • 17 June (Thu): 10 p.m. = 1.861 million viewers (no. 3)
  • 18 June (Fri): 9 p.m.= 1.894 million viewers (no. 4)
  • 19 June (Sat): 9 p.m. = 2.109 million viewers (no. 1)
  • 20 June (Sun): 8 p.m. = 4.905 million viewers (no. 2)

Finals were shown live in the Eastern and Central time zones, but delayed in the Mountain and Pacific zones on five of the eight nights.

Viewership peaked by a long shot on Sunday night, which was largely due to golf’s U.S. Open spilling over into the scheduled swimming coverage. The U.S. Open had 7.435 million viewers at 7 p.m.

In 2016, the Trials averaged just over 4.5 million viewers per night, according to Sports Media Watch, while 2012 was swimming’s all-time high with over 6.7 million viewers.

The tape-delayed prelims sessions averaged 266,000 viewers on NBCSN.

Track and field, which either intermixed or followed swimming on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night (June 18-20), averaged 2.5 million viewers for those three nights, and then hit its high of 3.786 viewers on Monday.

Diving had the most limited coverage of the three, with three hours airing on NBC on the June 12-13 weekend, showing only individual finals. It averaged 2.076 million viewers per hour shown, compared to swimming (2.732 million across 11 hours) and track and field. (2.843 across the first five hours).

The U.S. gymnastics trials are set to begin Thursday, June 24, and run through the 27th, with NBC showing all four days live.

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Bobo Gigi
2 years ago

No more MP in the water is also a reason for fewer non hardcore swimming fans viewers.

Ew David!
2 years ago

These ratings don’t include streams right? How would it compare to the natural decline of TV viewership period?

Not Tapered 🏊
2 years ago

Rowdy is still a draw.

Reply to  Not Tapered 🏊
2 years ago

Pfft…. To the ignorant.

Last edited 2 years ago by Guerra
2 years ago

Great to see people watching swimming!!

2 years ago

If NBC really wanted to attract the cord cutters, then they should have offered an Olympic Special package, and NOT forced interested cord cutters to subscribe to a streaming service that the Cord Cutters did not want. A Special Olympic package which streamed only Olympic events, for a fee, would have been much more attractive to me. I relied on Twitter and you tube to read and see what happened.

Reply to  Dave
2 years ago

They did something like this in 1992 in the era of cable. It was called Triplecast, and it was on the pay-per-view channels. I had to work all summer to convince my parents to sign up for the Blue channel where every heat and final of swimming would air live. It was no-frills, minimal commentary, no human interest fluff pieces, just wall-to-wall coverage. I enjoyed it, but they expected 2 million people to sign up, and they got 200,000. It was a huge financial disaster and they never did it again.

2 years ago

I wonder if the gymnastics competition is going to be awash with Dressel/Ledecky commercials.

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Aquajosh
2 years ago

Gymnastics and figure skating draw the viewers due to female demographic. It’s that simple. Nobody seemed to complain around here when NBC cut away from a sudden death playoff in the US Women’s Open golf tournament to show the gymnastics trials. No way they would have done that for swimming or track and field. Those events would have been switched to the lesser network, just like Sunday when swimming shifted to CNBC.

2 years ago

Huge decline since the high water mark 9 years ago but consistent with other sports. generally tv viewing has dramatically declined over the last 40 yrs

Reply to  Comet
2 years ago

Or just so many options 100+ channels and all the streaming services?!

2 years ago

Will Simone Biles outperform all of Swimming?

Reply to  Ghost
2 years ago

she swims freestyle so yes

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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