A Look At CBS’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Coverage


After watching the horrible NBC broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade I compare CBS’s coverage of the parade to see which one is better.

CBS Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast show coverage review

Since I punished myself watching and complaining about NBC’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade coverage, I thought I would check out how competitor CBS did with their holiday broadcast the year.

NBC and CBS both air the famed New York Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. However, NBC is the one able to brag they are the ‘official’ parade channel. They have an exclusive deal with Macy’s, so they’re the only network allowed to use the word ‘Macy’s’ in their broadcast. They get primo seats on the parade route and get to set up cameras in front of the storefront to film hours of lip synched musical numbers. So, only NBC gets to help sell the Macy’s name all day.

NBC and Macy’s mustn’t like CBS trying to get in on the parade action. Back in 2012 Macy’s actually changed the parade route to make it more difficult for CBS to broadcast it. Pretty nice huh? What’s this season about again? I guess to NBC and Macy’s it’s just about making money and holding onto a monopoly of using this holiday parade to shill their wares.

There’s really nothing they can do about CBS trying to get in on the parade action. They can try to make it more difficult for them, but it’s a public event and CBS is allowed to broadcast it. Anyone is allowed to film and broadcast it! They just can’t use or say that Macy’s name, as if that’s a great loss.

The NBC and Macy’s powerhouse team put on a truly horrid parade broadcast (you can read what I thought about it here).

I would think most viewers tune into one of these networks and stick with it throughout the morning. Maybe they’ll switch over to the other one a few times, but I doubt many would actually watch both broadcasts and compare them to see who provides a better parade experience.

That’s where I come in! I got curious, after seeing that dreadful NBC show, to see the quality of their competition. I didn’t expect a spectacular few hours of programming from CBS, but I thought it couldn’t be much worse than that dreck NBC put out to viewers.

So, just for comparisons sake I thought I would see how CBS’s coverage was in using this Thanksgiving Day parade to sell…I mean celebrate on this holiday.

CBS Kevin Frazier Keltie Knight Thanksgiving Day ParadeThe hosts are Kevin Frazier and Keltie Knight welcoming us to the Thanksgiving Day parade. I don’t think I’ve seen either of them in my life. I would imagine everyone is kind of nervous and worried to not have the dreaded ‘M’ (MACYS) word slip out.

They say CBS has been covering the parade for the last 57 years. I’m not sure if they once had a deal with ‘M’ or if they were just doing these sneaky broadcasts on their own.

The opening is better than NBC’s. At least they’re showing excited parade watchers. They say that when they arrived at 4am that people were camped out for their spots on the parade route. I am definitely getting more of an impression of the crowds and excited kids waiting to see this thing than NBC gave me. They’re tantalizing us with the names of balloons we’ll be seeing and informing us that the Olaf and Grinch balloons are making their debuts.

Savanna Guthrie Matt Lauer NBC Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade 2017Kevin and Keltie have a better setup than the NBC gang. You can see the street stretching back behind them, they’re higher up, you get more of a feeling like a parade is going to be coming down the street. The background is much more interesting and exciting!

The NBC crew were drearily sitting at ground level in front of the ‘M’ store. When they would cut to them talking and the parade was marching behind them you could barely see it. How can they have the exclusive rights to this parade and have such shit seats??? I would much rather sit with CBS! They win the better seats at this thing easily, exclusive rights or not!

But at least NBC had that ‘M’ name plastered all over the screen.

Like NBC, CBS has a weatherman doing remote reporting. NBC has Al Roker, CBS has Lonnie Quinn. Why do they use a weather guy to do this? If it was stormy conditions I could understand it. They could have the guy point to satellite photos and stuff. Here, I assume he’s just going to be running around doing random interviews like Roker.

And here we go – the first Broadway musical performance. It looks to be pre-recorded. This one is a number from the musical ‘Come From Away’. They’re not forcing the performers to do this outside, but they’re in some theater. I suppose that’s better than how NBC does theirs in the middle of the street in front of the ‘M’ storefront. At least the performers are in their element, they have a set, it’s choreographed probably closer to how it’s done in the show. It gives you a better idea of how it plays in the musical. It’s much better than that nutty SpongeBob number NBC opened with.

More footage of the crowd. Folks holding up signs, yelling where they’re from. Photos of viewers’ kids on Thanksgiving morning via tweets. NBC seems to ignore the TV parade watchers. At this point they were too busy interviewing NBC actors promoting their shows than to bother with pesky kids.

