Thanksgiving is not a holiday for Broadway.
With four musicals performing on the NBC broadcast of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and two performing on the CBS broadcast, the shows and their advertising teams are hoping to reel in future Broadway ticket buyers, while laying the groundwork for national tours.
The viewers of the Thanksgiving Day Parade may not be as attentive as those watching the Tony Awards, but the possibility of even a glance by some 25 million viewers is hard to ignore.
“You’re talking about exponentially more eyeballs on your brand,” said Lisa Cecchini, vice president of media at Situation Interactive.
This year, “Anastasia,” “Dear Evan Hansen” “Once on This Island” and “SpongeBob SquarePants” are performing on the NBC broadcast, meaning a televised performance in Herald Square. “Come From Away” and “Waitress” are scheduled to perform on the CBS broadcast.
Nielsen data pegged last year’s average viewership of the parade at 24.6 million on NBC and 7.5 million on CBS. According to Situation Interactive, performing during the NBC broadcast typically draws in 50% more traffic to a show’s site as compared to performing on CBS.
In addition to a larger viewership, NBC performances have the advantage of timing, Cecchini said. Broadway performances on NBC typically air between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., early on in the parade, for approximately three minute video segments. Performances for CBS are filmed in a theater and generally appear later in the broadcast, when there may be drop in viewership.
In the case of “Dear Evan Hansen,” the opportunity to perform came at a good time in the musical’s life cycle, as it allows the show to introduce Noah Galvin, who will be playing Evan Hansen starting Tuesday through mid-January. It also gives the show a chance to gain more recognition outside of Broadway before it starts a national tour in October 2018, said lead producer Stacey Mindich.
“When we got the offer, I was elated because it feels like the right next step on a journey that has been so extraordinary for the show,” Mindich said.
In addition to helping promote a tour, a broadcast performance can boost Broadway ticket sales, as viewers are likely to visit a show site to look up plot or cast members after viewing the performance. The point is not to get them to buy tickets at the moment, but to be able to market the show to them later on.
“We don’t expect people who are cooking turkeys and making pies to drop everything and buy tickets right then,” Cecchini said.
Even a slight bump in ticket sales or in site traffic on Thanksgiving Day gives advertisers an indication that the brand recognition is growing and could translate to ticket sales down the line, said Stephen Santore, vice president of ticketing at SpotCo. The biggest bumps are seen in family friendly shows, which are generally the types of shows chosen for the broadcast.
“You definitely see more significant sales results from shows that are more family-oriented,” Santore said.
The broadcast can also serve as a reminder of the show for its loyal fans. Much of this takes place on social media, as advertising agencies monitor reactions and sometimes spur them on, with actors taking over Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to document their journey through the day.
As for Cecchini herself, she says she’ll be spending Thursday morning monitoring online traffic for her company’s shows, “Anastasia” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” as has been her Thanksgiving tradition for years.