Prime time

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U.S. TV dayparting; prime time is in light purple

Prime time or peak time is the block of broadcast programming taking place during the middle of the evening for television programming.

The term prime time is often defined in terms of a fixed time period – for example, from 19:00 to 22:00 (Central and Mountain Time) or 20:00 to 23:00 (Eastern and Pacific Time) (7 p.m. to 10 p.m. or 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.).

Timeslot's relationship to radio and television revenue

Prime time is the daypart (a 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. In recent years in the US, for example, advertising expenditure during prime time was highest among drama shows.[1]

The Nielsen ratings system is explicitly designed for the optimum measurement of audience viewership by dayparts with prime time being of most interest. Most people tend to watch television at prime time, as most often, based on standard working time, the end of the work day coincides with prime time viewing hours. Most viewers sit down to watch TV after dinner.[citation needed] This is usually the main reason for the high ratings for television programming at this time, as well as the attraction of the timeslot for advertisers.[citation needed]

The existence of prime time in the United States is largely an artifact of now repealed regulations of the Federal Communications Commission, which limited the number of hours that a network can require its affiliates to broadcast.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] Prime time for radio is called “Drive time” and, in Eastern and Pacific Time, is 6–10 a.m. and 3–7 p.m. and, for Mountain and Central Time, is 5–9 a.m. and 2–6 p.m.

A survey by Nielsen revealed that viewers watched almost two hours worth of TV during prime time.[2]



Mainland China

In Chinese television, the 19:00-to-22:00 time slot is known as Golden Time (Traditional Chinese: 黄金時間; Simplified Chinese: 黄金时间; Pinyin: Huángjīn shíjiān). The term also influenced a nickname of a strip of holidays in known as Golden Week.

Hong Kong and Macau

Prime time here usually takes place from 20:00 until 22:00. After that, programs classified as “PG” (Parental Guidance) are allowed to be broadcast. Frontline dramas appear during this time slot in Cantonese, as well as movies in English.


In Taiwan, prime time (called bādiǎn dàng [八點檔 in Mandarin Chinese) starts at 20:00 in the evening. Taiwanese drama series played then are called 8 o'clock series and are expected to have high viewer ratings.


In India, prime time occurs between 20:00 and 23:00. The main news programs are broadcast at 20:30, and the highest-rated television program follows at 21:00.


Prime time usually takes place from 18:00 to 23:00 WIB, preceded by a daily newscast at 17:00. After prime time, programs classified as Adult are allowed to be broadcast.

Like another Muslim-majority country, there is also a 'midnight prime time' during sahur time in a month of Ramadan. It takes place from 02:30 and ends at the Fajr prayer call, varies between 04:30 and 05:00. The time slot is usually filled with comedy and religious programming.


In Iraq, prime time runs from 20:00 to 23:00. The main news programs are broadcast at 20:00 and the highest-rated television program airs at 21:00.


In Japanese television, the 19:00-to-22:00 time slot is also known as Golden Time (ゴールデン・タイム gōruden taimu?, or just Golden). The term also influenced a nickname of a strip of holidays in known as Golden Week.


Malaysian prime time starts with the main news from 20:00 to 20:30 (now 20:00 to 21:00) and ends at 23:00. Usually, programmes during prime time are domestic dramas, foreign drama series (mostly American), movies and entertainment programmes. Programmes that classify as 18 are not allowed to be broadcast before 10:00 p.m. but on RTM, most programmes on this slot are rated U (U means Umum in Malay and literally General Viewing or General Audiences in English) throughout the whole day. However, programmes broadcast after 23:00 are still considered prime time. As of December 2010, NTV7's prime time continues until 12:00 a.m. Programmes during prime time may have longer commercial breaks due to number of viewers.

Some domestic prime time productions may be affected because of certain major sporting events such as FIFA World Cup. However, only FIFA World Cup in the Americas did not affect the domestic prime time programmes.


In the Philippines, prime time blocks begin at 18:00 and run until about 23:00 on weekdays, and 20:00 to 23:00 on weekends. The weekday prime time blocks usually consists of local teleseryes (soap operas) and foreign television series. The network's highest-rated programs are usually aired right after the evening newscast at 20:00, while a foreign series usually precedes the late night newscast.

