Only the Super Bowl beats Turkey Day viewing

Ads that ran across NBCUniversal properties over Thanksgiving weekend reached half of all US adults, the broadcaster said.
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· 4 min read

Ah, Thanksgiving. If it already feels like a distant memory, that’s probably because you didn’t do much besides eat four plates of food, get into a fight about politics with a relative, and take three naps—all with the TV on.

From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the National Dog Show to football games, Turkey Day TV makes Thanksgiving one of the remaining few days on the calendar where advertisers can reliably find big audiences all day long. And if broadcasters can stack programming on a live-viewing juggernaut day like Turkey Day, they can attract more advertiser interest.

On Thanksgiving Day, NBCUniversal reached 40% of the ad market, or around 100 million viewers, according to iSpot figures. Over the course of the entire weekend, the broadcaster said ads on its channels and platforms reached more than 50% of US adults, or 128 million people.

“It is that appointment viewing where everyone sits down together,” said Mark Marshall, NBCUniversal’s president, advertising and client partnerships. “In a time where scale is harder and harder to find, this is one of those areas where you can find appointment TV where people are sitting down together and watching.”

A feast for the eyes

No matter the network, viewership was huge the day before Black Friday:

  • This year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade attracted 27.7 million viewers in its live telecast on NBC and livestream on Peacock—the highest viewership for the special in five years’ time and the most-viewed entertainment program on NBC this year.
  • Fox Corp.’s broadcast of the New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving night averaged 42 million viewers across live TV and streaming, making it the most-watched NFL regular-season matchup in history, according to Nielsen.
  • Meanwhile, NBC’s NFL matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving attracted more than 26 million viewers, becoming the second most-watched Thanksgiving primetime matchup ever, according to the broadcaster.
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Compare that to the 2022 Oscars, which were watched by around 16.6 million viewers, or the average NFL football game, which has brought in around 15.7 million viewers this season.

The Thanksgiving Day parade, which has been a mainstay of holiday TV programming for nearly 100 years, is particularly key to attracting advertising dollars during the crucial fourth quarter, when holiday shopping is in full swing, Marshall said. (Only about 20% of parade-related ad inventory is sold in the scatter market, while the rest is sold during the annual upfronts, Marshall told us.)

“We’ve referred to the Thanksgiving Day parade as the Super Bowl of family viewing,” Marshall said. “I don’t think there’s anything like it other than the Super Bowl.”

Mr. World[Cup]wide

Meanwhile, broadcasters like NBCUniversal got another boost during the busy viewership season with the World Cup, which usually airs during the summer months. This year, retailers and tech companies have taken a bigger interest in the broadcast, compared to the brands, like beer companies, that usually dominate the World Cup when it’s played in the summer, Marshall said.

Overall, more than 20 new advertisers signed onto NBCU’s World Cup coverage, with brands in auto, retail, QSR, and tech leading the way.

Thanksgiving Day matchups and games throughout the holiday weekend helped boost Telemundo in the ratings, with the Thanksgiving Day matchup between Brazil and Serbia attracting 5.7 million viewers and the England-US matchup the following day bringing in 4.6 million viewers. So far, audiences tuning into the Spanish-language broadcasts on Telemundo, Universo, and Peacock are up slightly compared to 2018.

Marshall said the World Cup has been “pretty successful” so far. In fact, he joked, “We may try to convince FIFA to move it” permanently.

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