‘SNL’ sets up Web site, goes online for Saturday show

Microsoft, NBC join for interactive WebTV program

NBC has launched a Web site for “Saturday Night Live,” and in a related move, the show will become the first NBC program to be offered on Microsoft’s WebTV for Windows initiative.

Microsoft and NBC, through its NBC Digital Prods. division, announced an interactive programming partnership at April’s National Assn. of Broadcasters convention, and Saturday’s broadcast of “SNL” will make it the first NBC show to offer interactive enhancements for the WebTV platform.

On Monday, NBC unveiled Saturday Night Live Online, a Web site on NBC.com that showcases original comedy features unique to the Internet. Shawn Hardin, VP and executive producer of NBC Digital Prods., said that while TV show Web sites abound on the Internet, NBC has the advantage of developing its sites in tandem with the talent that created the show.

SNL Online will sell advertising to sponsors and also sell products such as videotapes of the show and other merchandise.

Exclusive content on SNL Online will include: Happy Fun Pages, an area that offers weekly online comedy features such as Spartan Cheer-o-Matic, which allows users to create and save personalized Craig-and-Ariana-style chants that can automatically be e-mailed to others; the SNL Online Screening Room, a multimedia gallery of streaming video that offers up show highlights from the previous week’s entry all the way back to the show’s first broadcast in 1975; and Coffee Talk, where fans can talk amongst themselves by posting messages to an official show bulletin board.

Beginning with Saturday’s “SNL” episode, WebTV users will be able to participate in a number of interactive features as the live show progresses.

NBC Digital Prods. has participated in the early stages of platforms such as Intel’s Intercast and Wink Communications’ enhanced programming, and beginning Saturday, NBC will expand to WebTV. The Microsoft-owned platform can be used with a WebTV box hooked up to a regular TV and, when Windows 98 launches this summer, everyone who buys the new Microsoft software will automatically have WebTV built in and ready to be used with their personal computers.