More people have now watched Tina Fey’s impersonation of Republican Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on the Internet, or to a lesser extent on digital recordings or through on-demand stations, than on the original Saturday Night Live (SNL) broadcasts themselves.
According to Integrated Media Measurement Inc. (IMMI), a research firm that measures media exposure, only one-third of the people who have seen at least one of the skits watched it first live on Saturday night. The vast majority have seen it on nbc.com, youtube.com, or other political or comedy web sites.
Writes AP reporter David Bauder, in Turning beyond TV for Tina Fey:
“[IMMI] has never seen anything expand its reach beyond the first-run broadcast quite to this extent.
"I don't know if we would have seen this sort of viral activity a year ago, if people didn't think of their computer as a place to turn to for video entertainment," said Amanda Welsh, IMMI's head of research. "I really believe that we are seeing a change in consumer behavior on a very profound level."
Rather than jealously guard Fey’s skits for live TV, NBC has actively encouraged the activity…
NBC perfected "widget" technology only a few months ago, allowing video of its material to be captured across the Internet while retaining a tie to the network's Web site. It has aggressively marketed the Fey skits to political and comedy blogs. Her skits are posted on NBC's Web site almost immediately after they air on the East Coast — a fan in California can see them online before it's on TV.
The idea is to create buzz; if people see the clips online they might find them funny and tune in to SNL regularly, said Vivi Zigler, president of NBC Universal digital entertainment, owned by the General Electric Co. Lapsed viewers might return, or even people who have never seen the show might watch, she said.
The danger to this approach is that more viewers might decide not to watch SNL on Saturday night, and advertising revenue could suffer. So far the opposite is true: The show's audience for its first three episodes is 49 percent higher than last year's.
The experts expect that pattern to continue.
"The more platforms you make available to consumers, the more consumers you capture," Welsh said…
It's not the only sign this fall of how the typical habits of watching TV — making an appointment with your easy chair at a given time each night — are rapidly becoming obsolete…
[According to Welsh], consumers are in the midst of a behavioral change where they are increasingly looking to the computer for video.... The computer is shaping up as a more popular choice than DVRs, she said.
"It is a tipping point for entertainment companies," Zigler said. "It is exactly what we expected would happen."
It's nice to be able to watch what we want, when we want it, but SNL's opening line just won’t pack the same punch if it is changed to “From New York it's …the show?”