SNL's Season 47 Premiere Marked A Series Record, But It Wasn't Good News

Saturday Night Live returned on October 2 for its 47th season on NBC, featuring Owen Wilson in his first-ever hosting role on the show. There were plenty of memorable moments (not the least of which was a nude musical guest), and the episode actually marked a series record. The bad news? It wasn’t the kind of record SNL surely wanted out of a season premiere. The ratings were not great!

The Season 47 premiere of SNL ranks as the lowest-rated episode – not just premiere – in the history of the show in the coveted 18-49 age demographic, according to The Wrap, with just an 0.92 rating. The audience size wasn’t breaking any good records either, with just 4.9 million total viewers. Those numbers represent a 50% drop in the key demo and 41% overall drop from the Season 46 premiere that aired nearly a year to the date ahead of Owen Wilson’s hosting debut. 

For what it's worth, Owen Wilson's 0.92 was only just under the previous series low, which was Keegan-Michael Key’s back in May with 0.93. And Scarlett Johansson's hosting gig from May 2015 still holds the record for smallest audience size of 4.7 million.

The Season 46 premiere, which was hosted by Chris Rock, won a rating of 1.85 in the key 18-49 demographic and more than 8 million viewers, leaving the numbers from the Season 47 premiere in the dust. That’s not to say that Owen Wilson’s first appearance as host was a flop in the context of that week of television. The 0.92 rating was reportedly the second-highest for any comedy of that week, behind only The Simpsons

Dramas like NCIS and anything under the Dick Wolf banner fared significantly better, but SNL didn’t do so badly compared to other comedies to start the 2021-2022 TV season. This just wasn’t a good record for SNL to set at the outset of a new season. And it’s unlikely that Owen Wilson as host turned off prospective viewers from tuning in. Although his biggest movie roles were in years past, he was a prominent part of Disney+’s highly-anticipated Loki series, and became a fan favorite

In the grand scheme of things, there are plenty of possible explanations for why the numbers dipped for the Season 47 premiere. Those numbers could rise once more delayed viewership can be accounted for, and it’s possible that more people are just checking out the sketches on YouTube rather than watching broadcasts live. At the time of writing, eight sketches from SNL’s Season 47 premiere have accumulated more than 1 million views on YouTube, including one in which Owen Wilson “reprised” his character from the Cars franchise. Take a look: 

Plus, it’s worth noting that Kim Kardashian’s upcoming hosting gig has been more widely publicized, although largely due to the controversy it caused on social media. It’s possible that people didn’t even know that SNL was returning with an episode before Kardashian’s. Throw in the facts that the show is coming off of a hiatus and Saturdays aren’t the highest-rated nights of the week even under the best of circumstances, and the sky isn’t falling because of the disappointing numbers. Even the fact that Season 46 premiered shortly ahead of a presidential election could be a factor, considering SNL’s penchant for popular political parodies. 

All things considered, Owen Wilson’s episode of SNL marking a series record for the lowest ratings isn’t a good way to start a season, but it’ll take a few weeks of ratings to figure out if the Season 47 premiere was a fluke or beginning of a troubling trend. There were some changes in cast for this season, including some notable departures. You can see what happens next with Kim Kardashian’s episode of SNL on Saturday, October 9 at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.