“Saturday Night Live” delivered its highest ratings since February with its first-ever episode to air live in all U.S. time zones.
The Jimmy Fallon-hosted installment featured guest appearances by Alec Baldwin as President Donald Trump and Melissa McCarthy as White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Saturday’s segment averaged 7.9 million viewers and a 2.3 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic, according to Nielsen’s live-same-day measure. That’s the show’s best since the Feb. 11 episode hosted by Baldwin brought in 10.8 million viewers and 3.1 in the demo.
NBC noted that “SNL’s” demo score, which will grow with time-shifted viewing factored in, makes it the No. 3 entertainment telecast of last week, behind CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” and Fox’s “Empire.”
Saturday’s showing continues “SNL’s” hot streak. NBC’s late-night mainstay is having its most-watched season in 23 years, with an average of 11 million viewers in live-plus-7 ratings, compared to 11.2 million in 1993-94. In adults 18-49, with a 3.5 average, “SNL” is at its highest point in nearly a decade, since the 2008-09 season (4.0).
Compared to the same point last season, “SNL” viewership is up 22% in the demo and 28% in total viewers.
NBC and “SNL” exec producer Lorne Michaels made the decision to air the last four installments of this season live in all time zones to capitalize on the show’s renewed cultural relevance. It’s also a nod to the fact that social media chatter from the Eastern time zone airing often spoils the surprises for viewers in other time zones.
Airing live coast-to-cast was is a way to ensure “everyone is in on the joke at the same time,” NBC chief Bob Greenblatt said in announcing the decision last month.
NBC’s ratings researchers will surely scrutinize the delayed viewing stats for the episode to see if they drop as a result of the all-live telecast. For all of the changes in TV, live linear viewing is still the most lucrative audience for broadcast networks from an advertising sales perspective.