ISL Broadcast on CBS Draws Estimated 381,000 Viewers

Ratings are out for Saturday’s International Swimming League debut on network television in the United States, and according to Show Buzz Daily, it drew 381,000 viewers over the age of 2, and 102,000 viewers in the crucial 18-49 demographic. That’s based on numbers who watched it live and via a DVR device on the same day.

The overall rating assigned was a .25. That means about .25% (or .0025 as a decimal) of the approximately 120 million US households tuned in.

That match was the 2nd day of racing between Cali Condors, defending champions Energy Standard, LA Current, and the New York Breakers, meaning the teams represented 4 of the largest 8 television markets in the US.

Show Buzz Daily lists only those events that draw over 200,000 viewers, and among that demographic, the show was the lowest-viewed network television event of the week.

While it did better in total viewers than a few cable events, like a high school football game on ESPN2, it struggled among events on the most popular over-the-air networks in the country, which are the big names of CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox.

It did slightly worse than the Women’s National Soccer League game between North Carolina and Orlando that followed it on CBS on Saturday afternoon, which drew fewer total viewers (366,000) but more in the 18-49 demographic that determines most ad rates on entertainment television (139,000).

The top-rated sporting events last week were all NFL football games, with the Sunday afternoon games on Fox, which varied around the country, drawing 22.3 million total viewers and 7.8 million in the 18-49 demographic.

The top-rated non-football event was the Major League Baseball NLCS Game 7 between Atlanta and the LA Dodgers.

Other events that outdrew the swimming league include the Professional Bowling Association playoff match aired on Fox on Saturday evening, which pulled 591,000 total viewers and 143,000 in the 18-49 demographic, Premier League Soccer in NBC Sports Network, and 3 motor sports events.

The ISL CBS broadcast outdrew 5 out of 6 professional golf broadcasts on the Golf Channel last week.

On the other hand, Friday’s ISL match that was broadcast on CBS Sports Network did not crack the 200,000 spectator barrier to make the Show Buzz list. They also didn’t crack the top 150 original cable rated shows on Friday, Sunday, or Monday, which included one event with 54,000 viewers (all ages).

By comparison, multiple nights of the 2016 US Olympic Swimming Trials on NBC drew north of 5 million viewers.

No further matches on the main CBS network have been announced for this season. Of the 22 remaining match days, 9 will be streamed via the CBS All-Access platform, while 13 will be aired on the cable network CBS Sports Network.

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1 year ago

As a college swim coach one of my biggest issues is that I have no idea how the ISL works. I know how the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and other sports leagues work. It not the ISL. If I don’t know how do teams win and what it takes to qualify for certain meets or advance in a playoff then I just don’t care that much. Since it’s inception I have just seen random meets from time to time without the understanding of what the meet means or how important it was. Maybe these things are set in place but it has done an awful job of communicating and promoting these things.

1 year ago

It needs to be broadcasted on a service not on cable. Somewhere where it can be watched not in real time. I think swim fans will tune in to watch swimming, but when it could be in a time zone on the other side of the world it might be hard to catch in real time. Also tv is dying. Get youtube tv to broadcast or another streaming platform and have replays accessible

1 year ago

The product of the isl, though flawed, is pretty solid and entertaining. The marketing behind the league is all off though. They don’t try and promote the league by posting races on YouTube, and when they do, they are flagged as “for kids” which means that they’ll rarely be promoted on the recommended page. The dates and times of the league are also unclear and overall the marketing just needs a redesign.

1 year ago

It’s really bad timing. The general public has no investment in competitive swimming because it’s been too long since Worlds, and Olympic Trials never happened, so the only names they MIGHT know that are still swimming are Ledecky, and Lochte, possibly Simone Manuel, and none of them are swimming in the ISL. There has been little to no advertisement for the series in the US, and the scoring is too convoluted for most people to keep up with. Next year is the make or break year for the ISL. All eyes will be on swimming, and Manuel, Ledecky, and especially Dressel figure to become huge media stars if they have the meet they are capable of. The ISL could act… Read more »

Buck Leigh
1 year ago

I think there are a couple of things with the US audience. Non swimming people watch Olympic swimming to root for American swimming where they’ve had lots of success with exciting races. They would only be able to name a handful of stars most of whom aren’t swimming ISL. The overwhelming majority of US swimming people have no clue about SCM times so the quality of swimming means nothing to them. They have nothing to compare them too. I know nothing about track. I only watch during the olympics and occasionally if nothing else is on to root for someone who is American or ran for my alma mater.

1 year ago

1) received little to no promotion or publicity.
2) Saturday morning/afternoon in US is big college football day – hard for any other sporting event to compete. Plus Saturday was great weather (86 and no clouds) and many folks were outdoors to enjoy.
3) Would like to see event on ESPN+ or another streaming service that allows replays at later times.

Reply to  Wahooswimfan
1 year ago

and just visited the ISl’s website – took a bit of digging around the website to even find the schedule for future meets; and then they lust dates and times, but give neither (a) an indication of what time zone the time’s shown are for (and you would think they would list times converted to key major time zones such as London, NYC, Tokyo, Sidney, etc.); or (b) any indication of networks that would be broadcasting

Reply to  Wahooswimfan
1 year ago

Or they think that people can convert (thanks to the internet) from Budapest time to their own time zone.

Reply to  Wahooswimfan
1 year ago

I do not have CBS all access but I wonder if replays can be found there, if not, that is a big miss from CBS.
More promos, from CBS, USA Swimming etc is needed for the US Market.

1 year ago

There aren’t any crossover stars in the ISL. My husband has no knowledge of swimming but he knows three names, Phelps, lochte and Ledecky. I think his knowledge is on par with the rest of America.

Reply to  Runnergrl37
1 year ago

I agree … but, here’s the thing, the ISL has a chance to change this, but they need to make the sport accessible and they need to make it as much about the individuals as the teams. Yeah, some people care about the Lakers, but EVERYONE has an opinion on LeBron, about Federer vs Djovak vs Nadal, etc. I’d suggest the ISL spend more time hyping the individuals in the event and BUILD some stars. There are enough stars in the ISL with personalities to invest some time in marketing and hyping the individuals.

People are going to get more interested more quickly in a person to person battle than in teams they never heard of. People would tune… Read more »

Reply to  Runnergrl37
1 year ago

Yeah most people I know can name Phelps and “that guy with the stupid show who got arrested”.

Reality is even names like Ledecky fade from memory by year 3.

When you think of other Olympic sports who can you name? Gymnastics I can only name Simone Biles. Figure skating I can only name Nancy Kerrigan, Tanya Harding and Johnny Weir but only because he was only dancing with the stars. I can’t think of any current wrestlers, or anyone in track and field not named and Lolo Jones. Why would the general public know any swimmers 4 years after the Olympics?

1 year ago

I honestly tried to watch but I don’t have cable TV and getting it signed in and finding it was such a nightmare that I just gave up

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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