In its 42 seasons, Saturday Night Live has been hosted by politicians and world leaders, has spun off countless films and television shows, and has served as America’s flagship sketch-comedy series. There’s one thing it hasn’t done, though—aired live for the entire country. For all these years, SNL has been live at 11:30 p.m. Eastern and 10:30 p.m. Central Time, then showed on tape delay for viewers in the Mountain and West time zones. That’s because the later time slot has been of paramount importance to the show’s longevity and ratings success. But for its final April and May episodes this season, SNL will be live for all American viewers.
This season of SNL has been a ratings powerhouse, beating every network offering except for The Big Bang Theory in the “key demo” (viewers aged 18-49) as its political satire and guest appearances by Alec Baldwin and Melissa McCarthy have captured the public’s attention. That kind of viewership is especially impressive considering audiences today tend to be happier binging shows online later or catching up on their DVRs. SNL is that rare non-sports, non-news broadcast show that works better if you actually watch it live, especially now that social media freely “spoils” the best laughs for viewers on the West Coast. So why not grant that experience to viewers across the U.S., even though it means some will have to tune in earlier?