TV Ratings: 'SNL' and Alec Baldwin Make Strong Return After Record Election Year

Alec Baldwin Cold Open SNL Sept. 30 - H 2017
Screengrab/'Saturday Night Live'

Saturday Night Live returned to NBC this weekend, Alec Baldwin in tow, for another season likely peppered with parody of Donald Trump.

Airing live in all U.S. time zones, as it did for four episodes last season and will continue to do all of this season, the show averaged just over 7 million viewers and a 1.9 rating among adults 18-49. Those figures both represent declines of a little more than 15 percent from the prior opener — no surprise given last year's presidential election cycle.

SNL will likely reap considerable lifts from time-shifting. And while it may not hit the highs of the previous year, Saturday's numbers still represent the show's second most-watched premiere since 2010.

The 2016-17 SNL opener, one that set a eight-year premiere high for the venerable sketch series, averaged 8.3 million viewers and a live 2.3 rating among adults 18-49. That ultimately just scratched the surface, with SNL hitting more episodic highs throughout the season. Its aggressive lampooning of the election and the Trump White House inspired an unpredictable momentum, and, all told, SNL wrapped the season with an average 11 million viewers and a 3.5 rating among adults 18-49, per Nielsen's live-plus-seven-day ratings.

Those numbers made for the show's most-watched season in 23 years and the highest-rated in seven. SNL also finished the season as the No. 5 non-sports show on broadcast, trailing only The Big Bang Theory, This Is Us, Empire and Modern Family in the key demo.

Though Baldwin's return for his portrayal of the president is proof-positive that executive producer Lorne Michaels and company intend to stay the course with political parody, most parties involved with the show have publicly acknowledged the unique nature of the 2016-17 season. And while SNL may continue to reap much more attention than it has years, the recent ratings highs are likely behind it.

Saturday's premiere was hosted by Ryan Gosling and musical guest Jay Z. Upcoming episodes will feature Gal Gadot and Kumail Nanjiani.