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


In between lip syncing singers, Broadway performances. commercials and sponsors, which television network shows more of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – NBC or CBS?

Macys Thanksgiving Parade 2019 NBC CBS broadcast awful terrible sucks

So, you’re enjoying a day off for Thanksgiving. You grab the kids, turn on the TV to watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on either NBC or CBS and start the holiday with this annual tradition.

And what do you see? Commercials, promotions, talking head reporters and Broadway dance numbers. After a bit of time you roll your eyes, the kids start asking “Where are the balloons???”, you clench your fists, you change over to the other channel and see more of the same. Finally, you scream – “Is anyone going to show any of the actual parade?!?!”

This is the actual Thanksgiving tradition millions of television viewers experience ever year. Any hope of watching the heavily promoted and highly overrated Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City will be dashed and at best you’ll catch glimpses of it in the background or see it in wide shots as the networks go to a commercial. You will be guaranteed to witness plenty of lip-synced musical performances though!

As I have in previous years, I watched both NBC’s and CBS’s coverage of the parade this year. Both are really terrible broadcasts. They both would probably vie for the top spot of worst broadcasts out of the year.

You would think it wouldn’t be too complicated to film a parade for viewers, but every year the actual parade gets pushed to the back and the event is used more for the networks to promote their shows and to advertise Broadway musicals. The actual parade, balloons and marchers are an afterthought. I sometimes think the networks look at them at more of an inconvenience and if they could they’d eliminate them completely to squeeze in more commercials and promotion. 

2019 Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade New York tradition overrated annoyingThis year, I thought I would try to determine just what exactly makes up the NBC and CBS three-hour broadcasts, and how much of it includes the simple footage of the parade that viewers want to see. Which is the better option to tune in for when the kids have been waiting for two hours to see a balloon – NBC or CBS? They’re both terrible broadcasts, but which is the less painful one to watch.

When I watched both broadcasts last year I felt CBS came out on top in this parade war of coverage. Oh, there are plenty of improvements that could be made….a whole lot! But compared to the gaudy, musical extravaganza over at NBC, CBS seemed like the better option.

Now this breakdown is not an exact science. I basically ballparked the amount of time each network spent on certain parts of their broadcast during their three-hour runtime and tried to calculate the totals best I could and compared them to each other. 

And once again, I will christen CBS as the winner.

Both broadcasts begin at 8am. CBS has much less of a wait time for the parade to arrive at their cameras. How long does that take – approximately 33 minutes before you see that Tom the Turkey float rolling past.

Miranda Lambert Macys Parade CBS
Miranda Lambert performs

Before that there’s about a half hour of time to kill, and CBS does that by showing two musical numbers, some file footage of past parades and what I’ll refer to as ‘filler’ (basically weather man Lonnie Quinn talking about the high winds and running around the crowd and asking folks if they’re excited about this parade – most people cheer and clap in response).

NBC has a much longer wait time for the parade to arrive at their cameras at the all mighty Macy’s store front – about one hour! 

In that that first hour of the broadcast viewers were treated to seeing Al Roker act like a buffoon shouting to the crowd while riding a motorcycle and hosts Savannah Gunthrie and Hoda Kotb introduce a whopping seven singing performances and Broadway musical numbers! That’s a lot of signing to have in a broadcast for a parade – and that’s only in the first hour! 

For the rest of their broadcast CBS tries to spread out their parade coverage. For the next two hours you saw:

Hosts Kevin Frazier and Keltie Knight talking with guests – always from a CBS network show – with the parade in the background. 

Segments from sponsors, like and Rakuten.

Promoting the football games later that day.

One musical performance.

CBS Thanksgiving Day Parade Kevin Frazier Keltie Knight
CBS Thanksgiving Parade hosts Kevin Frazier and Keltie Knight

Miraculously there were segments solely devoted to the parade – typically they’re pre-recorded since the parade has long past the CBS cameras after a certain point during their three-hour broadcast. 

And during that three-hour broadcast there were approximately a mind-blowing 61 minutes of commercials! 

Those are not great numbers. So let’s look how NBC stacks up.