On weekends, non-scripted programming such as talent shows, reality shows and current affairs shows air in prime time. For the minor networks, prime time consists of American television series on weekdays, with encores of those shows on weekends. Prime time originally started earlier at around 19:00, but the evening newscasts were lengthened to 90 minutes and now start at 18:30, instead of the original one-hour newscast that starts at 18:00.


In Thailand, prime time dramas (ละคร; la-korn) air from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Most dramas are soap operas. Prime time dramas are popular and influential to Thai society.


In Singapore, prime time begins at 6:30pm on MediaCorp Channel 8 and 7:00pm on MediaCorp Channel 5, MediaCorp Channel U, Channel NewsAsia, MediaCorp Suria, MediaCorp Vasantham and MediaCorp Okto.[3] which are also the main (Free-to-air) television channels in Singapore.[4][5]

On Channel 8, prime time ends at 12:00 midnight on weekdays, at 12:30am on Saturdays and at 11:30pm on Sundays. On Channel 5, prime time ends at 12:30am on Sundays to Fridays and at 11:30pm on Saturdays. On Suria, prime time ends at 11:30pm, 7 days a week. On Vasantham, prime time ends at 11:30pm on Mondays to Thursdays and at 12:00 midnight or late on Fridays to Sundays. On Channel NewsAsia, prime time ends at 11:32pm, immediately after the headlines, 7 days a week. On Channel U, prime time ends at 11:00pm, 7 days a week and on Okto, prime time ends when they closedown at 12:00 midnight or late. Generally, however, prime time is considered to be from 6:30pm to 12:30am.

South Korea

In South Korea, prime time usually runs from 20:00 to 23:00 during the week, while on Saturdays and Sundays, it runs from 18:00 to 23:00. Family-oriented television shows are broadcast before 22:00, and adult-oriented television shows air after 22:00.


In Vietnam Prime time is also known as Golden Time(Tiếng Việt: Giờ vàng), prime time starts at 20:00 in the evening and ends at 23:00.


Bosnia and Herzegovina

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, prime time starts at 20:00 and finishes at 22:00. It is preceded by a daily newscast ("Dnevnik") at 19:00 and followed by a late night newscast ("Vijesti") at 22:00.


In Croatia, prime time starts between 20:00 and 20:15. Croatian public broadcaster HRT broadcasts a daily newscast at 19:00 that ends at 20:00. Also, many private broadcasters have daily newscasts before and after it at around 20:05, followed by the start of prime time. Many broadcasters who do not have daily newscasts start with prime time at 20:00. Prime time generally finishes between 22:00 and 23:00, followed by late night edition of the network newscast and adult-oriented programming.


In Denmark, prime time starts at 20:00.

Germany and Austria

The oldest public national broadcasting network of Germany, Das Erste (The First) airs the Tagesschau (simulcasts on the regional affiliates (The Third) and specialty channels), 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 and has since the 1950s. Most channels therefore chose to start their prime time at 8:15 p.m. In the 1990s, Sat.1 failed, moving the start of prime time to 8 p.m. suffering significant loss of audience share.


In Finland, prime time starts at 21:00. It is preceded by a daily newscast at 20:30.


In France prime time runs from 8:45 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., which usually follows the news.


In Greece, prime time runs from 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m., which usually follows the news.


In Hungary, prime time starts weekdays on the two big commercial stations (RTL Klub and TV2) at 7:00 p.m. with game shows, tabloid and docu-reality programmes. At 9:00 p.m., two popular soap operas air, Barátok közt and Jóban Rosszban, which follows at 9:30 p.m. American and other series, movies, talk-shows and magazines run until 11:30 p.m. The prime time lineup is preceded by daily news programmes at 6:30 p.m. Prime time begins at 7:00 p.m. on weekends with blockbuster movies and television shows.

Prior to March 15, 2015, the public television station M1 started their prime time with a game show at 6:30 p.m., which was followed by the daily news programme Híradó at 7:30 p.m. After the news, the channel began to broadcast American and other series, talk shows, magazines and news programmes until 10:00 p.m., which was followed by the daily news magazine Este and the late edition of Híradó.

