One of my biggest traditions for Thanksgiving is watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, hands down. I never miss it and many others around the country don’t either. The parade gets about 44 million viewers, which is an good number for a television show. Since I was a kid, I noticed that the parade is on two different channels: CBS and NBC. One Thanksgiving I recorded them both to compare and contrast their broadcasts. I don’t have anything against CBS, but the NBC show is far superior. CBS usually have the hosts near Times Square while NBC’s hosts are near Macy’s. However, NBC’s show is the official licensed network of the parade. That means that they’re the only ones who can televise the performances in front of the Macy’s store at 34th street. Because the parade is in the public view, CBS can strategically set up cameras around the route.
I was watching the CBS show and since they cannot show the performances, they will have performances around the city with casts of broadway shows. For instance, the last time I watched the parade on CBS, there was a special performance of the Beatles tribute show Rain. It was a recreation of the rooftop performance of the Beatles last jam. The fake Paul McCartney sang the song, “Get Back.” I know nothing about Beatle songs, so I have no idea if it was a good choice. However, it was not bad. I mean, if you can’t get the performances held in front of Macy’s, it’s an acceptable alternative.
It’s weird though how NBC became the official broadcaster for the parade when CBS was the first one to have it on television. CBS had the parade on T.V. at least ten years before NBC screwed them. Also, to add insult to injury, Macy’s wants to change the 2012 route to sixth avenue and avoid Times Square altogether. The higher ups at the department store claim it’s for safety reasons since there’s some sort of construction going on at the square. However, there are published reports claiming that Macy’s is trying to avoid Times Square because CBS has a large presence there and the retailer is trying to control coverage since CBS pays no fees.
Although NBC pays millions of dollars in fees to cover the parade officially, Macy’s shouldn’t screw over CBS. It’s not like both networks cover the performances at Herald Square. Also, that move is going to take the parade out of Times Square. What the hell is that about? The parade always went through there; it’s frickin Times Square! Hell, even I saw the parade in Times Square once in person.
As of this writing, the final decision hasn’t been made yet, but there is a push back to leave the route the way it is. Many companies will be affected as well as the tax revenue for the city. Macy’s really needs to leave it alone. It’s not like NBC is losing the ratings.
Will Macy’s really lose out with performances like this?
One last note–even though CBS started airing the parade annually in 1945, it was not the first broadcast. The first experimental broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was actually at 1939. The following years were skipped because of World War II. I found some of the actual footage on YouTube and wanted to share it here. There’s no sound, but the parade was always more of a visual thing. Enjoy!