is the block of programming on television
during the middle of the evening.
In North America
, television networks
feed their prime time programming in two blocks: one for the Eastern, Central, and Mountain time zones
, and one for the Pacific
, and Hawaiian
time zones to their local affiliates. In Atlantic Canada (including Newfoundland
) as well as Alaska and Hawaii there is no change in the interpretation or usage of "prime time" as the concept is not attached to time zones in any way.
The Prime "Times"
In the United States
, the hours traditionally taken as constituting prime time are 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific and 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Central and Mountain Monday–Saturday.
- On Sundays, prime time begins an hour earlier, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific and 6:00 p.m. Central and Mountain, ending at the same time as on the other six days of the week. Note that for cable networks, such as USA, TBS, and ABC Family, prime time is 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. all seven days of the week.
- With the addition of newer networks such as FOX, The CW, and MyNetworkTV, they're now considered a common prime separate from traditional prime. Common prime is 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific and 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Central and Mountain Monday–Saturday, beginning an hour earlier on Sundays as with traditional prime. (The CW does not have Saturday programmes in prime time, and MyNetworkTV does not have Sunday programmes.)
- Before the FCC regulated time slots prior to prime time with the now-defunct Prime Time Access Rule in the early 1970s, networks began programming at 7:30 on weeknights. For an historical look at prime time, see History of TV Prime Time
- Prime time in Australia is from 6:00pm to 10:30pm, following Australian Eastern Standard Time.
- Prime time in New Zealand is considered to be 7:30 to 10:30pm, but can be extended to cover the entire evening of television (6pm-11pm).
- In a great part of Latin America, prime time is considered from 6:00pm or 7:00pm to 10:00 or 11:00pm. The time slot is usually used for news, telenovelas and TV series, and special time slots are used for reality shows, with great popularity, specially in Brazil.
- In Japanese television, prime time begins traditionally at 7:00pm. This is called the golden time or golden hour in Japan, with the most popular variety programmes being on from 7:00pm to 9:00pm each day. Between 9:00pm to 11:00pm, drama programmes start.
- In Taiwan prime time starts at 8:00 in the evening. Soap series played at that time are called 8 o'clock series and are expected to have high viewer ratings.
Timeslot's relationship to radio & TV revenue
Prime time is the daypart
(block of a day's programming schedule) with the most viewers and is generally where television networks
and local stations reap much of their advertising revenues. The Nielsen Ratings
system is explicitly designed for the optimum measurement of audience viewership by dayparts with prime time being of most interest.
The existence of prime time in the United States is largely an artifact of now repealed regulations of the Federal Communications Commission which limited the number of hours that a network can require its affiliates to broadcast.
Additionally, networks may also choose to provide local affiliates the opportunity to air sporting events or other special events which may fall outside of standard designated network broadcast times.
Prime time and international broadcasting
Outside North America "Prime Time" is used in international broadcasting to refer to when the most audience is available to an international broadcaster in a particular time zone (Australian Eastern Standard Time, for example) or block of contiguous time zones (Eastern North America, as in EST + CST).
- In the case of the US Pacific Time Zone, prime time is from 04:00 UTC to 07:00 UTC, while the US is observing Standard Time.
- GMT prime time is exactly 12 hours from NZT prime time.
Prime time in Asia
Prime time in the Philippines
ABS-CBN's prime time block is entitled "Prime Time Bida" and its rival GMA's prime time block is entitled "Telebabad." Unlike other countries where programmes are largely varied each weekday night, the prime time line-up on one day will be the same line-up for the entire week for the most part. In "Telebabad" however, the last programme will vary each night while "Prime Time Bida's" line-up will feature Daboy sa ABS-CBN
on Friday. Programming is mainly composed of soap operas done by local artists although GMA mostly features comedy for the last programme and ABS-CBN also features game shows and reality shows as well. Prime time in other networks are more varied compared to that of ABS-CBN and GMA.
Prime time in South Korea
- In South Korea, traditionally, prime-time usually starts from 6pm until 9pm (for evening programming) and 9pm to 12 midnight (for night time programming).
Prime time in Europe
Prime time in Germany
, the term "prime time" has the same meaning as in the US. Public and privately owned TV stations air their premium programme according to German audience's television habits.
The oldest public national broadcasting network of Germany, ARD ("Consortium of Broadcasting Networks in Germany"), also referred to as "Das Erste" (The First) airs the Tagesschau, Germany's most watched news broadcast, at 8:00 p.m. The Tagesschau is scheduled for 15 minutes; its end marks the beginning of the prime time since the 1950s. All other channels have therefore chosen to start their prime time at 8:15 p.m. Several attempts by Germany's privately owned broadcasters like Sat.1 and Pro 7 between the late 1980s and the early 1990s to change the prime time start from 8:15 to 8:00 p.m. were not successful because people generally refused to watch anything but the Tagesschau at that time slot.
Prime time in Spain
In Spain, prime time refers to the time period in which the most watched shows are screened. Prime time in Spain starts quite late when compared to most nations as it runs from 10pm till 1am. Most news programmes in Spain air from 9pm for an hour and prime time follows. However due to fierce competition, especially amongst the private stations, prime time has in the last few months (2007) even been delayed until 11pm. Most channels are delaying prime time in order to protect their top shows from sporting events.
As of April 2008, prime-time in Spain has officially been delayed to 10.15pm. Despite channels publishing and advertising programmes as starting at 10.15pm, none keep to the announced, and the reality is that prime-time programmes start at any time between 10.15 and 11pm. The change has come about as a result of channels now inserting what they have deemed "access prime-time" shows at 9.40pm or 9.45pm. These shows should run for 30 minutes, but with most being compilation sketch shows, their durations are normally extended to over an hour on selected days in order to delay prime-time and avoid direct confrontation with sporting events etc. TVE1, TVE2 and La Sexta are the only two channels in Spain who have adhered to starting prime-time shows at 10pm on the dot.
In the 90s, prime-time in Spain began at 9pm, moving to 9.30pm in the latter half of the '90s. Prior to the arrival of the commercial broadcasters in 1991, Spanish prime time began at 9pm.
New commercial broadcaster La Sexta and the second channel from State Broadcaster TVE 2 (Or La2) have attempted to shift prime time back to 9.30pm in 2006 and Spring 2007 but these attempts have been unsuccessful.
The lateness in the start of prime time in Spain is also due to Spanish culture. Spanish people generally work 10am-2pm and then 5pm-8pm as opposed to the standard 9am-5pm. Popular late night show Cronicas Marcianas in the late '90s - 2000 also helped to extend prime time well into the early hours with the show being watched by a share of 40% despite finishing at 2am.
Spain might also be unique in that it has a 2nd prime time, this being 2.30pm - 5pm which coincides with the extended Spanish lunch break or siesta. Shows airing in second prime time on many occasions beat those in night prime-time on a daily basis. Second prime time only occurs on weekdays though, and the slot is usually filled with news, telenovelas, tabloid shows and magazine / talk shows.
Prime time in the United Kingdom
In the UK, prime time (also referred to as 'peak time') refers to the hours between 6pm and 10.30pm - the period during which the most popular shows are screened and the highest ratings are achieved.
Prime time in the Central Europe
In Central Europe, prime time refers to the hours between 8pm and 11pm. The news programmes are usually broadcasted from 7pm to 8pm-