SNL Will Air Its Final 4 Episodes of the Season Live Across the Country

Melissa McCarthy returns to host on May 13

Melissa McCarthy has played White House press secretary Sean Spicer twice this season.
Will Heath/NBC

Saturday Night Live, which is in the midst of its most-watched season in 24 years thanks to Alec Baldwin’s turn as President Donald Trump and Melissa McCarthy’s appearances as White House press secretary Sean Spicer, is trying to keep that momentum going by airing the final four episodes of the season live in all time zones.

Starting April 15 and continuing for the rest of the season, the show will air live simultaneously—at 11:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 p.m. Central, 9:30 p.m. Mountain and 8:30 p.m. Pacific—for what NBC says is the first time in its 42-season history.

In making the announcement today, NBC also revealed SNL’s remaining hosts for the season: Jimmy Fallon (April 15), Chris Pine (May 6), McCarthy (May 13) and Dwayne Johnson (May 20). The network’s new strategy will not apply to SNL’s next original episode scheduled for April 8 with Louis C.K. as host. That show will air at its usual time across the country.

“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,” said NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt in a statement. “That way, everyone is in on the joke at the same time.”

In the Mountain and Pacific time zones, SNL will also repeat at 11:30 p.m.

NBC’s Salt Lake City affiliate, KSL, told Adweek the station hasn’t discussed its plans internally yet, but will likely slide its 10 p.m. local newscast “to accommodate the network.”

The show’s ratings are up 21 percent from last year in the 18-49 demo (a 3.6 demo rating) and up 26 percent in total viewers (to 11 million). NBC said its demo rating is the highest in eight years and the season is SNL’s most watched in total viewers in 24 years.

NBC reduced SNL’s ad load by 30 percent this season, removing two commercial breaks per episode, though there has still been no sign of the show’s first branded content spots, which NBCUniversal said last month would be coming in the next few episodes.

This season’s ad load reduction “has been an unbelievable success,” said Mark Marshall, evp of entertainment group advertising sales for NBCUniversal, in February.

“It’s the least-commercialized program in all of ad-supported TV right now,” he said.

And the show’s ad revenue is higher than ever, even with the reduced ad load. “The demand for the show has been through the roof and it’s sold out every week,” Marshall said. “It’s a pretty phenomenal asset that we are unbelievably lucky to have.”

This is the second major SNL announcement NBC has made in the past 24 hours. On Wednesday, the network said it will air four episodes of Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update during prime time this summer, starting Thursday, Aug. 10 at 9 p.m. The half-hour telecast will feature Weekend Update anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che, as well as other SNL cast members.