Ok, so the first hour nothing is going on unless you like to see Broadway numbers and stars of NBC shows wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving. The parade arrives an hour in and now it’s time to watch this thing. There’s really not much variety going on over at NBC. What do you see:

Debbie Gibson performing

Floats and balloons rolling past the Macy’s storefront and during every single segment the parade stopping so you can see….

…approximately 18 lip synced musical numbers! I counted eighteen, but my numbers could be off because my head was aching at this point and I just wanted to turn this ugly show off. 

Now I’m not counting marching bands in this, since they are associated with parades. I’m mainly referring to embarrassing performances like Jimmy Fallon lip syncing Surfin’ Bird on a float and looking like a complete idiot. 

During its three-hour broadcast NBC cut away for approximately 46 minutes worth of commercials. 

So my final tally:

Savannah Guthrie Hoda Kotb Thanksgiving Day Parade NBC 2019
NBC hosts Savannah Guthrie & Hoda Kotb

Now, even though CBS had a higher number of commercial breaks, they provided more ‘parade content’ they went back to to offset the commercial count compared to NBC. 

On CBS you get almost twice the amount of actual parade footage to watch than what NBC gives viewers. Now I have to point out, much of their segments their interviewing a CBS guest and they’re cutting back and forth between them and the parade, or you can just see the parade moving along in the background. 

However, not even counting that, CBS did have segments with completely uninterrupted parade footage. Some segments were pre-recorded and not live, but that’s the issue CBS faces not being in Macy’s back pocket to help out. But the fact is – CBS airs more uninterrupted parade content compared to NBC which airs – three uninterrupted segments.

There were three segments of wholly parade footage in-between their beloved commercial breaks. The rest of their ‘parade broadcast’ would include everything stopping and having a performer lip-sync a brief song for approximately two minutes. 

Thanksgiving Parade NBC CBS chartIf I had to venture a guess, I’d say you’d get about three to four times the amount of ‘pure parade content’  on CBS than NBC. But if you like Broadway musical numbers NBC is definitely who you want to tune into. 

This is the best I could do, so unless next year someone sits and tortures themselves watching these shows and does a more scientific breakdown with a stopwatch tabulating all this festive information I’ll stand by my results. The ironic thing is that everyone will have forgotten about this horrible broadcast in a day and tune it in again next year! This is more like Americans experiencing a collective Groundhog Day than Thanksgiving! 

NBC did manage to get a trending moment when Roker interacted with a parade marcher dressed as a stick of butter. Yep, you read that right. On Thanksgiving morning a social media moment was a weatherman trading bad jokes with a man in a butter costume. That was something people felt the need to share and comment on. I suppose it’s better than the usual complaints of the bad lip-syncing and why these parade shows don’t show the actual parade. 

Did I mention NBC actually re-ran their full broadcast later in the afternoon! Could you imagine some people might have had to sit through this twice! Oh the horror! 

Al Roker Thanksgiving Parade butter reportUntil some television station comes along and broadcast this Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in a better way this is the choice for viewers – to watch a bad broadcast or a horrible one.

Perhaps one day another channel will decide to air the parade in a similar way as the old Yule Log program. You know, simple camera shots of the New York streets, watching as the parade rolls by, maybe accompany it with the sound of parade watchers or holiday music. It sounds so simple! Until that happens, folks on Thanksgiving mornings will be tuning into either NBC or CBS for this overrated parade and be griping about how bad a broadcast it is.

One upside to this annual television ordeal Americans put themselves through is that the ratings for both broadcasts declined from last year. Maybe folks are getting fed up with this and realizing they could be spending their Thanksgiving mornings doing better things. 

Is it really worth making this a tradition folks? Why not just turn off the tv, sit with the family and have a quiet breakfast.


*A Look At CBS’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Coverage
*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

1 thought on “How Much Of The Actual Thanksgiving Parade Do The Networks Show?

  1. I’d like to see parade coverage similar to hgtv’s coverage of the rose bowl parade, which actually shows the parade. CBS and nbc coverage sucks!

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