For the first time in its 64-year history, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be visually broadcasted on a medium other than NBC.
In fact, you can watch it without even turning on the TV at all. In an unprecedented medium transition, the annual event that solidifies the beginning of the holiday season will be live on YouTube and available to see in 360 degrees.
“Under the terms of the package, Verizon will stream the parade with five cameras placed along the route capable of beaming 360-degree views to users, and festoon the view with pop-up graphics offering facts about the proceedings.”
The parade will stream from Verizon’s YouTube account.
Hardcore viewers of the Macy’s Day Parade—Yes, they exist—will receive an early Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa gift with the choice to watch the parade from five different angles. It’s a huge difference from the NBC perspective, where viewers were allowed to see only what NBC shows them.
The traditional option of watching on NBC will still be available, but this pivot to embracing the digital medium could signify more to come. The Super Bowl and Olympics are already available via live-stream, so this is nothing new.
However, it does open up an entirely new audience. Sports fans have long been acquainted with the availability of games online, which is partly why an event as significant as the Super Bowl was brought online to watch.
The Macy’s Day Parade, which is mainly watched by families with young kids, is the first major non-sporting event to earn the TV-to-YouTube treatment. Unlike major sporting events that were moved to the digital medium, on top of already being available on cable, this event doesn’t have a core fanbase that’s already reliant on the Internet to watch many of its games.
Access to YouTube is easy, but the tradition of gathering the family together to watch the Macy’s Day Parade on NBC may play a large part in whether or not the move succeeds. It’s far more likely to believe the family would rather huddle around the big screen, rather than their laptop.
Plus, it may just be too much. It’s early in the morning and many families like to have the Parade on in the background while they prepare for Thanksgiving dinner. Sure there will be those extreme viewers who want to get a look at everything from their new vantage points, but many enjoy the simplicity and ambiance of turning on NBC and glancing from time to time.
Of course, there are far more practical, financially stimulating reasons behind the move, according to Variety:
“The new means of watching an old TV institution arrives as Madison Avenue is seeking different ways to partner with the industry overall.
While traditional TV commercials thrive, marketers are placing new emphasis on devising content that dovetails with the programming that attracted viewers in the first place, rather than interrupting a show with messages routinely viewed as something on an annoyance.”
Commercials are a point we have yet to consider that may significantly benefit the event on YouTube. Excluding the Super Bowl, nobody’s watching an event for the commercials. A commercial-less experience on YouTube could compel people to make a switch.
It certainly works for platforms like Netflix, where episode after episode can be watched without a single commercial or stoppage.
However, at least in the case of the Parade, it all comes back to convenience and tradition. Turning on the TV Thanksgiving morning, putting on NBC, and watching the Parade, no matter in what capacity, is an American tradition that has persisted for decades.
Placing it on YouTube and implementing the 360 feature is great for novelty, but it’s just that: a novelty. It’ll be fun to use for a short time. You’ll get your fill of the five vantage points, but that’s not how people are going to watch the majority of the Parade.
I’ll use my own personal experience as an example. Even though I’ve never been particularly interested in the Parade, my mom has always made a big deal of it, loves it because of the tradition, and I can always bet that when I wake up an hour after it started, it’ll be on.
She watches it as I imagine millions of moms across America do: in the background and glancing at it from time to time while she prepares her contributions to Thanksgiving.
A demographic I do expect to take full advantage of it’s availability on YouTube, and its 360 feature, are the young children of those moms; otherwise known as the kids who you give an iPad to in order to distract them.
Needless to say, an interactive video that allows kids to watch their favorite cartoon characters float by from a bunch of different angles for 3 hours is a great solution to keep them out of the kitchen.
And this just may be the generation to either eliminate cable altogether or to make it seriously reevaluate its approach to reaching viewers.
With a steadily increasing number of people cutting the cord, the idea of watching major events like the Macy’s Day Parade may one day end up becoming more popular online. It isn’t that far-fetched of an idea when you consider what’s available on TV is also available online, but faster, with less commercials, and with more immediate information.
ESPN has become the biggest victim of this trend, with “ESPN subscribers declining at a rate of about 4% over the previous year versus a rate of about 2% last year.”
The declines are in part because of the lower quality of the channel (namely SportsCenter), and the availability and easy accessibility of games online, as well as all the stats and info needed to become an educated fan of the game.
Remember what I said about convenience? Rather than waste time with the filler on SportsCenter, fans would rather just watch their team’s full highlight videos online.
But even with the availability of Netflix and Hulu, and major events dipping their toes into the burgeoning waters of the Internet, a full cutting of the cord and transition is still far out of reach.
At least until the iPad generation takes the place of the ‘Mom cooking Thanksgiving dinner’ generation.