Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Arrival Of All Night Programming?

This is something I always wondered about because I don't have the answer so, hopefully someone can fill in the blanks.

When exactly did some of the NY Metro Area stations decide to go to all-night programming and was this a decision by some of the stations at the same time? What, if anything, was it in response to and was it a case of "follow the leader"?

The only thing I really have to go by is my collection of old TV Guides but there are too many blanks to come up with a definitive answer. I know that throughout probably the majority of the 1970's, NY area stations signed off the air at certain times. Some earlier then others. I know that WCBS-TV was the one station that stayed on the air the latest, sometimes signing off for a ridiculous 10 minutes before signing on again. Now, I fast forward to my TV Guides from 1981, I don't have any Guides from 1979 or 1980, and lo and behold some of the NY area stations are going 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Now, what I find most interesting is that the "some" involved two NY local independents. WOR-TV Channel 9 and WPIX-TV Channel 11. The reason I find it interesting is because it's two local indies leading the way as opposed to the local network affiliates. Now, by the time WOR and WPIX began going 24-7, the other stations were staying on later than before but still signing off for anywhere between a few minutes and a few hours each day. This is most interesting to me because I assume before long, everyone else followed suit. I guess this was also the beginning of 9 ALL NIGHT but I don't know for sure. Anyway, looking at the programming for 9 and 11, they certainly had enough to carry them 24-7. WOR threw movies by the bundle at it's viewer while WPIX ran some classic shows such as THE FBI, THE ROOKIES, TWILIGHT ZONE, etc..

My guess has always been that this was in response to some fledgling 24-7 cable nets as more and more folks became wired but I don't know for sure. It's a topic that fascinates me but I'd sure like to have some concrete answers so please feel free to chime in.


  1. The road to all-night programming in New York City began on Feb. 26/27, 1963, when WCBS-TV celebrated the 12th anniversary of the debut of "The Late Show" by adding another edition of "The Late Late Show" to its schedule. (On Saturday nights/Sunday mornings, when sign-ons were later than on the weekdays, as many as four "Late Late Shows" were often seen after "The Late Show" in those years.) This had the effect of expanding the transmission schedule of Channel 2 to 24/7/365 - and no cut carrier. (As a side note, a New York Times article - or was it in The New York Times Magazine? - from the summer of 1963 noted that WCBS had five film editing teams working solely on assembling for "The Late Show" and their other movie umbrellas. Alas, you can only find this out about the day all-night programming began in TV Guides, because the New York City newspapers were all on strike then.)

    Prior to WOR (which first went 24/7 in 1979) and WPIX (which followed not long afterward), WNEW-TV had dabbled in 24/7 programming as early as the fall of 1972; you can check vintage TV Guide issues of the period for proof. Often shown (after their "11:30 Movie") were films that were aired either several hours earlier or would air a few hours later (shades of WOR-TV with their "Million Dollar Movies" up to 1968?); reruns of shows such as "The Prisoner" and "The Fugitive"; public-affairs shows hosted first by John Hamilton (not to be confused with the late actor who played Perry White on the "Adventures of Superman" TV series, but a commentator who later moved to WPIX and hosted a show called "Equal Time," which I remember solely for the opening and closing which had a closeup shot of a studio light hanging from the ceiling) and then by once and future WNBC correspondent Gabe Pressman; and of course, "Truth or Consequences," near 6 A.M. (Bob Barker's hosting of that show, which continued up to 1975, limited his "Price Is Right" hosting duties in that time period to the "new" CBS network version that premiered in 1972, leading to Dennis James' hosting the syndicated "TPIR" for those first few years.)

    As for WCBS's "down time": On some days, and I've witnessed this myself, such time was so short, so low (2-3 minutes, actually) that after the last "Late Late Show" ended and the PSA (usually the one for the Jewish Chautauqua Society with shots of German death camps and an announcer lecturing about the dangers of hate) ran, they bypassed the "Give Us This Day" sermonette and went straight to the sign-off and what is known as the "CBS SSB" because this version of "The Star Spangled Banner" (a rendition I've not heard anywhere else, with shots of various Washington, DC landmarks) was used only by CBS O&O's, followed directly by the legendary CBS test pattern. (Whereas, if they had more time, after the "SSB" they had the legal I.D. Imagine that.)

  2. Thank you so much for the information. I had no idea that the idea for all night programming went back that far. Unfortunately, 1963-1968 are years that are missing from my TV Guide collection which is not as large as it once was. I do remember WNEW staying on late because I used to watch a long forgotten show called THE BIG ATTACK, aka, CITIZEN SOLDIER late at night in what would probably turn out to be 1972 or so. Would it be safe to say that the start of permanent all-night programming began with WOR in 1979?

  3. That would indeed be the case. (One thing about "9 All Night" - which was the cornerstone of WOR's entree into 24/7 programming in 1979 and which, in its early years, was divided into Parts 1 and 2 - was that it superseded "The Late Movie" which had run on-and-off since 1969.) Alas, no-one who thought 24/7 programming would be such a great idea, I suspect, could've anticipated the invasion of infomercials beginning in the mid-to-late 1980's.

    I saw a Time magazine article from 1963 which talked about WCBS's addition of more "Late Late Shows" and suggested that one other station in the country was on all night at the time: KTTV (Ch. 11) in Los Angeles.

  4. I never really understood the whole "Parts 1 and 2" of 9 ALL NIGHT. Was it a way to distinguish between films, ala THE LATE SHOW and THE LATE LATE SHOW?

  5. Sure was. The early years of "9 All Night" had a "double feature" format. Among the films shown on this venue were "Carry On" films from Britain that had once aired on WNBC's "Saturday/Sunday Film Festival" and "The Great Great Show." Plus a few horror titles that had been or would be on "Fright Night."

  6. A wealth of information. Thanks very much!

  7. 9 All Night Fans:

    I was the Associate Director for the bulk of 9 All Night telecasts from its' inception until around winter of 1981. The 9 All Night staff actually put together a 9 All Night T-shirt for ourselves. Management wasn't really interested in that kind of marketing. Alas, mine is long since gone. One of the Operations supervisor's became Exec Producer with the Mets and is currently, I believe, with Speed Network. I saw one of the engineers at the World Series, where he was honcho for the Fox-Sports technicians. BTW, Bill Webb, who was directing the games for Fox, is also a Channel 9 alum.

    I volunteered for 9 All Night to get the 10% night differential and to have more freedom for freelancing.

  8. 9 All night was a wonderful show. Movies at 1:00, 3:00, and 5:00 AM, as I recall. Bliss.

  9. 9 All night was a wonderful show. Movies at 1:00, 3:00, and 5:00 AM, as I recall. Bliss.