Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

NBC vs. Apple: SNL's iPhone Sketch

November 5, 2007: 9:15 AM ET

picture-28.jpgFor a simple comedy sketch, the Saturday Night Live takeoff on the new "black backdrop" Apple (AAPL) iPhone ads carries an awful lot of corporate baggage.

The bit aired Nov. 3 and the video was posted the next day on YouTube -- and enthusiastically linked to by TechCrunch.

It's funny enough, with a clever set-up for the "pinch it" gesture. But by Sunday afternoon, NBC Universal (GE) had scrubbed the free version off YouTube, a site that many broadcasters see as a threat to their business model.

If you want to see the SNL sketch today, you either have to go to hulu.com, NBC and News Corp.'s (NWS) invitation-only (while in beta) answer to Apple's iTunes Music Store, or visit the official SNL page on NBC's corporate site. Either way, you must sit through a 15-second TV-style commercial before you get to the clip -- a chilling vision of what the Internet would look like if it had been invented by the folks who run broadcast television.

picture-29.jpgIf that weren't enough, the SNL team -- inadvertently or not -- added what Gizmodo and Cult of Mac see as one more dig at Steve Jobs, with whom NBC has been feuding these many month. If you look closely, you'll notice that the iPhone used in the sketch has a little blue Installer icon on its face, a sure sign that the device was "jailbroken," or hacked, to add unauthorized programs -- despite Apple's admonitions to the contrary.

NBC, of course, has bigger things to worry about right now. The Writers Guild called a strike at midnight and promised to set up picket lines in front of 30 Rock this morning, which means that unless the suits plan to write the sketches, SNL will be in reruns for the duration.

For Fake Steve Jobs' screed on the absurdity of the Hollywood labor situation, see his Secret Diary here.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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