From March 15, 2015, Duna began broadcasting all of its entertainment programming which was transferred from M1, meaning their new start of prime time on Duna is at 6:00 p.m., starting with the simulcast of the 6:00 p.m. edition of Híradó from the newly re-launched news channel, M1.


RTE runs a current affairs programme called “Prime Time” after the 9:00 p.m. news.[6] As of 2011, it is currently hosted by Miriam O'Callaghan.


In Iceland, prime time starts at 19:30. It is preceded by a daily newscast at 19:00.


In Italy, prime time is from 9:15 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. It usually follows news and, on some networks (like Rai Uno and Canale 5), a slot called “access prime time”. Shows, movies, and sport events are usually shown during prime time.


Much like in Germany, prime time in the Netherlands usually begins at 8:30 p.m. in order to not compete with NOS Journaal's flagship 8:00 p.m. newscast.


In Norway, prime time starts at 19:45. It is preceded by a daily newscast at 19:00.


In Poland, prime time starts around 20:00 (sometimes 20:30). On (TVP 1) It is preceded by a daily newscast at 19:30, on (TVN) the newscast is aired at 19:00 followed by the newsmagazine Uwaga at 19:50 (weekdays)/19:45 (weekends) and then the soap Na Wspólnej at 20:05 (Monday to Thursday, from Friday to Sunday (at 20:00) various: movies on Friday, show or movies (Winter and Summer) at Saturday, and programme or movies (Winter and Summer) at Sunday), on (Polsat) the news is aired at 18:50, followed by a sitcom Świat według Kiepskich at 19:30.


Public television in Slovakia consists of two channels; on the main channel (Jednotka) prime time starts at 20:10, and on the second one (Dvojka) prime time programming starts at 20:00. The two biggest private broadcasters set the start of prime time programming at 20:20 (Markíza) and 20:30 (JOJ). Generally, however, prime time is considered to be from 20:00 to 23:00.


In Slovenia, prime time, the period in which the most-watched shows are broadcast, is from 8:00pm to 11:00pm. It is preceded by daily newscasts; Dnevnik RTV SLO (7:00pm–8:00pm) on TV SLO 1, 24ur (6:55pm–8:00pm) on POP TV, Svet na Kanalu A (6:00pm–7:00pm; 7:50pm–8:00pm), and Danes (7:30pm–8:00pm) on Planet TV.


In Sweden, prime time starts at 20:00. It is preceded by a daily newscast at 19:30 and local news at 19:50.


In Spain, prime time refers to the time period in which the most-watched shows are broadcast. Prime time in Spain starts quite late when compared to most nations as it runs from 22:30 till 01:00. Most news programmes in Spain air at 21:00 for an hour and prime time follows. However, due to fierce competition, especially among the private stations prime time has even been delayed until 23:00. Most channels are delaying prime time in order to protect their top shows from sporting events.

In the 1990s, prime time in Spain began at 21:00, moving to 21:30 in the latter half of the 1990s and 22:00 in the early 2000s. Commercial broadcaster laSexta and the second channel from the Public broadcasting La 2 have attempted to shift prime time back to 21:30 in 2006 and Spring 2007, but these attempts have been unsuccessful. Fellow public channel La 1 also tried to pull prime time back to 21:00 in early 2015, to no avail.

The lateness in the start of prime time in Spain is also due to Spanish culture. Spanish people generally work from 09:00-14:00 and then from 17:00-20:00 as opposed to the standard 09:00-17:00. The popular late night show Crónicas Marcianas during the late 1990s–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 02:00.

Spain might also be unique in that it has a second prime time, running from 14:30-17:00 which coincides with the extended Spanish lunch break. Shows airing in the secondary prime time period on many occasions beat those prime time shows at night on a daily basis. The second prime time only occurs on weekdays, though and the slot is usually filled with The Simpsons, news, soap operas and talk shows.


In Georgia, primetime starts at between 18.45-20.00 and mainly ends at 00.00. However, at Friday primetime usually continues until 01.00.

United Kingdom

In the UK, the term used is peak time, early peak is 17:30 to 20:00 and late peak is 20:00 to 23:00.[7]

North America

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, Alaskan, and Hawaiian time zones, to their local network 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. Affiliates in the Mountain, Alaskan, and Hawaii-Aleutian zones are either on their own to broadcast delay by an hour or two, or collectively form a small, regional network feed with others in the same time zone.

