- Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch partnered with NBCUniversal to air a digital marathon of "Saturday Night Live" leading up to the May 19 season finale hosted by Tina Fey with musical guest Nicki Minaj, Variety reported. Twitch, a popular destination for gamers, is trying to diversify its content and leverage its massive user base for more social viewing beyond gaming, per Variety.
- The marathon will include 16 hours of sketches aired back to back for 48 hours. The collection will cover the show's beginnings up to the current season with skits featuring Fey, a former head writer and performer, as well as memorable satires, digital shorts and more. Among the programming will be some of Drake's 2016 appearances. Drake recently helped Twitch break a live-streaming record for concurrent viewers on a creator channel, when he joined a user named Ninja to play the game "Fortnite."
- As part of the deal with NBCUniversal, Twitch creators can co-stream the SNL marathon while adding their own commentary. The "SNL" marathon isn't a first, however, as Twitch has aired similar content blocks for "Mystery Science Theater 3000," "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" and Julia Child's "The French Chef." The platform also streamed episodes of Bob Ross' "The Joy of Painting," which grabbed 5.6 million unique visitors and produced nostalgic memes around the show, according to The Washington Post.
Twitch continues to diversify its programming in an ongoing rivalry with Google's YouTube, a platform where clips and sketches from shows like "SNL" and also late-night TV are incredibly popular and a lucrative driver of ad revenue. Viewing on Twitch is different than what YouTube typically offers, however, with much of the entertainment value derived from how users comment on streams in real-time — a type of engagement NBCUniversal is trying to tap into by opening up co-streams with commentary for its "SNL" marathon.
Doing so could also help the network reach the typically young audience that flocks to Twitch but is watching linear TV less frequently in favor of digital video content and over-the-top streaming services. The mix of newer and classic "SNL" sketches included in the programming block might also stoke nostalgia in viewers, as past Twitch marathons for "The Joy of Painting" and "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" have, drawing large audiences as a result.
The Twitch-NBCUniversal partnership underscores the shift in how viewers, especially younger demographics, access entertainment as the rate of cord cutting increases and the number of pay TV subscribers decline. Traditional TV networks are more frequently teaming up with social media platforms to account for this. NBCUniversal partnered with Snapchat, which it has invested in, to live stream moments from the 2018 Winter Olympics this year, for example. In December, Twitch signed a deal with the NBA to air minor league games, which, like the "SNL" partnership, enabled popular features on the platform like stat overlays and co-streaming options for live commentary.
As Twitch's media partnerships and audience numbers have grown, Amazon has opened more opportunities to monetize Twitch content. The company began selling video ads on properties across its ad platform last year, including Twitch.