The Incomplete Turkey

No big surprise here: the number of viewers has remained constant for the past twenty years. Between 25 and 30 million people watch Macy’s Parade each year. Since there are just short of 300 million Americans, 1 in 10 Americans watches the Parade–9 out of 10 do not. This is a Great American Tradition, so I figured the numbers would be much higher. By comparison, last year’s Super Bowl (XLV) was the highest rated of all time–with 111 million viewers–more than 1 in 3 Americans.

For the whole Nielsen story, click here.

But wait! — Thats’ not the whole story! The oldest turkey feather in Nielsen’s graphic was 1991. What happened before 1991?

Turns out, the first parade coverage dates back to 1939, but that was experimental coverage by a then-experimental medium. In 1955, NBC started covering the parade (Nielsen’s turkey is missing 31 feathers, plus 2011).

I will contact Nielsen to solve the mystery of the missing feathers. Meantime, have a look at the small orange type just below Nielsen’s title (“Sum of Networks [NBC & CBS]…”) Turns out, the parade is a public event, so NBC’s rights have never been exclusive. CBS covers the parade without paying for rights. Over on ABC, there’s the Philadelphia parade, which has been on the air, locally, since 1966–it is also broadcast nationally, and claims bragging rights to the whole idea. It was Gimbels that invented the Thanksgiving Parade in 1920–before Macy’s glommed onto the idea four years later.

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