Ereka Vetrini Thanksgiving Day Parade CBS cooking segment

The pre-recorded musical performances continue. I wonder if these networks have vested interests in these Broadway shows. They’re not what I’m tuning into see this morning, but these performances are better than NBC’s gaudy ones.

A cooking segment with Ereka Vetrini doing a Pillsbury recipe with Pillsbury crescent rolls. This is obviously a shill segment for sponsor Pillsbury, but at least she’s showing folks how to prepare something with that stuff and trying to insert some worthwhile content during this promotion. Those rolls don’t look too bad either.

NBC didn’t come close to including something like this. They just babbled about the corporate sponsored floats and didn’t offer viewers anything other than to point out this is a float sponsored by Domino Sugar!

Thirty minutes in and we already see parade marching. CBS also has a unique overhead camera shot of the street. And here’s the Olaf balloon! Damn! They didn’t waste any time getting to the actual parade action.

CBS Thanksgiving Day Parade coverage Olaf overhead camera shot

The early arrival of the parade could be due to ‘M’ pushing CBS away from their store, where supposedly all the festive hubbub is going to take place. So, CBS had to move up the street closer to the start of the parade – hence why things are getting to their cameras faster than at NBC’s.

NBC can keep its exclusive spot! Viewers are tuning in to watch the parade. They don’t want an hour of the hosts droning on, shilling their network shows and packing in as many Broadway numbers as possible.  CBS is kicking NBC’s ass with their parade coverage so far.

So, just to keep score: NBC, had seven musical/dance performances, multiple interviews of Roker with NBC stars promoting their shows, resulting in Olaf showing up over an hour into their broadcast. CBS, had three performances, a few reports with Quinn talking with kids at the parade (not actor kids, just regular kids) and that cooking segment before Olaf arrived around the thirty minute mark.

Back from a commercial break and a marching band is arriving. Kevin welcomes some Victoria’s Secret model who’s there to promote The Victoria Secrets Fashion Show, Tuesday night at 10PM here at CBS.

They continue the interview while the Scraps balloon arrives on the scene. It’s kind of odd as they talk about this Victoria Secret’s thing and the camera stays on Scraps. At least they’re not making us miss the balloon while they promote this CBS special.

CBS Thanksgiving Day Parade Ronald McDonald balloonThere’s none of that asinine trivia or corny jokes that the NBC gang read about the balloons. CBS doesn’t seem to have any written commentary for them, so it appears like they’re just winging it. That’s actually an improvement over that canned crap NBC feeds viewers. This model sticks around as the Ronald McDonald balloon comes along.

CBS’ parade position is perfect for this. Even when they cut back to the hosts at their little setup viewers are still able to see the balloons in the background. And those overhead camera shots really give a great overview of the balloons and the crowd size.

Back from a commercial break and Andy Grammar is on that duck float. It’s kind of funny to see him pre-singing and just waving. He has awhile before he hits the NBC cameras and has to lip sync.

One downside that really hurts CBS is that since watching the dreadful NBC broadcast, I know what floats and balloons are being missed when they cut to commercials. They missed the Sesame Street one, the Diary of a Wimpy kid balloon, the Hello Kitty balloon. It’s too bad they couldn’t plan out these breaks better. But that’s what happens when ‘M’ signs an exclusive deal with another network. They want to make it as difficult as possible for CBS to provide coverage to viewers.

But even with the lack of cooperation with Macy’s, CBS is still winning here. Just one interview with a Victoria Secrets model during this is shocking! NBC should be ashamed of themselves. And I’m only an hour into this!

As the Red Power Ranger balloon shows up Kevin and Keltie quiet down momentarily so we can hear the crowd singing ‘Happy Thanksgiving!’. The Red Ranger stops and they’re about to go to a break, we hear Keltie saying to Kevin, “So perfect, it’s like we planned it.”. This lends a bit of air to the loose coverage the all-mighty ‘M’ has forced CBS to take. The joke is on ‘M’. CBS is handling things just fine.

Pikachu balloon is on the scene. Keltie must of been handed some stats about Pikachu as she tells us he’s 53 feet tall.

Uh oh. Star of CBS’s Bull Christopher Jackson is at the desk, but again at least during this interview we can see things happening in the background and they don’t hesitate cutting things off and turning the cameras back to the street.

Coming back from break they continue to share tweeted photos of families watching CBS. At least they’re conscious of their viewers. Unlike that nasty plug-happy NBC.

