Curling Night in America returns for a seventh season on NBCSN tonight.
The tightly packaged curling games were shot in Irvine, CA—about an hour's drive from the new Southern California Curling Centre in Vernon, near Los Angeles—less than a month ago and feature American champions taking on a variety of men’s, women’s and mixed doubles teams from Canada, Denmark and Germany.
The show used to air at 11:00 p.m. eastern time on Friday nights, but now they air on various nights—even a Thursday—at varied times. This season, only two matches air at 11 while four start at 10:00 p.m. (including tonight’s opener) and three air at 9:00 p.m.
The U.S. four-player entries were skipped by John Shuster and Tabitha Peterson, while new U.S. champions Vicki Persinger and Chris Plys (who plays third for Shuster) repped the red, white and blue in mixed doubles.
Canada’s entries were interesting. Tyler Tardi’s youthful men’s squad zipped down the west coast from British Columbia, while the women’s squad was the Jennifer Jones foursome minus Jones. Kaitlyn Lawes moved up to skip while rival Winnipeg third (for Team Fleury) Selena Njegovan stepped in.
The mixed doubles reps were the newly-married pair of defending men’s champion skip Brendan Bottcher and new bride Bobbie Sauder.
The annual event is a partnership between USA Curling, NBC Sports Network, the World Curling Federation and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
All in all, nine curling “shows” will be aired over 18 total hours on the network that’s been home to U.S. Olympic coverage (both winter and summer) since 2000.
Ratings have been traditionally hard to locate. In that inaugural 2015 season, the viewer numbers ranged from 66,000 to 130,000. The latter figure wasn’t bad, considering a) the day of the week and time slot and b) the 198,000 who watched an NHL hockey game—Pittsburgh versus Columbus—four hours earlier.
Through seven shows in 2020, Front Office Sports reported that “CNiA” was averaging 85,000 viewers, up 21% compared to 2018. Two of the seven had drawn over 100,000 eyeballs.
“We look forward to hosting some of the top curling countries in the world as they compete in an event that has proven to boost engagement and promote grassroots growth within our sport,” said USA Curling CEO Jeff Plush at the time of shooting. “The exposure and accessibility of curling will always be a top priority of the organization, and consequently, we’re thrilled to deliver the sport into homes across the country through the NBC Sports Network.”