Thursday, December 1, 2022


October 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

When writing about the 40-year run of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, TV historians generally agree that the show fell to its nadir during the 1980-81 season, when its ratings plunged so low that many observers at the time predicted it would be canceled (and in fact nearly all of the cast and the show’s producer at the time were fired midway through the season). Given the numerous accounts of that turmoil, a report on Monday that SNL fell to its lowest ratings ever over the weekend appeared dubious. However, NBC spokesman Tom Bierbaum notes that the lowest household rating that the 1980-81 season drew was a 7.9. By comparison, the Oct. 4 telecast recorded a 3.5 household rating — "a sizable gap," he observed. "So the reports over the weekend were accurate, with SNL currently at its lowest ratings to date," Bierbaum confirmed. Why such a dramatic fall-off? "The big change that makes modern comparisons to the early days so difficult is the average number of channels in the home," Bierbaum explained. "With most of the country getting cable or satellite, the average home has literally hundreds of channels while the average in 1980 was probably 5-10." And the toughest competition? Live sports, he said, particularly ESPN’s coverage of college football from the West Coast.