– By Jamil Karim
LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT! Ok, that was lame. But it would be semi-criminal to write a blog post about the impact of Saturday Night Live, and not start it this way. Let’s move on.
Over the years, SNL has become a one-stop shop for all things pop culture. For 90 minutes on a Saturday night, viewers tune in and get to watch arguably the most talented on-air personalities on cable TV explore, tease, and interpret the best of modern day pop culture. But beyond the skits and performances lies a marketing machine that has been unparalleled on the small screen over the last 38 years.
Celebrities, the film industry, and NBC itself have all reaped huge benefits from Saturday Night’s biggest TV spectacle. We’ll explore how these different groups of people have used SNL to market, promote, and propel themselves to the forefront of popular culture.
Musicians, actors, athletes, and even politicians have all had their turn hosting SNL. And, as you’d expect, all have seen a push in building their brand. This year alone, we have seen the impact SNL had on the U.S. Presidential Election. Since 2008, nearly 2/3 of voters who responded to a poll said they had seen a broadcast of politically charged content on SNL, with 10% saying that it had made a difference in their decision.
So who’s been the biggest beneficiary from SNL since 2008? You guessed it. Barack Obama
This year alone, we’ve seen Bruno Mars take on the double duty of hosting and performing as the musical guest during an episode in late 2012. Mars hosted SNL with the intention of promoting his upcoming album (Unorthodox Jukebox) and marketing himself to a new audience. Mars was a huge hit as both a host and musical guest, and within 90 minutes he expanded his global reach. Unorthodox Jukebox debuted at #2 on the charts, selling nearly 190,000 albums worldwide.
The Film Industry
Another big beneficiary from the SNL effect has been the movie industry. Just looking at Season 38 (the current season), we have seen Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper), Daniel Craig (Skyfall), and Jamie Foxx (Django) all appear on SNL with the intention of promoting the premiere of their movies. In each monologue, we heard at least one reference to their upcoming movie, and sure enough, the first commercial after the monologue was a trailer for their respective movies. These three SNL episodes averaged a 4.9 rating on the Nielsen Rating scale and provided a platform to promote these movies that differ from commercials, YouTube, and billboard ads.
This year, 6/12 hosts have been movie stars looking to host and promote their movie. Last year, 10/21 fell under the same category.
And perhaps the biggest beneficiary of all is the network that produces SNL. NBC uses, and has historically used, its flagship show as a medium to promote its own content. This year alone, we’ve seen Christina Applegate (star of NBC’s, “Up All Night”) and Adam Levine (Host of NBC’s, “The Voice“) both take a spin at hosting. Oddly enough, the last time Applegate hosted was nearly two decades ago, when she was a main character on NBC’s then popular TV series, “Married With Children”.
NBC leverages SNL to produce movies (Wayne’s World, Blues Brothers, MacGruber) and create TV shows for their primetime spots. Recent SNL graduates who have found their way onto NBC’s primetime lineup include: Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler. NBC breeds stars on SNL and then leverages them to create more money for the network in later years. Anyway you look at it, SNL is the gift that keeps on giving for NBC.
There you have it. The marketing and promotion machine that is SNL extends all over the entertainment industry and continues to make NBC a ridiculous amount of money.
Not bad for 90 minutes of work.