Patti LaBelle float Thanksgiving Day Parade

Oops I might have spoken too soon. Quinn interviews Erich Bergen star of CBS’s Madam Secretary. He talks mainly about being a native New Yorker and the parade. Not as much blatant promotion as you-know-who did. They quickly get back to the action as that Tom the Turkey float rolls in.

Patti LaBelle is on the Cranberry Cooperative float. I had no idea they named the floats! I saw LaBelle sing on NBC, but over there they never mentioned the names of any floats. They were more concerned with what the name was of its sponsor – this was one from Ocean Spray. NBC made sure to get a good shot of that logo for viewers. Add another point for CBS!

Kevin and Keltie have been ok hosts. They’re fine. I think they should have more info ready at hand for what’s coming down the street. There’s a bit too much spitballing commentary that doesn’t add much to the proceedings. I did enjoy some of Savannah Guthrie’s reads of the trite copy they handed her, but that was only for the unintentional laugh factor.

I notice during the commercials CBS is preparing to air a lot of their holiday specials already. It’s not even December yet! I hope they plan on rerunning Rudolph and Frosty when it gets closer to Christmas.

Josh Lucas sits in promoting his Broadway Show The Parisian Woman. Odd that it’s not CBS affiliated. This feels like the most random plugging as he’s asked, “Tell us about your show.”

NBC in comparison, right out of the gate, Roker went through the same set of repetitive questions to everyone – “Are you excited to be here?, “Tell us what we’ll see on the new season of your show.”, “How are you going to spend the rest of your day?”, ending with the times said show air on NBC. It was pretty embarrassing. It would have made even Jay Leno shudder.

Sesame Street float Thanksgiving Day ParadeThey continue to tell us the floats names. That’s pretty nice. The rambling their doing is getting pretty tiresome though.

They keep up the momentum of filming the actual parade floats pretty well, but the time they spend on each one is a bit too short.

It would be better if they had set up a few cameras in different positions down one city block to be able to linger on each float more, give more close sweeping shots where you can enjoy all the details in these things. Instead it feels more like they have one position on the ground to catch the float as it motors past. The wide shots are fine, but the street view they give is meager.

Oh wait! Here’s the Sesame Street float! What??? Wait a second, I think they’re using footage of it when it went past while they were on a commercial break. Yes! The street doesn’t look like there’s much activity at the moment. Hmmm. Well, they’re not letting viewers miss out on seeing these floats due to commercial breaks. You know the kids watching are happy to see Big Bird. This is what happens when you try to broadcast this thing without the cooperation of the parade organizers. They have to make some concessions.

Star of CBS’ Madam Secretary Mandy Gonzalez sits in. It’s funny how the networks use the parade broadcast to promote their schedules. I understand their devoting a large amount of airtime to this thing, but can’t they just let the parade be the star and leave the promoting to the commercial breaks. I get it, there’s a lot of eyeballs glued to them this morning and money is involved, but man it feels so blatant!

Lonnie is back talking with – a bunch of kids. This is a real contrast to Roker who everytime they cut to him he pulled another NBC actor out of the crowd.

It seems like the parade is thinning out. Tony Shaloub is in the house. No CBS connection, but he’s appearing in the Broadway play The Band’s Visit. It seems CBS doesn’t just reserve the parade seat to only the CBS family. He comments how great a view they have from their spot. Eat that NBC!

The Grinch balloon CBS Thanksgiving Day ParadeFloats, marching bands. It sounds like they were handed written info about some stuff now. Their seats are so good the camera doesn’t even need to cut to another one for us to get a good look at the Grinch balloon. They do cut away of course, but I’m just adding further praise to their vantage point for this parade.

And their awesome overhead shot is an added bonus!

If you haven’t been able to pick it up yet, I’m leaning towards the CBS parade coverage being far superior than NBC’s.

CBS’s placement and how they film this really shows what a difference it makes. One of the cool things – I imagine – for people tuning in watching this around the country is seeing this New York parade take place – and CBS makes it feel like a quintessential ‘New York’ event. You can see the tall buildings, the large crowds, the long streets. You get more of a sense of the scale of where this is taking place.

Grinch balloon NBC Thanksgiving Day ParadeYeah, NBC had some brief very high helicopter shots of the city, but their coverage is mainly from this cramped looking street in front of the ‘M’ building. Low angles, they barely can zoom out. I mean, NBC is working with ‘M’ so why not put a camera guy on their roof at least!

