Please NBC – No Commercials During Distance Swimming

Photo Courtesy: Swimming World


Editorial Coverage Sponsored By FINIS

Dear NBC,

Hey guys! It’s been a long four years since the last Olympics. What seems like forever, really. In those four years, swimmers across the world have been training endlessly to prepare for some, their first, and some, their last, Olympic Trials and -hopefully- the Olympic Games. These elite swimmers train for hours upon hours, putting time in both in and out of the pool to physically and mentally prepare themselves for what could be the most important races of their entire lives.

Among these elite swimmers, we have a special group – the ones brave enough (or unlucky enough, depending on your view) to be called distance swimmers. While every event is hard in it’s own right, I think the world would agree that swimming 16 to 30 lengths of the pool isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Distance swimmers put in more yardage than any other group in the water and race – yes, it’s still a race – for sometimes up to 20 times as long as other competitors. Their swims require endurance that you can only begin to imagine, especially when competing at the Olympic level.

Between the 800 and the 1500, America has four phenomenal swimmers. Let’s start with the obvious…

Katie Ledecky. Ledecky is untouchable in the 400 and the 800 for Rio, and as the WORLD (WORLD!!) record holder in the 400, 800 and 1500 meter freestyles and with her eyes set on the 200, it’s easy to say she’s the one to watch this Olympics, and she just keeps getting better. Not many countries can say they have the fastest swimmer in the history of the world in three events representing them.

Next, the up and coming Leah Smith – NCAA champion and record holder in the 500 and 1650, besting her times by seconds at Olympic Trials to secure her spot right behind Katie. She’s sure to boast some impressive times herself after spending time training with Katie and with her already impressive resume in the NCAA.

Connor Jaeger, the Michigan Man, is ready to improve upon his 2012 Olympic performance where he took 6th in the 1,500 and is now qualified for that and the 400, winning both at Olympic Trials (the 400 in a spectacular come-from-behind win). And finally the male rookie, Jordan Wilimovksy, who not only secured his spot in the 1,500 freestyle and gave Jaeger a run for his money, but also the open water 10k race, proving his ability as an aerobic powerhouse.

With all these incredible swimmers who have worked tirelessly to earn their spots on the team, we’re left with one question – why would you put commercials in the middle of their swims?


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

NBC, I get it, I really do, sponsors are important to television networks and also to the Olympics. However, you can imagine my dismay when I’m in the middle of watching an extremely close race between Jaeger and Wilimovksy and suddenly not one – BUT TWO commercials interrupt.

I realize the 1,500 is an extremely long, and to be frank, sometimes boring race. While there are plenty of people who don’t want to watch the whole thing, there are also plenty of people that do. Would you ever even consider putting a commercial in the middle of the 50? The 100? I didn’t think so. These races are much shorter, yes, but the swimmers in the 1500 and the 800 deserve the same amount of respect as all the other competitors.

Sure, these swimmers aren’t doing this race exclusively for people to watch and likely are only mildly affected by the fact that their races are interrupted by ads for toothpaste, but the point is that they have worked so unbelievably hard for that one swim to get them to the pinnacle of competitive swimming, and the audience doesn’t even get to watch the whole thing because your network puts commercials in the middle of them. Not even a picture-in-picture.

I think I speak for myself, other distance swimmers across the world, swim fans and Olympic fans in general, when I say distance swimmers deserve just as much air time as other swimmers do. Cutting them off to please advertisers is unfair and makes their events seem unimportant in comparison to the events you decided were short enough to not interrupt with commercials.

I strongly hope for the upcoming Games, you take this into consideration and realize that there are families of these swimmers, friends, and fans who can’t be in Rio and want to watch them compete in their races – the WHOLE thing, not whatever parts you decide are interesting enough to broadcast.

Please, please, please give the distance swimmers the respect that they deserve after training likely 70,000 to 90,000 meters a week to prepare for what are some of the most important swims of their careers. The two minutes of their swim that you’re cutting off are far more important than that two-minute ad for a car insurance agency, I promise.


This piece was contributed by former Swimming World college intern Kelly Lennon

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Virginia Coach
Virginia Coach
7 years ago

Unmentioned in the well-articulated plea above is that distance freestyle competitions are, above all, strategic races. There are many places during these races where the participants employ winning moves, be they half-way, three-quarters or in the beginning as Ledecky often does moving to the front and pulling away. NBC would do its swimming audience a HUGE DISSERVICE to take commercial breaks during any of Ledecky’s races this year because for people in the know she will be the most decorated swimmer to come out of the Rio Games. Phelps will have his day. Franklin and Lochte will perform well, but the person with the most swimming medals will be Ledecky. To break from her swims (or any distance swimming this year) is an insult to the viewing audience.

The same rationale applies (in spades) to track. For once let us see ALL of these races, unexpurgated in their entirety from 1500 meters up.

Brian Mullies
7 years ago

And NBC, while you’re at it, more underwater footage. After all that’s where the action is. In addition, Bob Costas is no swimmer. What’s he doing interviewing swimmers ?

Steven Rose
7 years ago

They will. Just like Track. They’ll cut an 8minute (3k) race because it’s “too long”, but will then follow up by covering a 9second race (100m) for 20+minutes.

Hugh Ochsenschlager
7 years ago

But at least we get to see every second of every men’s basketball game with the same NBA players that are on tv every day……..such a joke.

7 years ago

Good luck with that. At trials, they had not one, but two, commercial breaks during the 1500 even though it was one of only two races that day and the 1500 was a close race. And, they spent quite a few of the remaining minutes of the race interviewing Missy Franklin with the race going on in the background.

If you want to watch the 1500, better download the app and hope they live stream it. Or move close enough to Canada so you can watch in live on CBC, whose coverage is focused on showing the actual races instead of a series of sob stories.

Neil Morgan
7 years ago

They suck at showing the swimming here in the UK. I could watch every heat, but they only show the fastest. Then they show the last few lengths of the 1500m when it comes on, normally after cutting away to another sport because nobody wants to watch the full event.

Get to work NBC
Get to work NBC
7 years ago

Here is an idea, if they must show commercials, why not have half the screen for the race and the other half for the commercial? Ideally no commercials are best, but this way seems like something NBC might actually be able to pull off.

J o
J o
7 years ago

Leave distance alone this year !

7 years ago

Actually, swimming is VERY boring, and I’d rather watch so many other things. It was pathetic what they did in prime time, airing swimming at the expense of gymnastics. I think they are right on with the commercials interrupting the monotony of yet another lap in an overrated Olympic event. Just my opinion, and yes, I’m entitled to it.

J o
J o
7 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Swmming is boring to those who do not understand the sport but many of us do understand and love the sport. We don’t tell you football is boring when 2 minutes of playing time takes all day or when a no hitter is played in baseball. You watch swimming every 4 years. Suck it up, that’s someone’s kid who worked hard to get there and distance ain’t any different then your marathons. Leave distance alone.

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