The New Year’s Eve live special has been a staple of TV for decades. In this era of broadband internet, mobile phones and streaming video, however, many media and tech companies are betting consumers will want to welcome the new year by opening an app on their connected TV or smartphone.
Perhaps there is no better example than Amazon’s live-streaming video service Twitch, which will be ringing in 2019 with a 12-hour livestream hosted by “Fortnite” gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins.
Blevins will set up shop in Times Square, where he will play “Fortnite” alongside surprise guests from 7 p.m. Dec. 31 to 7 a.m. Jan. 1.
Streaming juggernaut Netflix, meanwhile, is taking a decidedly different approach, by embracing the on-demand nature of its platform. Continuing a tradition from recent years, Netflix will release 14 New Year’s Eve countdown episodes of some of its original shows, with an eye toward kids and families. Among the shows that can be watched at midnight or earlier: “Boss Baby,” “Fuller House,” “Pinky Malinky,” and "Beat Bugs."
The company says that over the past few years an average of five million households have tuned in to these on-demand New Year’s specials.
For a cord-cutter seeking a more traditional approach, the Times Square ball drop and the live TV feeds will be viewable through streaming over-the-top video services like YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV. The Times Square Alliance will also be streaming the ball drop live on its website and social channels.
On Jan. 1, meanwhile, the digital comedy platform Funny or Die will cover The Rose Parade with hosts Cord Hosenbeck (Will Ferrell) and Tish Cattigan (Molly Shannon). The pair will provide comedic commentary on Funny or Die’s website, and on Twitch.
As consumers embrace streaming video, niche alternatives to the popular fare on TV are emerging. Will Ninja’s New Year’s Eve “Fortnite” stream draw more viewers than “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” on ABC? No, but it may very draw hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of young viewers who wouldn’t be watching broadcast TV anyhow.
For programmers and advertisers, the new New Year’s Eve streaming experiments are worth keeping an eye on.