For the first time in its 42 year history, Saturday Night Live will air the final four episodes of this season live in all time zones at the same time, according to an announcement from NBC.
It’s about damn time. Then again, maybe “time” is the problem.
Living in Arizona is a challenge sometimes. Sure, it’s considered the sunniest place on earth, (averaging 328 days of sun per year), Phoenix Sky Harbor has been ranked the best airport in the USA, and the proximity to Los Angelas, San Diego, and Las Vegas being just a short drive away, it’s really not too shabby.
However, there is the inevitable time zone mess — or lack of a mess, depending on how you see it. For those that don’t know, Arizona does not play well with others in the Daylight Saving Time department. We just don’t do it here (John Oliver would approve). In 1968, the state Legislature decided it was best for Arizona to opt out of the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which mandated the saving of daylight. The move meant that on 115-degree days in July, the sun would set at 7:40 p.m. MST rather than 8:40 p.m. MDT, avoiding nightly pleas from kids to stay up later because it’s too bright (and hot) to go to bed. Truth be told, I love it. Then again, there are those that get quite confused bouncing back and forth between Mountain and Pacific time throughout the year.
But, there is a problem when it comes to media, especially live television. It seems like networks just cannot make up their minds on when they want to air things. During the 2016 Presidential election, for example, live debates would often air behind other timezones rather than be broadcast truly “live” (though of course, you could circumvent the problem and stream via YouTube). Sports events come on at different times. Even premium cable channels air locally which can mean a difference of a 2 or 3hr delay from EST depending on the time of year.
In the age of social media and the internet, this is just not acceptable anymore.
Sure, this is mitigated by subscribing to premium services like DirectTV where you can pull down EST broadcasting regardless of your location, or HBO Now/Go services that allow direct streaming (after airing on EST), but it’s still not “live”. If networks want to measure engagement as a metric, they need everyone watching together.
The aggregation of data is extremely important. Take Twitter’s own analysis of Game of Thrones traffic for example. Breaking down exactly when people are reacting to a show is vital for content curation, user data reporting, and most importantly: advertising. Being able to deliver content precisely when people want it, is the ideal advertising opportunity.
Saturday Night Live is filmed and broadcast, live. So it would make sense that everyone could watch it, live. But, that has never actually been the case unless you are within EST. By the time those on PST get a chance to watch their “live” version, the entire conversation on what Alec Baldwin said as Trump has been plastered across Twitter and every media outlet for hours. The surprise is gone, the engagement is gone, the conversation is over.
“SNL — enjoying its most popular season in two decades — is part of the national conversation, and we thought it would be a great idea to broadcast to the west and mountain time zones live at the same time it’s being seen in the east and central time zones,” NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt, Chairman said in a statement. “That way, everyone is in on the joke at the same time. Kudos to Lorne Michaels, the producers and cast for making SNL one of the most relevant and anticipated shows in the zeitgeist.” If the stunt works, expect it to be the new normal when the show returns for its 43rd season next fall.
Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon will kick off the first of the four episodes on April 15, followed by Chris Pine on May 6, Melissa McCarthy (AKA White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer) on May 13 and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on May 20, who will be joining the hallowed “Five-Timers Club” in the season finale. Musical guests are yet to be announced.
I’ll see you all there for the live conversation.