In the seasons following the exits of Ferrell and Fey, Saturday Night Live seemed to struggle not only amping up talent and (let’s face it) laughter, but also viewership. Hold up, I know SNL has had some prior low-points and that in its nearly 4 decades of seasons, it’s had some not-so-stellar stints (that are before my time – Yes, I know who Steve Martin and Dan Akroyd are), but, I would argue that when Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon cleared out, things looked pretty grim.
Enter salvation in the form of:
It was a sinking ship until a fresh-faced comedian and writer, Andy Samberg, joined the cast in 2005, bringing with him his two Lonely Island partners Akiva Shaffer and Jorma Taccone as writers and an updated comedic direction. “Lazy Sunday”, one of the first of SNL’s “Digital Shorts”, was one of the most widely-viewed and talked-about SNL creations since Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush impressions.
This video garnered much attention from the media, which was only heightened with further Digital Shorts like Iran So Far, featuring Adam Levine of Maroon5, and Emmy-winning “Dick In A Box”, with Justin Timberlake (coincidentally, LaunchSquad client, Barely Political created a parody video called “Box in a Box”)– all of which were written by the Lonely Island team for SNL.
Digial shorts: Samberg, who stars in the online-only videos, and the Lonely Island team, spearheaded these seemingly amateurish videos, that created such a sensation that when “Lazy Sunday” was posted to YouTube (illegally) it was viewed five million times before NBC pulled it for copyright infringement.
YouTube leads to Hulu: Fans can now find clips on YouTube, but that was not always the case. The short “Lazy Sunday,” which aired on SNL on December 17, 2005, with its massive viewership caused quite a stir in pop culture, but also helped legitimized YouTube as a viable medium for brands like NBC to invest in. In late 2006, NBC began uploading SNL digital shorts on YouTube themselves. The short “Dick in a Box” which aired on televelision in December 2006, was viewed more than 28 million times on YouTube.
NBC advanced its online video campaign, realizing that many of us go online to watch TV and and expanded into Hulu, a joint venture of NBC and News Corp. The video network provides high definition (if often incomplete) versions of the episodes and allows users to comment.
This brings up a larger point of the growing trend of online television: according to a recent NYT article by Brad Stone and Brian Stelter, “Some Online Shows Could Go Subscription-Only”, the online video network yields a huge viewership, boasting 5 million unique viewers in February. Sounds like NBC really took a cue from YouTube and took it to the next level, but it’s interesting that this service that’s saving not only SNL, but the network, could switch to a subscription model when part of the reason it’s so popular is because it’s free.
Video embedding capabilities: In October of 2008 Mashable reported that SNL producer, Lorne Michaels, was planning an on-demand Website featuring popular clips as well as providing the embed code so that bloggers and news sites and… well anyone can embed the videos anywhere.
It’s the virality of these videos that inspired to NBC to wise up and embrace outlets like YouTube and Hulu, a decision that allowed them to reach not only a far more massive audience but also a young audience. This audience not only lives online, like the videos now do, but relates more to Samberg’s “in your face” and often brazen comedic style and also appreciates his savvy talent pairings with high-profile pop stars Justin Timberlake and and T-Pain. These attributes ensure that Samberg and his Lonely Island cronies are very well-suited for the task of recruiting the next generation of Saturday Night Live fans, restoring SNL to what it was meant to be – relevant and funny – and by God, he delivers.
This was original posted on LaunchSquad’s Exclamation blog.