The paltry viewing numbers on NBC are now a cause of major concern for organisers, who are already under pressure following the controversy over the refusal to allow gay rights groups to march.
NBC coverage of the parade down Fifth Avenue is expected to come under scrutiny by network bosses following the boycott by city mayor Bill de Blasio and the withdrawal of major sponsors such as Guinness and Heineken.
Viewing numbers for the four-hour live coverage of the parade dropped sharply this year, with only 213,200 tuning in. Last year, the event drew 278,900 viewers, while in 2012 the numbers were 345,600.
In contrast, RTÉ’s coverage of the parade in Dublin pulled in 358,000 viewers. The station was unable to provide figures for last year’s coverage.
The chairman of the New York parade, John Donleavy, insists there will be no change in the ban on gay rights groups. Speaking at the Kerry Association annual dinner last week, he said the parade had overcome adversity and would continue in its present format.
The Irish community in the US, however, has serious concerns about the damage the controversy is doing.
With just over 200,000 viewers this year, it is something of a poor relation to the Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Parade which attracts 44m viewers a year.
If television advertisers were to follow the lead of Guinness and Heineken in ending their association with the St Patrick’s Day parade, it may force the hand of NBC decision makers.
New York Fire Dept. carry 343 flags in today's Saint Patrick's Day Parade for all firemen killed on 9/11. RIP pic.twitter.com/lDc3moQhkH— Irish Unity 🇮🇪 (@IrishUnity) March 17, 2014
“I think what is historically correct is that corporate America — Fortune 500-type companies — has generally been ahead of public opinion and certainly ahead of federal and state laws on LGBT policies,” Gary Gates, an economist at the Williams Institute at UCLA, told the Wall Street Journal.