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.
U.S. OLYMPIC SWIMMING TRIALS RATINGS
(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.