Thanksgiving is a time for family gatherings, feasting, and, of course, indulging in some quality television entertainment. This year, the Thanksgiving TV broadcasts shattered records, defying the ongoing trend of cord-cutting. Networks like NBC, CBS, Fox, and even Amazon experienced a surge in viewership, demonstrating the enduring power of traditional TV and the growing popularity of streaming platforms. In this article, we explore the remarkable ratings achieved during the holiday and delve into what this means for the future of television.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: A Feathered Success
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a beloved tradition for nearly a century, captivating millions of viewers each year. In 2023, the parade reached new heights, drawing an all-time record of 28.5 million viewers. This impressive number represented a 6% increase from the previous year, despite the rising trend of cord-cutting. Surprisingly, more than two-thirds of the parade audience, approximately 22.3 million viewers, tuned in via traditional TV, emphasizing the enduring appeal of linear broadcasting1.
Thanksgiving Football: A Ratings Monster
Thanksgiving and football go hand in hand, and this year was no exception. CBS’ Thanksgiving broadcast of the Dallas Cowboys’ victory over the Washington Commanders became the most-watched program on any network since Super Bowl LVII. With a staggering 41.8 million viewers, the game’s viewership peaked at nearly 44.3 million. This represented a remarkable 31% increase from the previous year’s CBS Thanksgiving game. Similarly, Fox’s Packers-Lions matchup attracted a record-breaking 33.7 million viewers, making it the most-watched Thanksgiving Day game ever for the 12:30 p.m. ET timeslot12.
Streaming Success and Record-Breaking Numbers
While linear TV continued to dominate Thanksgiving viewership, streaming platforms also had their fair share of success. CBS reported its most-streamed NFL regular season game on Paramount+, although specific ratings numbers were not released. NBC Sports streamed the San Francisco 49ers’ victory over the Seattle Seahawks, which became the second-most-watched Thanksgiving primetime game ever. Notably, the game garnered an average of 26.9 million viewers across NBC Sports’ platforms, with Peacock leading the streaming viewership. The combined average viewership of all three games reached a staggering 34.1 million, setting a new record for Thanksgiving Day13.
Amazon’s Entry into the Thanksgiving TV Fray
This year, Amazon made its mark on Thanksgiving TV broadcasts by securing the rights to stream the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins matchup on Black Friday. The company reportedly paid $100 million for the privilege, with hopes of establishing a new tradition on its Prime Video platform. While ratings numbers for the Friday game have not been released, it is expected that the viewership may not match that of the Thursday games due to differences in platforms and timing. Nevertheless, the investment serves as a strategic marketing tool for Amazon, aiming to boost Prime subscribers and drive retail sales on the busiest shopping day of the year14.
The Advertising Market and Viewer Response
The success of Thanksgiving TV broadcasts extends beyond ratings. Advertisers also reaped the benefits as consumers responded positively to big discount messages. Kevin Krim, the CEO of data analytics firm EDO Inc., noted that ratings were strong, and ad performance was quite impressive. Consumers were highly engaged and receptive to the advertising messages, indicating that traditional TV remains a powerful medium for reaching a wide audience. This success comes at a critical time for the industry, as it seeks to adapt to changing consumer preferences and the growing influence of streaming platforms15.
The Symbiotic Relationship between Linear TV and Streaming
The record-breaking ratings achieved during Thanksgiving broadcasts demonstrate the symbiotic relationship between linear TV and streaming platforms. Despite the rise of cord-cutting, traditional TV continues to captivate viewers when it presents the right content in the right context. Patrick Crakes, a sports media consultant and former Fox Sports executive, emphasizes that linear TV’s power remains remarkable and that it will not disappear entirely. However, the surge in streaming viewership alongside linear TV viewership points to an increasingly intertwined future for the two mediums16.
Liberty Media Chairman, John Malone, predicts that cable and streaming services will eventually be bundled together, recognizing their inherent connection. The coexistence of linear and streaming viewing is expected to continue, with the possibility of reintegrating the two into a more cohesive package. While the monetization of this hybrid model remains a challenge, it is clear that linear and streaming platforms can complement each other and achieve significant success in terms of viewership and engagement16.
The Thanksgiving TV broadcasts of 2023 shattered records, defying the narrative of cord-cutting. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, football games, and Amazon’s foray into the holiday programming all contributed to the remarkable surge in viewership. Traditional TV demonstrated its enduring power, attracting millions of viewers, while streaming platforms also experienced success. The symbiotic relationship between linear TV and streaming became apparent, hinting at a future where the two mediums coexist and potentially get reintegrated into bundled offerings. As the industry evolves, the challenge lies in finding the right monetization strategies to capitalize on this combined viewership. Nonetheless, the record-breaking ratings on Thanksgiving Day serve as a testament to the enduring appeal of television and the ever-evolving landscape of entertainment1.