Tuesday’s fireworks may have dazzled those on the Esplanade, but Bloomberg Television’s debut showing of the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular is getting decidedly mixed reviews.
For the first time in years, the Pops’ July 4 concert was not carried on CBS — either the national network or its local affiliate, WBZ-TV. Some would-be viewers bemoaned the fact that they weren’t able to find the show, which Bloomberg delivered on Bloomberg TV, live-streamed on its website, and made available on its mobile apps. And some who did see it complained that the show was interrupted by ill-timed advertisements.
Bloomberg does not subscribe to the Nielsen rating service, and viewership statistics were not immediately available. What seems clear, however, is that viewership will be down from last year, when 4.5 million people tuned in to CBS’s national broadcast of the concert, according to a BSO spokesperson. Meanwhile, NBC’s Tuesday broadcast of Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular drew 6.4 million viewers, according to Variety, citing Nielsen data.
“It was terribly disappointing,” said Pops fan Sheila Cline, who does not have cable and said she spent the night listening to the performance on a friend’s transistor radio while flipping through TV channels. “As a Bostonian I sit here and I have to watch the Washington, D.C., event and maybe a little New York, but nowhere was the Boston Pops.”
Norwood’s Nick Gazerro said he’s always watched the annual celebration on CBS, but this year he ended up going to a fireworks show in Newton because his cable package doesn’t include Bloomberg.
“It’s just sad to see,” said Gazerro. “I was quite disappointed that it wasn’t on a Boston station or a bigger cable station.”
Meanwhile, David Hornfischer of Framingham managed to watch the show, but only after he called his cable provider and asked for access to the progam.
“I can’t imagine most people would have gone through what I did,” he said. “I’m sure there’s a lot of frustration among people who couldn’t find it.”
BSO chief operating and communications officer Kim Noltemy said that while the organization has received complaints from viewers, they’ve received far fewer than in years past: 112 negative e-mails this year as opposed to 350 last year. She added that the organization worked hard to get the word out about how people could watch the show, including ad buys on cable, social media campaigns, and e-mail blasts.
“We did a lot, but obviously it takes more than one year to get the new situation worked out,” she said. “We’re going to keep at it.”
Al Mayers, global head of Bloomberg Television and Radio, said the company was pleased with Tuesday’s transmission.
“We are very proud of last night’s broadcast,” said Mayers in a statement. “We’ve received very positive feedback from our television, radio, and digital audiences, and we are looking forward to working with the Boston Pops again next year.”
The Pops took over production of this year’s concert after longtime producer David Mugar announced he would be stepping down. The Pops entered a three-year sponsorship contract with local money managers Eaton Vance. It also secured a media partnership with Bloomberg, which agreed to a broadcast deal after CBS ended its partnership with the decades-old event.
“We’re really happy with the relationship,” said Noltemy. “We just need to work out some of the challenges we’re hearing about now.”
‘We’re really happy with the relationship. We just need to work out some of the challenges we’re hearing about now’
This year’s show, which featured headliners such as Leslie Odom Jr. and Melissa Etheridge, drew roughly 400,000 visitors to the Esplanade, according to a BSO spokesperson. That’s on the smaller side for the event, which has routinely attracted around half a million people to the banks of the Charles River to see the fireworks accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”
The Bloomberg broadcast did draw plenty of praise on social media, with many thanking the New York-based news and information service for making the entire three-hour show available.
“Boston Pops 4th is so much more watchable on Bloomberg than its years on CBS,” wrote one user on Twitter. Chimed in another, “@BloombergTV is hitting all the right notes with their production of #BostonJuly4 with the Pops.”
Others, however, were less impressed, with one incredulous viewer complaining, “@BloombergTV cut to a commercial during the fireworks?”
Judy Rudd of Salem, whose father is in a rehabilitation center on the Cape, said everyone on her father’s floor found themselves out of luck when they tried to tune in.
“They couldn’t’ find it,” said Rudd. “They were really disappointed.”
For Cline, who’s watched the show for years on TV, the digital hoops people had to jump through were downright un-American.
“I think it was an affront to the Fourth of July,” she said. “Here we are celebrating a patriotic holiday and the birth of our nation, and it’s only for those that have the technological sophistication, just to be able to sit in your living room and get the Pops.”
Pops conductor Keith Lockhart said that with so many changes to the concert, he’d expected some “transitional bumps” as people slowly adjusted to the move to Bloomberg.
“I still have people coming up to me a couple dozen times a year asking me when we’re going back to PBS, but we haven’t been on PBS since the ’70s,” he said.Malcolm Gay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.