'Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve': How the show stays a success

Singers including Demi Lovato and Luke Bryan will perform on the ABC program. How has 'Rockin'' remained such a popular program over the decades?

Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP
Demi Lovato performs at the Vevo Certified SuperFanFest Live Concert in Santa Monica, Caif. in 2014.

More musicians have been added to the roster for ABC’s end-of-the-year program “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” 

Country singer Luke Bryan, “Cool for the Summer” singer Demi Lovato, “Marvin Gaye” singer Charlie Puth, and Wiz Khalifa will perform on the broadcast, joining singer Carrie Underwood, whose appearance was previously announced. The band One Direction will reportedly be performing for the Los Angeles part of the broadcast.

Last year, Taylor Swift, One Direction, Meghan Trainor (who performed on “Marvin” with Mr. Puth), Iggy Azalea, and others performed as part of the popular ABC broadcast. 

“Rockin’” first aired in 1972. While the special still bears his name, Mr. Clark died in 2012.  “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest has hosted the show since 2006.

The program is not only still on the air but is still enormously popular. Last year, “Rockin’” didn’t just beat competition such as “Pitbull’s New Year’s Revolution” on Fox and NBC’s “New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly” – it beat the combined ratings of those other programs.

How does “Rockin’” continue to be such a hit? One reason is no doubt tradition. While TV audiences are more fragmented than ever, watching diverse cable networks and streaming services, broadcast networks remain the home of high-profile yearly events like the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and seasonal offerings like “Rockin’.” Viewers have gotten in the habit of turning the TV to ABC on New Year’s for more than 40 years.

The special is airing during a time of year when viewers no doubt want tradition, too. Look no further than programs like "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" regularly dominating in the ratings before Christmas.

There was also enormous affection for Clark himself, and the program still bears his name. At the time of Clark's death, Clark himself was called "among the most recognizable faces in the world" and "the first and last voice many Americans heard each year with his New Year's Eve countdowns."

Another draw for viewers is most likely the popularity of the talent involved. There are few acts bigger than Swift, who performed last year. This year, the singers that were recently announced have all had songs that performed well recently. Lovato’s “Cool for the Summer” was a big hit of, well, the summer, while Khalifa and Puth both had a major hit earlier this year with the song “See You Again.” Bryan is a frequent presence on the Billboard country chart, which represents a genre that has exploded in popularity over the past several years. These choices represent an awareness of who the current popular acts are.

This merging of the past and the present may contribute to viewers tuning in year after year to ABC’s program.

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