“Saturday Night Live” host Owen Wilson kicked off the show’s 47th season over the weekend with little fanfare, drawing sharply lower ratings than last year’s season debut.
Ratings for the live sketch-comedy show on Saturday plummeted 35 percent from last season’s opener, bringing in just 3.5 million viewers, according to ratings agency Nielsen, which released early data drawn from 44 media markets.
Wilson, who will star in Wes Anderson’s upcoming “French Dispatch” and “Bliss” with Salma Hayek, kicked off the new season with singer Kacey Musgraves. Musgraves bared all for her musical performance — going completely nude save for a pair of cowboy boots and her guitar, but it wasn’t enough to draw in viewers.
Despite the weak results, the weekend’s ratings were in line with the final two episodes of last season, which may indicate the new normal for the show’s TV ratings.
While the official Nielsen ratings will be available on Tuesday, the agency in its preliminary read also showed a 13 percent decline in viewership in the coveted 18-to-49 age group from the last two episodes of last season.
The steep decline in ratings compared to last year is likely due in part to the political climate. Last year at this time, the country was in the throes of a fiery presidential election.
Last year’s season-opening host, Chris Rock, might also have been a bigger draw than Wilson. The popular comedian not only brought levity to the tense political climate, but he also drew 8.2 million viewers to the show, which was created and is still produced by Lorne Michaels.
“SNL’s” ratings drop-off is normal after an election cycle, but media watchers anticipate a ratings bump when Kim Kardashian West hosts the show with musical guest Halsey on Oct. 9.
Meanwhile, last week “SNL” announced a shakeup of its cast. Longtime show staples including Aidy Bryant, Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong stayed on as part of the main cast. However, Beck Bennett left the NBC series after eight seasons, and Lauren Holt also exited after making her debut just last season.