Donald Trump lifts 'Saturday Night Live' ratings to near 4-year high

Donald Trump Envisions Life as President on SNL
Donald Trump Envisions Life as President on SNL

By RICK KISSELL, Variety.com

Donald Trump continues to be ratings gold just about everywhere he shows up, with his hosting turn on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" lifting the program to its top overnight household score in nearly four years.

According to Nielsen, last night's telecast averages a 6.6 rating/16 share in metered-market household results, up about 50% from the show's fall average (4.3) and the top rating since Jan. 7, 2012 with host Charles Barkley and musical guest Kelly Clarkson. Saturday's rating is also up 53% vs. "SNL's" year-ago November average.

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Trump Hosts SNL
Trump Hosts SNL

READ MORE: Donald Trump on 'Saturday Night Live': Not Hugely Entertaining

In Nielsen's 25 markets with Local People Meters, "SNL" averaged a 2.7 rating/10 share — the show's best since Feb. 1, 2014 with Melissa McCarthy and Imagine Dragons. The show had been averaging a 2.0 demo rating this fall.

READ MORE: Donald Trump busted out some dance moves for a 'Hotline Bling' parody

Nielsen will issue total-viewer estimates for Saturday's telecast later this week, but it figures to be around 9 million, based on the overnights. Last season, the show peaked in November with 7.44 million viewers.

Trump, of course, has been a ratings magnet ever since he got in the race earlier this year. The GOP debates, starting with the first one on Fox News in August, have broken all-time records, and appearances by Trump provided a Nielsen spike for shows including NBC's "Meet the Press," Fox News Channel's "Hannity" and CBS' "Late Show with Stephen Colbert," which delivered the program's best numbers outside of its premiere when Trump visited in September.

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Trump Tweets SNL
Trump Tweets SNL

Donald Trump as host of "SNL" would have appeared to be a long shot as recently as a few months ago. NBC Entertainment had publicly severed ties with Trump on "The Apprentice" and Miss Universe/Miss USA pageants during the summer, only to get back in business with him in time for the November sweep.

Out of concern for TV's so-called "equal time" rule, which could afford comparable air time on NBC stations for any of Trump's political opponents who request it over the next week, "SNL" kept the GOP front-runner's screen time to a minimum. According to a Variety analysis, Trump appeared onscreen last night for just 12 minutes, or less than half the time as Amy Schumer when she hosted the show last month.

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