• U.S.

Television: For Unsleepy People

2 minute read

The giant minds of the television industry took thought. Time-wise, there was one big gap: from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. the nation’s screens were pitch grey. Manhattan’s station WCBS-TV, the biggest single moneymaker in the country, took the problem in hand, ran it up a couple of flagpoles, and brought back an old glory of a solution: the Late Late Late Late Show.

WCBS-TV’s decision was reached only after extensive research proved that there was actually an audience potential. The New York Transit Authority reported that nearly 250,000 people pass through the New York subway system between 3 and 7 a.m. An “Occupational Wage Survey” conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that 448,000 people leave their jobs at midnight. Nine weeks ago, the station started round-the-clock programming, offering a diet of (what else?) old movies.

Since then, its original three sponsors have increased to ten, and the station claims a peak audience of about 165,000 viewers (Manhattan’s lone educational channel can boast only some 65,000 viewers during prime time). Who watches? “Mostly housewives,” claims a channel spokesman, who are presumed to be waiting up for husbands who are policemen, waiters, elevator operators, janitors, cab drivers—or late, late, late.

An earlier pioneer in what may prove to be a nocturnal trend is Los Angeles’ KTTV, which inaugurated its “All Night Show” six months ago. Featuring films from the MGM backlog, the program includes guest visits from local bigs and wellwishers like Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Shelley Berman, who drop in after their own late shows if they are working at local nightclubs. The station estimates that its audience has grown to nearly half a million. “We have no ratings,” says KTTV, “because no one dares call at that time of night.”

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