A highlights package of the US Swimming National Championships drew 572,000 viewers on NBC, according to Nielsen ratings.
This is a bit of a redemption for swimming after highlights of the swimming World Championships drew fewer than 200,000 viewers in a similar time slot in June.
Of the 572,000 viewers, an estimated 130,000 were in the crucial 18-49 demographic. Those numbers equate to approximately .40% of American households tuning in to the broadcast at any given time.
NASCAR led the day’s sports television ratings with about 3.3 million viewers in what is a slow time of year for sports. A cross-town Mets vs. Yankees baseball game drew 2.1 million, and the final day of the PGA Tour on CBS drew 2.4 million viewers.
Other live sporting events last week that drew similar ratings include a Saturday afternoon Major League Soccer match on ABC (563,000 viewers), early rounds of the PGA Tour event on the Golf Channel, a NASCAR truck racing event on FS1. The swimming highlights easily outdrew ESPN’s coverage of The Basketball Tournament, an off-season tournament that features pros and amateurs playing together. That’s a coup because ESPN has been throwing a lot of marketing weight behind the league.
It also outdrew WNBA basketball, horse racing, and a UFC event on ESPN.
Putting the highlight packages on network television often pumps up the viewership numbers, as it gives a broader exposure to passers-by. But that bump didn’t come for the World Championships highlight package.
US Nationals did better even without the bump of the top male American swimmer, Caeleb Dressel, who has still been incognito since leaving the World Championships early.
One possible explanation for the bump in US Nationals coverage is the residual effect of the surprising ratings juggernaut that was the World Track & Field Championships. Aired nightly on NBC’s family of networks, and hosted in Eugene, Oregon, Sunday night of the track & field championships drew an estimated 2.3 million viewers. That was thanks, in part, to being on NBC.
That made it the fourth-most watched live sporting event of the week behind a NASCAR event, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby. Saturday night’s track & field session drew 1.7 million viewers, while several other live sessions drew more than 600,000 viewers, even when airing on USA Network.
It’s possible that the excitement and exposure of those championships drew in more viewers to track & field’s Olympic peer in swimming.
The swimming highlight show drew another 77,000 viewers in a replay on CNBC on Sunday evening. None of the individual finals sessions cracked the top 150 of any day of the US National Championships.
Ratings for swimming and other Olympic sports events are coming into focus after NBC announced that it would shut down The Olympic Channel in the US in September. That came after another frequent home for swimming, NBC Sports, closed at the end of 2021. Fewer spaces to air events like swimming means more competition for airtime against other sporting events.