Betty White hosts SNL this week, thanks in large part to a Facebook movement. It was a savvy move for the television institution – which, at 35, might as well be as old as White in TV years.
SNL’s target audience has always tended to be younger, and as such the show must constantly adapt to changing times. Tapping White to host in response to popular demand is a good start, as is the Backstage blog which includes sketches cut at the last minute. But SNL can do even more:
1. More online video content
I don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to make a post using an obscure SNL sketch to make a point. And honestly, there’s no reason (other than to promote DVD sales) for SNL not to have a library of all their sketches available. Currently, only select sketches are available.
Aside from my selfish reasons, having every sketch ever made available could be a good business decision for SNL. Old, obscure sketches could become viral sensations when exposed to a new audience. And then there’s the social factor: For many folks, watching SNL is a social activity, and so any sketch can become an inside joke among friends – whether or not it’s a “classic.” An otherwise unfunny 1999 sketch where Horatio Sanz repeatedly screams, “a bear ate my parents!” was pretty lame, but it would get plenty of laughs from soem of my UMass chums if I sent them a link to it. You and your friends probably have sketches like that too. SNL is missing out by not tapping into that emotion – it keeps viewers loyal.
2. Viewer-generated content
Andy Samberg’s Digital Shorts have helped SNL advance in the online video space. So why is Samberg to only one making digital shorts? There are some talented comics out there who can make funny videos.
By inviting submissions and letting viewers vote on which one should be on TV, SNL can not only build a great interactive relationship with their audience, but also find cheap talent.
3. Viewers pick the host
SNL understood the dynamics of audience engagement early on, running an “Anyone Can Host” contest back in 1977.
Offering a season-long, election-style contest between two good comedic actors for a spot hosting the season finale would not only be comedy gold, but would reach into those actors’ networks – their Facebook fans and Twitter followers would suddenly have a reason to visit SNL’s website, and to recruit friends to do the same.