Saturday Night Live is going in a new, bittersweet direction.
According to Ad Age, NBC announced today that the quintessential sketch show would be implementing a new advertising strategy. SNL will have 2 fewer commercial breaks in each 90 minute episode (that’s about 30% less than its current 7 breaks).
Before you lunge forward and shout a celebratory “Superstar!”, there’s a major caveat that might make you do the running man and ask “What up with that?!” Along with the news of fewer traditional commercial breaks came the announcement of ventures into branded content.
“We are excited to try something new and unique that will shape and drive advertiser content too,” NBCUniversal chairman of advertising sales Linda Yaccarino said. “By partnering together, advertisers can capture an audience that only SNL can deliver. This is a show that knows who its audience is and can capture and nurture it.”
So what exactly does that mean? Instead of straight up commercials, advertisers will work with the SNL staff and create hybrid entertainment- promotions for their products. Think of the “Promoted” lists on Buzzfeed, whom, incidentally, NBCUniversal has a partnership with.
While native advertising has been around for years now, the move by a network television show to utilize it is groundbreaking. However, with native advertising comes its own murky debate: Would you rather sit through something you know is a commercial, groaning and moaning the whole way through? Or would you rather the commercial blend in with the show you came to see? John Oliver perfectly summed up the pros and cons of native advertising in a 2014 segment of his show Last Week Tonight.
For better or for worse, a decrease in traditional ads is right in line with the times. With more and more people fast forwarding past commercials on their DVRs or circumventing regular television altogether in favor of Netflix, native advertising is an effective way for sponsors to get an audience. “As the decades have gone by, commercial time has grown,” The father of SNL Lorne Michaels said in a statement. “This will give time back to the show and make it easier to watch the show live.”
This isn’t the first time NBC has dabbled in native advertising. This most recent Leap Day, the network partnered with American Express and created branded segments of The Voice, Blindspot and Late Night with Seth Meyers while cutting down on commercial time for each program.
Next season will be the 42nd for SNL and will mark the climax of the Presidential election cycle- always a fruitful time for the often politically satirical comedy.