Why Was Last Week's "SNL" Premiere the Lowest-Rated in History?

Inside Hook

The numbers are in, and last weekend’s season premiere of Saturday Night Live — which featured host Owen Wilson and musical guest Kacey Musgraves — is officially the lowest-rated premiere in the show’s 47-year history.

According to Nielsen data, just 4.9 million people tuned in to the long-running sketch comedy show on Saturday, October 2, compared to 8.2 million who watched last season’s premiere episode. But why such a drastic dip in the ratings?

The fact that last year was an election year surely has something to do with it; the Season 46 premiere aired just weeks before arguably the most contentious election in American history, and naturally viewers tuned in to see how the show would satirize the political landscape at the time. Colin Jost even pointed out how much less dramatic things are now during “Weekend Update” on Saturday, recalling how last year the show had to scramble to figure out how to address Trump catching COVID-19 just hours before they were set to air.

“It was an exciting time for the show,” Jost said. “And, well, the big story this year? Infrastructure. I guess that’s an improvement on a survival-of-the-human-race level, but it’s not great for TV.”

That’s true, of course, but the low ratings could also (at least partly) be attributed to the fact that Saturday’s episode was the first ever to be simultaneously live-streamed on Peacock. It’s possible that people who would have otherwise watched the show’s live broadcast on NBC opted for the convenience of streaming it instead. (Why stay glued to your TV when you can stream the same thing on your laptop in bed?)

Of course, only time will tell whether these low ratings will become a long-term problem for the show, but if we had to guess, this weekend’s host should help the matter. Kim Kardashian is slated to host the show on October 9, and there’s bound to be a surge in viewership as people tune in to watch what’s likely to be a train wreck.

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