Macy’s Parade Television History
Below is a shot from 1954 showing NBC’s new Chime logo on a TK30. If you look closely at the viewfinder, you will see that the WNBT call letters have been removed and as of yet have not been replaced with the new (October 18, 1954) WRCA call letters. More than 44 million people watch the parade on television each year. It was first televised locally in 1939 as an experimental broadcast. No television stations broadcast the parade in 1940 or 1941, but when the parade returned in 1945 after the wartime suspension, so too did local broadcasts. The parade began its network television appearances on CBS in 1948, the year that regular television network programming began. NBC has been the official broadcaster of the event since 1952, though CBS also carries unauthorized coverage under the title “The Thanksgiving Day Parade on CBS.” Since the parade takes place in public, the parade committee can endorse an official broadcaster, but they cannot award exclusive rights as other events (such as sporting events, which take place inside restricted-access stadiums) do.
At first, the telecasts were only an hour long. In 1961, the telecast expanded to two hours, then 90 minutes in 1962–1964, back to two hours in 1965, and by 1969, all three hours of it were being televised. The broadcasts have been in color since 1960. NBC tape delays the program so that it airs at the same time (9 a.m. to noon) in all four of the major time zones in the contiguous United States.
From 1962 to 1971, NBC’s coverage was hosted by Lorne Greene (who was then appearing in NBC’s Bonanza), and Betty White. Ed McMahon co-hosted in 1971, then hosted until 1982. Bryant Gumbel hosted 1982-1987 Between 1987 and 1997, the NBC telecast coverage was hosted by The Today Show’s Willard Scott. During that period, their co-hosts were Mary Hart, Sandy Duncan, Deborah Norville, and Katie Couric; from the early 80s until circa 1994, the show was produced and directed by Dick Schneider; since circa 1994, the telecast has been executive produced by Brad Lachman, produced by Bill Bracken and directed by Gary Halvorson. In recent years, NBC’s coverage has been hosted by Today anchors Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira; Ann Curry; and Savannah Guthrie as well as Today weatherman Al Roker; with announcements provided by Don Pardo, followed by Lynda Lopez, the telecast’s only female announcer, who served during the decade wherein Willard Scott was parade host. The 87th annual parade will kick off from 77th Street and Central Park West at 9 a.m. The route will continue down Central Park West to Columbus Circle before turning onto Central Park South and 6th Avenue. Marchers will be heading straight down onto 6th Avenue past 59th down to 34th Street until they reach the iconic Macy’s Herald Square.