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‘Phelps vs Shark’ Is Now Discovery’s Highest-Rated Shark Week Show Ever

CGI-heavy swim meet earns TV ratings gold

The shark may have been fake, but these Nielsen numbers certainly are not.

Including 72 hours of catch-up viewing, Sunday’s “Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White” scored a 3.0 rating in Discovery’s key 25-54 demographic — that’s the best ever for any Shark Week telecast.

The special, which saw Olympian Michael Phelps race a computer-generated great white shark, also set records among women of that age-range and the slightly younger version, females 18-49.

All told, “Phelps vs. Shark” hauled in more than 5 million total viewers, on average. Of that sum, 2.7 million came from Discovery’s main ad-sales demo.

In addition to those new Shark Week highs, “Great Gold vs. Great White” led Discovery to finish No. 1 across basic cable’s primetime. It even topped its broadcast competition among adults 25-54, 18-34 and 18-49 — the last of those represents over-the-air TV’s key demographic. Chum(ps).

In other words, the much-hyped Phelps stunt was a big hit — but was it quality programming? Discovery sure thought so, though Twitter didn’t quite agree with the popular cable channel’s assessment of things.