NBCU, Verizon Add Live Stream to Thanksgiving Day Parade Menu

The 90-year-old Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is jumping into the digital video age, with a boost from NBCUniversal and Verizon.

NBCU is producing a livestream of the parade that will be shot with 360-degree cameras that will be available on Verizon’s YouTube page. Verizon is a sponsor of NBC’s broadcast of the parade and will also be integrated into the streaming coverage.

The streaming presentation will be totally separate from the broadcast, using only footage from the five special cameras along the parade route that give viewers a more up-close look at the balloons, floats and bands.

The coverage will feature a special program hosted by Marlon Wayans and Olivia Culpo, who during the parade will demonstrate the new Google Pixel phone being offered by Verizon.

“With Verizon, we’re leaning-in to technology to bring the ‘Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’ to audiences at home in a way that has never been done before,” said Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships at NBCUniversal. “This partnership shows NBCUniversal’s continued commitment to develop unique solutions for clients and enhance how our viewers watch content regardless of platform.”

The livestream will open with an animation highlighting Verizon and Macy’s roles in the presentation. During the live steam, a bug in the corner of the screen will promote Macy’s and Verizon, and Verizon will be mentioned as a sponsor.

“We are always looking for new and creative ways to transform the way content is delivered to consumers,” said John Nitti, chief media officer at Verizon. “With this partnership, we are providing a front row seat to the parade regardless of where you are. By leveraging the latest technology, the 360 live stream offers an immersive experience coupled with curated programming, and brings a first-of-its-kind experience to consumers on Verizon’s YouTube page.”

Verizon is locked in a tough battle in the mobile phone business and is looking for way to make its network stand out and a high profile sponsorship that demonstrates tech leadership might be good for its image.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

NBCU began promoting Verizon’s live stream of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade during Sunday Night Football. Another high-profile promo ran during the Today show Monday, according Alison Tarrant, executive VP of client partnerships at NBCU. The live stream will also be promoted on a number of other NBCU properties, including E!, USA and Syfy.

During the parade broadcast on NBC, viewers will be urged to check out the live stream, but Tarrant notes “we don’t want to lose our TV audience. It’s a very sensitive balance for us.”

Tarrant says Verizon came to NBCU with the idea of a live stream and that NBCU worked closely with Verizon, its agency Zenith, Macy’s and YouTube to bring the idea to life.

Using the 360-degree cameras should produce a distinct point of view about the parade, giving viewers who’ve never attended the event in person a taste of what it’s like to be among the crowd, the giant balloon and bands. “It will really heighten that experience for those at home.”

“The goal here is with the audience having a richer experience,” she says, adding that social media—including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter—will be used to promote and enhance the experience.

"We are extremely excited to partner with NBCUniversal and Verizon to bring millions of fans a new way to experience our total Parade. Via 360 cameras positioned at strategic points along the route, spectators nationwide can experience what 3.5 million people enjoy live in Manhattan," said Amy Kule, executive producer of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. "From the national telecast on NBC to the 360 experience on Verizon's YouTube channel, the 90th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will be more accessible than ever before."

Marlon Wayans is the star, creator and executive producer of the new NBC sitcom Marlon premiering in early 2017. He also has a Netflix film Naked coming out next year. On social media, Wayans is very active with nearly 10 million followers across all platforms.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.