In an age where the networks shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for sports packages and awards show rights, the Tournament of Roses Parade is TV’s last great steal.
The license fee? Nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada.
Network execs pay more for valet parking at the Ivy than they do for the rights to carry Pasadena’s New Year’s Day tradition. It’s enough to make a business affairs exec giddy.
No wonder ABC, NBC and CBS all carry the parade — the only TV franchise that all three nets air at the same time. (NBC and CBS also go head-to-head with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade coverage, although NBC holds official rights with the department store.)
Then there’s Univision, Telemundo, the Travel Channel, Discovery HD and HGTV, all of which cover the parade with their own channel’s take. Locally, KTLA dominates with its commercial-free airing of the Rose Parade, which it then repeats all day long — and distributes to Tribune stations throughout the country.
The Tournament of Roses Assn. asks that outlets covering the parade get their sanction — but after that simple process, it’s yours for the taking. Broadcasters even retain rebroadcast, distribution and international rights for their coverage, although the org officially distributes KTLA’s coverage globally.
“Because we don’t require them to pay for the rights, we can’t limit them to where they want to take their signal,” says Bill Flinn, chief operating officer of the Tournament of Roses Assn. “Our deals are done on handshake. We’re probably one of the only institutions that does a lot of this on handshake.”
Flinn says the idea of going with one exclusive broadcaster comes up from time to time — but the nonprofit organization has decided that broader coverage is better.
“There are many different versions of the Rose Parade, on many different outlets, each one reaching places and people the others don’t,” he says. “Because we’re nonprofit, we want to cover our costs and budget and make sure we’re solvent, but we’re not chartered to go out and gain a big profit.”
Even without a Rose Parade TV license fee, the org does just fine financially. About 46% of its revenue comes from the Rose Bowl game itself, including the matchup’s TV rights. Yes, ABC — which holds exclusive rights to the game — pays for that.
The number of outlets covering the game has dramatically expanded in recent years. KTLA covered it first, starting in 1947 (and since 1955 in color). When Flinn joined the org 23 years ago, just NBC and CBS nationally broadcast the New Year’s Day tradition. These days, it does well for just about everyone — which is why they keep coming back.
According to Flinn, despite the fact that the parade is available all over the place, it ranks as one of HGTV’s top programs all year.
“Everybody is able to get their slice of the pie,” Flinn says. “It makes it worthwhile to be a part of this.”