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.

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.

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oxyswim
1 month ago

Wonder if they would have been any better if they didn’t tape delay on the west coast.

Joel
Reply to  oxyswim
1 month ago

The tape delay thing in the US is ridiculous. Just show it live.

ACC
1 month ago

A pretty substantial decline, but to put it into context, approximately 40% fewer people aged 18-49 (probably the prime demographic here) watch TV compared to 5 years ago. The rise of streaming makes these historical comparisons a bit fuzzier.

Ger
1 month ago

How are sales of broccolini doing?

Wave 1.5 Qualifier
Reply to  Ger
1 month ago

Oh come on. We all know the real reason the ratings were still so solid:

Up where they walk, up where they run,
Up where they staaaaay all day in the sun,
Wanderin’ free, wish I could be,
Part of that woooooorld….”

Khachaturian
Reply to  Ger
1 month ago

they are better than the sales of cabbages as of 6/24/21

Drew Dweetzer
1 month ago

Impressive! Or about 20 times the number of viewers that “Cuomo Prime Time” gets. Way to rock it Mike Tirico and Elizabeth Bessel!

Here’s hoping we get Nicole to do commentary for the NBCSports app for the Olympics (like 2016).

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Drew Dweetzer
1 month ago

It is hilarious how many Americans are absolutely petrified of CNN. Imagine a swimming event in which the correct times and placement are reported, instead of lying about every one of them and pretending nobody will be smart enough to notice.

Last edited 1 month ago by Awsi Dooger
dresselgoat
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
1 month ago

CNN is great but they definitely biff stuff with lazy reporting

Last edited 1 month ago by dresselgoat
Bobo Gigi
Reply to  dresselgoat
1 month ago

“CNN is great”
😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆
You made my day! Thanks.

Not Tapered 🏊
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
1 month ago

What does CNN have to do with this? Cable news isn’t a high rated channel regardless of which one you watch.

Bobo Gigi
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
1 month ago

All US “news” networks owned by giant companies serve the establishment and the status quo. They just brainwash people with CIA, MIC, Wall Street, Big Tech and Big Pharma talking points 24/7. They are never held accountable every time they lie on purpose. And when they lie on purpose of course this is not suppressed on social media. All of that is a parody of journalism. These corrupt high-paid TV hosts and pundits are not journalists. They are stenographers for the establishment.

Ghost
1 month ago

Will Simone Biles outperform all of Swimming?

Khachaturian
Reply to  Ghost
1 month ago

she swims freestyle so yes

Comet
1 month 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

Ghost
Reply to  Comet
1 month ago

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

Aquajosh
1 month ago

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

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Aquajosh
1 month 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.

Dave
1 month 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.

Aquajosh
Reply to  Dave
1 month 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.

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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