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How to watch New Year’s Eve live streams

how to live stream new year's eve specials
(Image credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

2021 is finally here. And there’s a full slate of New Year's Eve live streams to watch. 

The celebrations are low key compared to past years — don't expect large crowds to congregate in New York's Times Square due to COVID-19 considerations — but the New Year's Eve specials roll on.

We can help you find the best New Year's Eve live stream options to welcome in 2021 as well as a good VPN for unlocking other celebrations in other parts of the world. 

Here's a rundown of how to watch New Year's Eve celebrations as we head into 2021.

How to use a VPN to watch New Year's Eve programs

The New Year's Eve celebrations have already kicked off in other parts of the world, and if you'd like to join in on the fun, a virtual private network, or VPN, can help. With a VPN, you can access programs that might otherwise be geo-locked in your area.

We've tested many different options, and our pick for the best VPN overall is ExpressVPN. Based on our testing, ExpressVPN offers superb speeds and excellent customer service.

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New Year's Eve celebrations in the U.S.

You have a choice in programs featuring live musical performances as 2020 makes way for 2021. These are your best bets for New Year's Eve viewing, including live streaming options.

  • Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest 2021 (8 p.m. local time, ABC): The longest-running New Year's Eve celebration won't let a global pandemic stop it, as Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve returns for another year, though likely with less of a crowd than ever before. The show will feature correspondents in Los Angeles, New Orleans and (of course) New York to televise the famous ball dropping down into Times Square at midnight ET. Jennifer Lopez highlights the list of performers, which also includes Billy Porter, Cyndi Lauper, Nelly, Miley Cyrus and Megan Thee Stallion.
  • New Year's Eve Live with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen (8 p.m. EST, CNN): CNN anchor Anderson Cooper is joined by Bravo TV personality Andy Cohen for their fourth go-round on New Year's Eve. The duo will be hosting from Times Square in New York, which is otherwise closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic. Musical guests on hand include John Mayer, Snoop Dogg, Patti Labelle, Jimmy Buffett, Carole Baskin, Josh Groban, Leslie Jordan, Dulce Sloan, Desus & Mero, Kylie Minogue, Aloe Blacc, Goo Goo Dolls and Jon Bon Jovi, with CNN correspondents filing reports on New Year's Eve from around the globe.
  • Fox’s New Year’s Eve Toast & Roast 2021 (8 p.m. local time, Fox): Community stars Joel McHale and Ken Jeong re-unite for another New Year's Eve celebration that promises 3.5 hours of coast-to-coast performances. Fox is promising a number of guest appearances, along with musical performances by LeAnn Rimes, lately of The Masked Singer, and Gloria Estefan. Other performers include John Legend, Ava Max, Green Day and Gabby Barrett.
  • NBC’s New Year’s Eve 2021 (10 p.m. local time, NBC): Like the other TV networks, NBC is hosting its own musical special, featuring AJR, Busta Rhyme, Anderson .Paak, Chloe x Halle, CNCO, Jason Derulo, Goo Goo Dolls, Kylie Minogue, Pentatonix, Bebe Rexha and Doja Cat, Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani and Sting. Carson Daly hosts. Prior to the festivities, NBC airs New Year's Eve: Escape From 2020 at 8 p.m. local time, highlighting the top videos and trends of the past year.
  • Hello 2021 (10:30 p.m. EST, YouTube): The streaming video site is hosting its own New Year's Eve bash, promising speeches, musical performances and dance parties. Matthew McConaughey, RuPaul and Demi Lovato are among the participants, with the U.S. version of Hello 2021 including performances by Dua Lipa, J Balvin, YG, Karol G and Kane Brow.

With the exception of CNN's special, all the above New Year's Eve programming appears on free-to-air TV, so all you need is an HDTV antenna to pick up the broadcast. (YouTube's special streams online, of course, though you can also watch it from the YouTube app on your phone, tablet or set-top box.) To watch CNN's show without a cable subscription, you'll need to latch on to a streaming TV service. We'd recommend either Sling TV or YouTube TV.

Sling.TV: CNN is part of Sling's Blue package of channels, which is available for $30 a month. Sign up for both the Blue and Orange packages right now, though, and you can save an additional 25% on the cost.View Deal

YouTube TV: CNN is one of the 85-plus channels you'll get with YouTube TV. The service costs $65 a month and includes a cloud DVR feature for recording programs to watch later.View Deal

New Year's Eve celebrations in the U.K.

You'll find most of the New Year's Eve specials airing on the BBC in the U.K. On BBC One, programming starts at 9 p.m. GMT with The Big New Year's In, followed by The Graham Norton Show and Alicia Keys Rocks New Year's Eve. BBC Two features Jools' Annual Hootenanny at 11:15 p.m. GMT.

In addition, there's a UK-specific version of YouTube's Hello 2021 streaming at 10:30 p.m. GMT. Performers there include Behzinga, Big Narstie, Katherine Ryan, Michaela Coel, Kurupt FM, Yammy, WillNE, Holly H and Natasia Demetriou.

New Year's Eve celebrations in Canada

The CBC is broadcasting Canada's New Year's Eve: Countdown to 2021. Host Rick Mercer will welcome performers from across Canada, with the show streaming at 11 p.m. ET on YouTube. Canadians should check their local CBC channel to find out when the program airs in their area.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.