Tag Archives: NBC

Saturday Night Live: Late Night Comedy Is No Joke.

Lorne Michaels has helmed “Saturday Night Live” for 40 years, but in the entertainment business that might as well be an eternity. So how has Michaels kept ‘SNL’ current and fresh after all these years?

Lorne MichaelsOne way he’s accomplished this is by having complete control over the show. Except for an absence in the early ‘80s—when the show was nearly cancelled—Michaels has been the main decision maker for the duration of SNL. Whether it’s who is chosen as a cast member, whether or not a joke works, or who gets let go, ultimately Michaels has that decision.

Saturday Night Live first aired in October 1975, becoming a shining star in the dark landscape of television at the time. Its premise was simple: a late night sketch comedy show broadcast live across the United States once a week. Expectations for the show lasting past its first season weren’t set particularly high, especially by Michaels himself. In an interview with The New York Post, he said, “At the end of the first season I’d written everything I’d wanted to write several times over. I thought of it as ‘That Championship Season.’ I didn’t know what I would do for a second season.”

But SNL survived a second season, then a third and a fourth, and last month it celebrated its 40th season on the air. An anniversary special was aired for this occasion, which brought back cast members from the last four decades.

Michaels uses a specific formula for his show, and will combat anyone who tries to change it. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Michaels describes a few instances when a guest host or the network tried to change that formula. When a network exec tried to cut music from the show, Michaels relented for a few episodes, but ultimately Lorne got his way. Another issue he’s run into is hosts trying to push the envelope of what’s appropriate, but Michaels and his crew have been through it all before, and know when something works and when it doesn’t.

SNL40Ratings for this show were the best SNL—or NBC for that matter—has seen in years. According to Variety, Nielson ratings garnered 23.1 million viewers from 8 to 11 PM for the February 15 celebration. That’s the highest number of viewers for an NBC primetime show since the Frasier finale in 2004. This is clearly a huge success for the network as well as the show, and proves that to this day SNL has remained a relevant television staple.

When asked if SNL should go on without him, Michaels—who will be 71 this year—replied, “I don’t know. I’m going to keep doing it as long as I possibly can because I love it and because it’s what I do.”

Lorne Michaels has kept SNL alive by keeping to a strict formula and maintaining control of his production by overseeing all parts of it, from casting to writing to the format of the show. Saturday Night Live is truly a Lorne Michaels production.

What will the future hold for Michaels and SNL? Do you think the show will celebrate a 50th anniversary?

– Kyle Flathers

Mark Lazarus and His Quest for NBC’s Sports Domination

mark lazarusIn the sports world, there is no doubt that ESPN leads in sports programming. While Fox Sports just recently launched their competition for ESPN with Fox Sports 1, NBC has had a little bit of a head start to compete with the sports media giant. The NBC Sports Group is headed by Mark Lazarus. Before he was president of NBC Sports, Lazarus was the President of Sports and entertainment at Turner Sports. In 2011, Lazarus took over for longtime Chairman Dick Ebersol, who resigned due to arguments with upper management.

During his brief tenure at NBC Sports, Lazarus has already accomplished many successful things. In the sports world that we live in, the National Football League dominates everything. Lazarus helped extend NBC’s Sunday Night Football contract for nine years up until 2020. Lazarus and NBC only had to pay $950 million each year. Lazarus also helped extend NBC’s Olympics deal until 2020 for $4.38 billion.

NHL NBCWhile those two contracts have come easy to Lazarus, there are still plenty of challenges that he faces if he wishes to put up a fight against ESPN. One sport that Lazarus has put at the forefront of NBC Sports is hockey. After the NHL had its lockout in 2004, ESPN dropped its hockey coverage, and NBC took over in 2006.

In January of 2012, Lazarus helped rebrand the Versus Network into the NBC Sports Network. Today, the NHL is slowly digging itself out of a hole when it comes to ratings. On opening night of this year, the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins combined for 956,000 viewers. That was the most watched opening night game since 1993, and was the highest watched program on NBCSN ever. Lazarus has a plan in place to return the NHL to its glory, and it looks like it is in motion.

NBC NascarThe second sport that Lazarus is trying to help dig out of a hole is NASCAR. From 2001-2006, NBC shared its NASCAR television rights with FOX. At the end of their contract, NASCAR’s popularity was at its highest. However, in the eight years that NBC has been out of the game, NASCAR has seen its ratings drop. Now, Lazarus and NBC are back after they signed a 10 year/$4.4 billion deal.

Starting this year, NBC will once again split the NASCAR coverage with FOX, as NBC will take over when the series returns to Daytona in July. NBC has already started their return to NASCAR with their daily NASCAR news show “NASCAR America.” Lazarus has also made some great hires along the way, as he signed former FOX play by play man Rick Allen, former race winning crew chief Steve Letarte, and 21 time race winner Jeff Burton. I can tell by some of the NASCAR personalities that were hired that Lazarus wants NBC’s return to NASCAR to be a huge success.

While the ratings for the NHL and NASCAR are still above water, Lazarus’ biggest challenge will no doubt about be NBC’s new deal with boxing. It is no secret that boxing is long past its glory days. From the battles between Ali and Frazier, to the superstars of Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, boxing certainly has been a thing of the past.

NBC BoxingTo try and resurrect boxing, Lazarus and boxing will be carrying their first fights in almost 30 years as “Premier Boxing Champions” comes to NBC. PBC is where not only some of boxing’s best battle, but also some of the up and coming stars. While the boxing talent alone may not give NBC its ratings, Lazarus is hoping that having storied voices Al Michaels and Marv Albert, as well as boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, will be enough to start to revive boxing.

After one week, PBC gives some hope to the future of boxing. “Premier Boxing Champions” had 3.4 million viewers, which translated to a 2.5 overnight rating. That was most viewers for a boxing event on cable television since 1998. PBC also won the 18-49 age demographic, which is the age range that the UFC has lived on. While it is just a small sample, Lazarus looks like he might be the one that can save boxing.

The task for Lazarus is not small by any means. To compete with ESPN will take a lot of time, but if he is able to bring back the popularity to the NHL, NASCAR, and boxing, I don’t see why he can’t bring a challenge to ESPN.

Here are a few questions for you: Do you think this strategy by Lazarus will be enough to challenge ESPN? In what ways could you see this potentially backfiring on Lazarus? If you were Lazarus, would you do anything different?

Andy McConnell