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‘SNL’ Season 43 opens strong but shy of last year’s numbers

LOS ANGELES — “Saturday Night Live’s” 43rd season opener grabbed a solid 7 million viewers but could not match the crowd that gathered last fall during the frenzied environment of the presidential election.

“SNL” averaged 7 million viewers and a 1.9 rating in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen’s preliminary live-same-day ratings. Those numbers will grow with delayed viewing factored in during the next seven days.

Last fall, “SNL” opened to 8.9 million viewers and 2.3 adults 18-49. That set the show on course for what proved to be its most-watched season since the 1993-94 frame in total viewers, with an average of 11 million, and best showing in seven years in the adults 18-49 demo (a 3.5 average), according to Nielsen’s live-plus-7 ratings. Saturday’s opener was the second most-watched “SNL” premiere since 2010, according to NBC.

Season 43 marks the first time the show will air live in all time zones — an experiment that NBC began with the final four episodes of last season. That should also give a lift to its live viewership. The social media chatter around the show had become so pervasive that there were no surprises left for viewers in western, mountain and central time zones once the show aired live on the East Coast.

Still, delayed viewing is significant for “SNL.” Last season the show averaged a 60% gain over seven days in adults 18-49 and a 44% spike in total viewers, according to NBC.

Last year’s “SNL” season premiere featured the highly anticipated debut of Alec Baldwin as then-candidate Donald Trump. Season 43 also opened with Baldwin-as-Trump in a sketch that mocked the President’s response to the devastation in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria.

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