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Olympic trials pique viewer interest in Tokyo Summer Games

Graphic designer Asao Tokolo, left, and graphic designers group GOO CHOKI PAR members Q Asaba, third from right, Kent Iitaka, second from right, and Rei Ishii, right, unveil their posters during a presentation event in Tokyo on June 22, 2021. (Franck Robichon/Pool Photo via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Amid all the back-and-forth about the feasibility of holding the Tokyo Olympics during the pandemic, there are early indications of viewer interest in the summer games.

    U.S. Olympic team trials in swimming and track and field that aired Sunday on NBC fell short of gold-medal ratings but won enough viewers to edge into the top 20, according to Nielsen figures released Tuesday.

    NBC's coverage of the trials to date is down 26% compared to viewership for comparable Olympic trials in 2016 on the network. Basketball and hockey playoffs are one potential reason: It's the first time the NBA and NHL events have overlapped with the trials.

    The NBA playoffs accounted for a lion's share of the most popular shows last week and helped make TNT the most-watched outlet on cable or broadcast.

    The Olympics, delayed by a year because of COVID-19, will be held held July 23 to Aug. 8 despite widespread concerns from the Japanese public and medical community. The Olympics and the Paralympics combined will bring nearly 100,000 athletes and others into the country that has a low vaccination rate.

    NBC was the most-watched network last week in prime-time, with an average of 3.2 million viewers. CBS had 2.7 million viewers, ABC had 2.67 million, Fox had 1.45 million, Univision had 1.3 million, Ion Television had 1 million and Telemundo had 950,000.

    TNT handily led the cable networks with an average of 3.49 million viewers. Fox News Channel had 2.14 million, ESPN had 1.65 million, MSNBC had 1.19 million and HGTV had 1.15 million.

    ABC's "World News Tonight" led the evening news ratings competition, averaging 7.7 million viewers last week. The "NBC Nightly News" had 6.3 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 4.7 million.

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