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'Saturday Night Live': Advertising and Social Video Trends

Special guest Chris Rock, host Anya Taylor-Joy, and musical guest Lil Was X during "Goodnights & Credits" on May 22, 2021.
(Image credit: Will Heath/NBC)

With Saturday Night Live finishing its 46th season on May 22, we’re taking a look at the advertising and social video trends around the iconic NBC show, with insights from iSpot.tv and Tubular Labs.

In total, new episodes of Saturday Night Live generated 3.1 billion TV ad impressions this season, according to iSpot. While this represented a 12.4% increase from the previous season, it’s worth keeping in mind season 45 was impacted by COVID-related shutdowns. By comparison, season 46 saw a 7.75% decrease in TV ad impressions compared to the last “normal” season, which was its 44th. 

Top brands by TV ad impressions for SNL’s 46th season included State Farm (61.4 million TV ad impressions), Kohl’s (59.2 million), Verizon (58.4 million), T-Mobile (56.5 million) and McDonald’s (55.3 million), according to iSpot. State Farm, T-Mobile and Kohl’s were also in the top 10 ranking for brands by impressions for the previous season.

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The most-seen (non-network promo) spot during SNL’s 46th season was Verizon’s “The 5G Frontier,” with 38.6 million TV ad impressions. Per iSpot’s Ace Metrix, this ad scored above the norm for all industries for aspects including watchability, information and product desire. The No. 2 ad by impressions during SNL’s 46th season was “Parker Promo” from State Farm, with 29.5 million TV ad impressions. According to Ace Metrix survey data, 29% of respondents considered the characters to be the single best thing about the ad. 

Of course, the TV screen is just one way that viewers engage with SNL — social video has proved to be an extremely effective way for NBC to reach a broader audience for the show. According to social video analytics company Tubular Labs, SNL videos on YouTube have racked up 2.1 billion views this season from 374 uploads. In April, Saturday Night Live had 17.4 million global unique viewers across YouTube and Facebook, with 678.8 million minutes watched globally, per Tubular Audience Ratings. And looking at just the U.S. audience in April, SNL was the third most-watched entertainment creator across YouTube and Facebook, with 523.7 million minutes watched from U.S. viewers in April.

The top video from this season by YouTube views was the premiere’s cold open featuring the first debate between Joe Biden (portrayed by Jim Carrey) and Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin), with 31.2 million views. Elon Musk’s monologue was another big social video for SNL, landing at No. 8 for the show’s top YouTube videos with 9 million views, 7.8 million of which occurred in the first three days, according to Tubular’s V3 metric (which measures views within three days of publishing). 

Musk’s guest-hosting stint helped spark a wave of YouTube uploads from independent accounts as well: From May 8-10, there were over 3,000 videos uploaded across social video platforms related to Elon Musk (some of which were about Musk generally — meaning they didn’t necessarily reference his SNL gig). This was a 320% increase from the previous weekend, which had only 760 Musk-related videos uploaded.

Many of the top SNL-related videos by views (from all accounts) for the May 8-10 weekend were related to what Musk said about Dogecoin during his episode, such as this one, with 1.1 million views to date. It’s the No. 2 YouTube video related to Musk that was uploaded the weekend of his SNL appearance.