Amid declining linear ratings, holiday programming has been one area where viewers had continued to flock to ad-supported networks, bringing in a significant chunk of those nets’ annual ad revenue. As a result, holiday fare has exploded, expanding to a month — or longer — on basic cable networks such as Hallmark, Freeform and Lifetime.
The broadcast networks have been dipping their toes in the arena. NBC, which has probably the most perennial holiday staples with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, The National Dog Show andChristmas in Rockefeller Center, introduced the live holiday musical with the 2013 production of The Sound of Music. Now the network is adding a new element to their holiday slate, and would look very familiar to U.K. TV viewers.
NBC announced today that it will air special holiday episodes of its returning comedies Kenan, Young Rock and Mr. Mayor this coming holiday season. Normally, that would not be news — broadcast comedies traditionally do themed episodes around such holidays as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day when they fall within their runs. What is unusual in this case is that NBC has no comedies on the schedule this fall, and all three renewed freshmen will return for their second seasons in midseason (January or later).
Their holiday specials will be standalone episodes not connected to Season 1 or Season 2. That is a stunt that has been a staple of British television for decades. The difference is that in the U.S., holiday programming runs in the weeks leading to Christmas.
Meanwhile, Christmas specials, a mainstay of British television, air primarily on Christmas day and Boxing Day. In addition to the soaps, which are often the most-watched shows of the year, shows such as Doctor Who, Miranda, which was recently adapted as Call Me Kat for Fox, Downton Abbey, Call The Midwife, and Mrs. Browns Boys have been watched by tens of millions of people on Christmas Day and the surrounding holidays. For instance, 2019’s Christmas Day special of Gavin & Stacey, which was co-created by James Corden, was watched by over 18M people.
NBC’s 2021 holiday programming plans also include musical Annie Live! and two new animated specials, Trolls Holidays in Harmony and Jimmy Fallon’s Five More Sleeps ‘Til Christmas.