The cameras stay on the ground through the chorus line of dancers, singers, floats, balloons. They give you a chance to appreciate all the work that went into making these floats. That’s where CBS falls short with their street view. They got the grander perspective over NBC though. It’s like you can’t win with either of these broadcasts.

About twelve minutes of uninterrupted parade coverage (not counting commercial breaks). Viewers continue to tweet over photos of families enjoying the parade coverage. I’d love to see the photos NBC got. Probably folks kicking in their TV sets and giving Matt Lauer the finger.

Kevin Frazier Keltie KnightThanksgiving Day ParadeWe land at another musical performance. I suspect we’re no longer seeing live images of the parade anymore and they’re playing balloons and floats from earlier that they missed.

This feeling is further reinforced when I see the camera is now much lower on Kevin and Keltie than earlier and we can’t see the street behind them. I guess the parade ended and now they’re just padding out the broadcast that will end with Santa showing up – ie. when they’re ready to play that tape.

The padding starts with a segment about ways to design your home to be guest-ready without breaking the bank. (yep, I’m fast forwarding now). Promoting the NFL games playing later in the day (zipping through that).

Go to the videotape! There’s that red jet guy balloon from the Cars universe. Sara Evans on that Entenmann’s float (no lip syncing performance for her on CBS). The Angry Bird balloon. The SpongeBob balloon. The Pillsbury Dough Boy balloon. The Peanuts float. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid balloon. Oh yeah, they’re just pulling these out from earlier, no doubt about it! I guess they can just run these in whatever order they want now.

And here’s Santa to end this thing. Kevin and Keltie close the broadcast out with their families sitting around them.

Now, just basing this on the quality of the production and presentation of this parade, CBS cleaned the floor with NBC! It wasn’t even close! CBS gets my vote for the one viewers should have watched!

CBS still had some obvious plugging with guests popping up from their network shows, but it’s a much smaller percentage compared to what NBC did. I think they’re flagrant interviews with actors promoting their shows outweighed the big balloons that showed up! It was absurd.

CBS’s position at the parade was an ideal location for them to film it from. Even when they would have a guest sitting alongside them you could still see the parade in the background, but they really didn’t forget about the action and leave it as long as NBC did.

It felt like CBS embraced a bit more of the parade celebration and family theme of the day. Photos from viewers, Quinn talking with young parade goers, shots of the crowd holding up their signs, Kevin and Keltie ending the show with their families by their side. That was nowhere in sight on NBC.

CBS NBC Thanksgiving Parade coverage broadcast showThere were limited musical performances and none were as flashy  or elaborate as the Broadway numbers NBC and ‘M’ put on. There were also no lip synced performances of those singers riding on some of the floats. No Rockettes dance number. If you like that stuff and want to see Gwen Stefani perform then you’ll probably want to stick with NBC’s coverage.

But if you want to watch a purer New York City Thanksgiving Day Parade experience go with CBS. It didn’t feel as much like a corporate sponsored informercial the entire time to me either. NBC was off the charts shameful with that. They should have gotten Ron Propeil to host the thing for the amount of shilling that took place over there.

Plus, CBS got to the parade a bit faster. With the commercial breaks they miss some of the stuff marching past, but they roll back the tape towards the end and show it all to you in their allotted time. So, you don’t miss anything. Both shows contain nonstop blabbering, but I’d say CBS was less annoying. It took them more time to wear my ears down.

Watching both of these shows didn’t make me a fan of either of these broadcasts or parades in general, but if I’m forced to watch the parade next year I’ll turn on CBS. I don’t think I can stomach another NBC broadcast of this parade. The constant in-your-face plugging and selling they did this year was a great example of what people mean when they complain how commercialized the holidays have become. It was dreadful.

If either CBS or NBC want to shock viewers they would just put all their attention to the street and only feature what is taking place there. Cutting to interviews or performances aren’t necessary. There’s more than enough stuff going on during the parade to fill a morning broadcast.

Congrats on your coverage of the Thanksgiving Day parade this year CBS! You’re the network parade lovers should tune in to watch on Thanksgiving morning. But, that’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement though. You’re the lesser of two evils.

Folks would probably be better off watching the parade on a streaming app rather than either of these network broadcasts anyway.


The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Broadcast Is Awful!

The TV Coverage of The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Stinks

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Coverage By NBC & CBS – Still Horrible

How Much of The Actual Thanksgiving Parade Do The Networks Show?


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