Donald Trump has referred to himself as a ratings machine, and judging from the recent viewership of “Saturday Night Live,” he’s right.
Alec Baldwin’s searing send-up of the controversial president has helped lift “SNL” ratings to a 22-year high, according to Nielsen numbers.
Trump’s campaign and the first few weeks of his administration have provided ample material for NBC’s legendary live comedy show, currently in its 42nd season. Viewers are tuning in in droves.
Through late January, “SNL” was averaging 10.6 million viewers per episode — including a seven-day window after the show airs — this season, according to Nielsen metrics, up 22 percent from the comparable period last year.
Some of this is to be expected. “SNL” ratings typically rise during election years. (They jumped in 2008, too, partly driven by Tina Fey’s portrayal of Sarah Palin.) But the last time the show was doing better was in the early 1990s, when Dana Carvey’s portrayal of then-President George H.W. Bush and Phil Hartman’s McDonald’s-chomping Bill Clinton helped push ratings to almost 13 million viewers for the 1992-93 season. “SNL” ratings continued topped 10.6 million until the 1994-95 season.
Of course, attracting more eyeballs is the basis of the advertising business, so the uptick in viewers should help the bottom line. NBC’s parent Comcast didn’t break out SNL’s advertising impact in its recent fourth-quarter results, but the company did point to a 14 percent increase in ad revenue for its TV businesses over the same quarter last year. (The company spotlighted the impact of “Thursday Night Football,” higher advertising rates, and political ads in driving the revenue numbers up.)
SNL’s skewering of Trump and those around him seems to have struck a nerve nationwide, including in the White House. Politico reported that President Trump was displeased with comedian Melissa McCarthy’s lampooning of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in last Saturday’s episode. In that case, the Commander-in-Chief might not want to watch this weekend, when Baldwin will be hosting for a record 17th time.