A little over 10 years ago, a digital short on SNL changed the internet and YouTube forever. I am sure pretty much all of you are familiar with “Lazy Sunday – The Chronicles of Narnia” performed by the Lonely Island on Saturday Night Live, way back in 2005. What you may not be familiar with is how that one skit changed the history and future of YouTube.
(*actual video of skit not to be found due to legal issues with NBC, see legal fracas below)
The article ‘Lazy Sunday’ Turns 10: ‘SNL’ Stars Recall How TV Invaded the Internet in the December 2015 issue of Variety, profiled this skit and its impact on the internet.
“’Lazy Sunday’ was groundbreaking because it was the first TV programming to earn a second life on the Internet, collecting over 2 million views in its first week alone and setting off a legal fracas with NBC Universal months later.”
These days we take for granted the fact that this was not always the case. Now, talk shows (and comedy shows) now create content specifically for the web and the potential for virality and sharing. They are built with these digital platforms in mind and the life they can have after the airing of the show. I cannot even begin to count the number of videos I have seen shared on my Facebook feed and Twitter feed from late night shows specifically for this purpose – Carpool Karaoke, Lip Sync Battle (and pretty much every Jimmy Fallon skit), Mean Tweets, and the list goes on. And now SNL creates their skit with digital in mind, whereas the first time it was not planned and they fought it.
“When ‘Lazy Sunday’ came out, we were watching numbers on a site we had never heard of. It was this double whammy: we always got associated with the Internet, but it was television that made it possible. Then it became the currency of the popularity of our shows – oh, this one is really popular because it had X hits. YouTube really changed that, honestly. There was this second life to television.”
And now, it has all come full circle. While TV infiltrated the internet and the internet gave a “second life” to television, in 2016 it is the internet that is infiltrating television and changing it. Monday, February 29th marks the launch of Viceland, VICE Media’s own television channel. VICE began as a magazine in Montreal, and now has many online offshoots of “demographically focused platforms”. VICE is truly a multi-platform and multimedia company that built its reputation through alternative channels including the web, and now it is simply adding TV to its list of media. My awareness and knowledge of VICE is through their documentaries which are online, but they are now taking over the traditional TV medium with their content.
Another example of television looking to the internet is the TV show Lip Sync Battle. Yes, the same as the Fallon skit I mentioned above. It is based on the skit from Fallon’s show, and therefore did start on TV, it is because of its popularity online that it become its own show on Spike TV, and the videos of the performances from the show continue to rack up huge numbers on YouTube. I would bet that the digital life of those performances is way higher than the audience actually watching the show while it airs. It is one of the many shows that does better online and afterwards than when it actually airs.
I think what VICE demonstrates is that the focus these days is truly on multi-media and multi-platform success. A skit cannot just be well-received on the show when it airs, it needs to have a life afterwards online. It needs to be useable and shareable on various mediums and channels and to have as much of a second life as possible.
It will be interesting to see how television and the internet continue to evolve as they begin to merge more into each other.