Archives for January 1, 2018

Sears and Kmart Didn’t Run TV Ads During the Peak Holiday Shopping Season

The free-falling Sears Holdings, parent company of Sears and Kmart, made a truly unorthodox decision this holiday season. The retailer, which generates the vast majority of its dwindling sales from in-store foot traffic, didn’t run any television advertisements for most of the crucial holiday shopping season.

According to the Wall Street Journal, no paid Sears commercials have run nationally since November 25th. No national Kmart commercials have run since November 24th.

The decision, according to the Journal, came from Sears Holdings chief Edward Lampert, over the objections of other executives. Lampert has championed a shift to digital marketing, even as Sears’ overall advertising spending has declined along with the company. In a statement to the Journal, Sears said the shift came after evaluating the effectiveness of its various marketing efforts.

Even in the digital age, abandoning TV entirely would be a highly unusual move for any large consumer business. While TV advertising expenditures have declined across the economy, they still makes up more than 1/3rd of all ad spending. Studies have also found that ads on television are still substantially more effective than those in other media.

Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter.

The decision is particularly strange in the case of Sears, whose customers tend to be older. Americans over 44 watch vastly more traditional television than younger people, with those over 65 watching nearly three times as much television as those 18-24, according to eMarketer.

Sears, a venerable U.S. institution that was once as innovative as Amazon, has been in disastrous decline for years now. For a time, that decline could be seen as a product of the shift from brick-and-mortar to online shopping.

But Sears has lagged even other legacy department stores in reacting to that transition. While department stores as a category now generate 15% to 25% of their sales online, eMarketer says that ecommerce generates just 9.3% of Sears’ revenue. Focusing on digital ads might be seen as an effort to move that needle. But it could also be seen as throwing marketing budget at a service that customers just don’t like, while ignoring what still (maybe, just barely) works.

Meanwhile, retailers from Home Depot to Target to Urban Outfitters have recently beaten analyst expectations, and rising foot traffic at outlets including WalMart is driving talk of a retail resurgence.

Sears, it seems, no longer has anyone but itself, and its leaderships’ decisions, to blame for its problems.

How to Watch the 2018 New Year’s Countdown and Ball Drop for Free

It’s New Year’s Eve 2017, and people are saying, “Out with the old and in with the new.” If you’re one of the millions who cut the cord on their cable television this past year, you might find yourself unable to watch the 2018 countdown. But you don’t need cable to watch the ball drop in New York City or to see Mariah Carey make her ‘New Year’s Rockin’ Eve’ comeback on ABC. That’s because 2017 was finally the year streaming television arrived. Here’s how to live stream the New Year’s Eve countdown and ball drop for free — for auld lang syne.

DirecTV Now

You can watch Ryan Seacrest host ‘New Year’s Rockin’ Eve’ — and a whole lot more — using DirecTV Now‘s free seven-day free trial. The service costs $35 per month for a package of at least 60 live channels after the trial ends, but that stretch can get you in on should help you through the holiday and more. DirecTV Now’s basic-level plan packs local affiliates for CBS, FOX, and NBC. But before you sign up, check your local channel availability here, because not every market includes every station.

Hulu with Live TV

FOX’s New Year’s Eve coverage is hosted by Steve Harvey this year, and you can catch it on Hulu with Live TV which also offers CBS and NBC. The service also packs a big on-demand library, which could be good if you get bored of all that confetti and kissing and you just want to binge, instead. Like DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV is free for a week, but it runs $39 per month after the trial is up. One nice thing about Hulu’s offering is that it has an option to add on a cloud DVR service, which might be a smart long-run investment if you want to keep the service for 2018 and beyond.

Sling TV

Depending upon which television channel you want to ring in the new year with, Sling TV might be the choice for you. The service also offers a seven-day free preview as well as Univision and FOX, but you can only get those channels in select markets and on its higher-tiered “Blue” plan, which costs $25 per month after the trial. If you want to watch CNN’s Anderson Cooper count it down, Sling’s lower tiered “Orange” plan costs just $20 per month, and offers the cable news giant, but it doesn’t have the local networks. But while Sling TV Blue does have the NFL Network, so it might be a worthwhile investment, if you’re going to watch all the games on Sunday before the festivities begin.

PlayStation Vue

If you’ve got a PlayStation 4 under your TV, PlayStation Vue might be a good choice for you. The live streaming television service offers a five-day free trial and starts at $39 per month after the promotional period ends. The base plan caters to popular live programming (other packages focus on sports and movies), so that’s probably a safe bet for streaming New Year’s programming. But like the others, channels vary by zip code, so check their availability before you sign up.

YouTube TV

Google’s YouTube TV isn’t just a portal to its popular video-hosting website. It is also a live streaming television service that offers a seven-day free trial with 40 channels and cloud DVR capability for $35 per month (once the promotion ends). YouTube TV includes all the major networks, including CBS, FOX, and NBC — where host Carson Daly does his yearly thing — but the catch the service only available in select markets (though, there are quite a few).