Some viewers may have felt duped when they tuned in for Michael Phelps’ race against a great white shark, but the event was the Discovery Channel’s highest-rated Shark Week telecast of all time.
According to the network, “Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White” garnered an average of 5 million viewers, reaching highs with viewers between 25-54 years old, and women between 18-49 and 25-54. Discovery also became Sunday night’s No. 1 basic cable network in primetime.
The Phelps-centric Shark Week installment aired Sunday night with a race between a great white shark and the former Olympic swimmer. Phelps strapped on a fin extension, and their times were then compared. (Spoiler: Phelps came in second.)
Many disgruntled viewers were perturbed when they realized Phelps wasn’t actually in the same body of water as the beast. But, as he explained in a Facebook Live video Q&A, “Everything was either presented on air during multiple interviews that [he] did throughout Shark Week or the beginning of the show.”
“Some people just decide not to listen to some of the things that we do, and that’s not my fault that you don’t do that,” he added.
Discovery also released a statement at the time that read, “All the promotion, interviews, and the program itself made clear that the challenge wasn’t a side-by-side race. During Michael’s pre-show promotion, as well as within the first 2 minutes of ‘Phelps Vs Shark,’ this message was clear and we are thrilled with the audience and the engagement around the world.”