NBC and Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels are in talks to develop a new on-demand video Website that would feature an array of comedy clips built around the late-night franchise, according to sources.
While the project is still in the early developmental stage, it is believed the site would include a mix of sketches culled from the vast SNL library, as well as dress rehearsal skits that have never aired. It would also feature additional original comedy similar to The Line, a Web series created earlier this year by SNL writers and performers. The Line can now be seen on YouTube and Sony's Crackle.com.
Insiders say the new SNL online stop would be similar to Comedy Central's site for The Daily ShowWith Jon Stewart.
SNL head writer Seth Meyers confirmed that a new site was in the works on ESPN columnist Bill Simmons’ podcast The BS Report, late last week.
Meyers says plans for the site gained momentum after seeing the popularity of SNL clips on Hulu, the News Corp.-NBC Universal owned video site. Because of their length, they lend themselves well to use in clip format, and have consistently been among the most viewed videos on the site.
Among the ideas being discussed, according to Meyers, would be cast member pages, featuring their “top 10” sketches of all time, as well as to ask that week’s guest host what their favorite moments were.
While the project would seem to carry big potential, multiple questions are still being dealt with internally, according to sources.
The first involves whether it would premiere too late to capitalize on the pre-election buzz that has brought Saturday Night Live a dramatic ratings increase. The late-night staple has skyrocketed back into the pop culture Zeitgeist thanks to two memorable shifts in the election.
The first came with a skit describing the media as pandering to Barack Obama. The sketch became a part of the public discourse in the race between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
The second came with Republican nominee John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin—a dead ringer for former SNL head writer Tina Fey—as his running mate. Fey's return to portray Palin has brought a huge ratings spike.
But the election would be long gone by the time the online project launched and SNL has struggled to make it back into the pop culture ether in recent years.
Another concern—perhaps most top of mind for those involved—is the ability to monetize the idea.
Some with knowledge of the project have referred to it as similar to Funny or Die, the video Website co-founded by Will Ferrell. But one NBC insider notes of that site's financial performance, “Funny or Die itself isn't doing that great.”
Also among the challenges for the SNL site is the classic bits that include music, which can be expensive to clear. One insider points to a sketch featuring the Blue Oyster Cult song, “(Don't Fear) The Reaper,” in which Christopher Walken incessantly asks Ferrell for “more cowbell”—a catchphrase that has become popular in pop culture.
“That [sketch] would be impossible to clear because of the expense,” an NBC source says.
However, the network believes it has plenty of clips to launch the site.
One strategy some at NBC suggested was to launch as part of the already established NBC.com. But sources said Michaels did not favor that plan, preferring the new site to be a standalone.
A request via an NBC representative to interview Michaels last week was not fulfilled.
With Ben Grossman