A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
A record 3.38 million albums aren’t sold in a week without shrewd promotion. But Adele, 27, attained ubiquity with relatively few U.S. media commitments, each of them on NBC. It’s a coup for the network thanks in part to Saturday Night Live impresario Lorne Michaels.
“Adele credits her first appearance on SNL as helping launch her in the States,” says one insider. “Her relationship with Lorne ended up being really important to NBC being the place for her to launch this record.”
The singer, whose 25 is already the top-selling album of 2015, is not wrong to acknowledge SNL. The venerable variety show has long prided itself on introducing new musical acts, and Adele’s October 2008 debut coincided with Sarah Palin’s infamous appearance alongside impersonator Tina Fey (a landmark 17 million tuned in to the episode, and Adele’s first LP, 19 — released in January of that year — immediately shot to No. 1 on the iTunes chart).
So she repaid the favor Nov. 21 — giving SNL its highest ratings (Donald Trump excluded) in nearly a year — and then some.
The singer also performed on Today and The Tonight Show and will finish her NBC tour Dec. 14 with the primetime special Adele Live in New York City. Michaels and Adele’s camp (including longtime flack Benny Tarantini) began speaking in June once Columbia Records settled on a fall release for 25. Label boss Rob Stringer was said to be keen on taping a concert special at the network as well — and, after Michaels and Adele dined in London later this summer, the all-NBC plan was formalized.
TV execs are keen to see if album sales can translate to viewers. Broadcast net concert specials have been considered passe in recent years — but if anyone can buck that trend, it’s probably Adele.