Betty White Makes SNL Ratings Look Golden
After the incredible success of Betty White’s appearance on Saturday Night Light – an invitation that was sent because of the popularity of her Super Bowl commercial for Snickers – saved the late night institution from the slow death it’s been suffering since Chris Farley’s heart exploded like a Gulf oil tanker, one must wonder if Lorne Michaels will offer the coveted hosting gig to the baby from e-trade.
Overnight ratings reached an 8.8 – the highest non-election year pull for the 90-minute sketch show in at least 6 years.
And we ask why? The all-star reunion of recent alumnae helps. So does Jay-Z performing while his Blue Print 3 album maintains a steady place on the Top 40 charts. But the real feat: viral, peer-to-peer advertising. We’ve seen the power of Facebook spread vicious rumors about high school classmates and teach an entire generation of Americans that farming requires the same skill set as leading a multi-national crime syndicate. And now, we’ve borne witness to the fact that it can provide a fairly precise gauge of what people want to watch on TV.
Over 500,000 Facebook users joined the group that ultimately convinced Michaels to tag Betty White for this episode. Building on the grassroots support, NBC promoted her appearance more heavily than any other episode this season. White and SNL alumnae appeared all week on Jimmy Fallon’s surprisingly not-yet-cancelled talk show. Ads with White and Tina Fey or Kristen Whig filled every dead minute during NBC’s broadcast – perhaps a more reflective and telling indicator of the network’s low ratings than anything else. And the word of mouth continued on Facebook, at the bar and over Twitter. #BettyWhite was a top tracking item on Twitter all weekend and remains one of Twitter’s top 20 trending topics at the time of this post.
Perhaps, though, we’re all missing the point. She was funny as hell in the Snickers commercial, she’s a cute, brass, coarse and hip old lady. Sure there was hype for this episode, but instead of encouraging SNL to try to replicate the advertising and marketing leading up to the episode, Lorne Michaels should replicate the product and give the audience what they want – a show that doesn’t suck.