The hours traditionally constituting prime time in North America are 8:00-11:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific and 7:00-10:00 p.m. Central/Mountain on Monday–Saturday, and 7:00-11:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific and 6:00-10:00 p.m. Central/Mountain on Sunday. For cable networks (such as USA Network, TBS, and ABC Family), prime time is 8:00-11:00 p.m. all seven days of the week. Some networks such as Fox, The CW, and MyNetworkTV only broadcast from 8:00-10:00 p.m., a time period known as "common prime". Since September 2009, The CW and MyNetworkTV do not program Saturday or Sunday prime time at all, as The CW turned over its Sunday night schedule and MyNetworkTV its Saturday night schedule over to their affiliates. Also, over the past decade, the major American networks have come to consider Saturday prime time as a graveyard slot and as such have largely abandoned scheduling of new scripted programming on that night; although the networks still maintain a prime time programming schedule on that night, generally featuring rebroadcasts of programs aired earlier in the week, movies, non-scripted reality programs and, occasionally, remnant episodes of cancelled series, though generally live and professional and college sporting events are now preferred to fill the time slot.

Prime time can be extended or truncated if coverage of sporting events run past their allotted end time. Since the "Heidi Game" incident in 1968, in which NBC cut away on the East Coast from a New York Jets/Oakland Raiders football game in its final minute of play in order to show a movie (and, in the process, missing an unexpected comeback by the Raiders to win the game), the National Football League began to mandate that all games be broadcast in their entirety. Due to this rule, game telecasts may sometimes overrun into the 7:00 p.m. ET hour. Fox previously scheduled repeats of its animated series in the 7:00 hour, allowing themselves to simply pre-empt the reruns if a game ran long. This was later replaced by a half-hour-long wrap-up show, The OT. In contrast, CBS does not, as its weekly newsmagazine 60 Minutes has traditionally aired as close to 7:00 p.m. ET as possible. If a game runs long, 60 Minutes is shown in its entirety at the conclusion of coverage, and the rest of the prime time schedule on the East Coast is shifted to compensate. For example, if game coverage were to end at 7:30 p.m., prime time would end at 11:30 p.m.

However, in the rare case where the NFL game runs excessively late (8 p.m. or later), an episode of a series scheduled for later in the evening may be pre-empted (for example, Cold Case in October 2009 after the Bills-Jets game ran excessively late). In an extreme case, CBS's prime time can be extended past midnight during broadcasts of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament. This does not necessarily apply universally; in 2001, after an XFL game went into overtime, forcing the delay of a highly promoted episode of Saturday Night Live, NBC made a decision to cut off all future XFL broadcasts at 11:00 p.m. NBC backed out of the XFL after the end of that season, leading to its failure.

Until the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulated time slots prior to prime time with the now-defunct Prime Time Access Rule in 1971–1972, networks began programming at 7:30 p.m. Eastern and Pacific/6:30 p.m. Central and Mountain on weeknights (that is, the 1970–1971 season was the last season in which the networks began prime time at 7:30).[8] The change helped instigate[how?] what is colloquially known as the ”rural purge”, in which rural-themed and older-skewing programs were disproportionately canceled.[citation needed] In the 1987-1988 season, NBC-owned stations in several cities experimented with airing a schedule of syndicated first-run sitcoms at 7:30/6:30 p.m. (known as Prime Time Begins at 7:30) to compete against syndicated reruns or game shows such as Wheel of Fortune on rival stations.[9]

The vast majority of prime time programming in English-speaking North America comes from the United States, with only a limited amount produced in Canada (most of which consists of local adaptations of worldwide reality television franchises, such as Canadian Idol and So You Think You Can Dance Canada). The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission mandates quotas for Canadian content in prime time; these quotas indicate at least half of Canadian prime time programs must be Canadian in origin, but the majority of this is served by national and local news or localized entertainment gossip shows such as Global's ET Canada and CTV's eTalk.

Likewise, the vast majority of Spanish-language programming in North America comes from Mexico. Televisa, a Mexican network, provides the majority of programming to the dominant U.S.-based Spanish broadcaster, Univision. Univision does produce a fairly large amount of unscripted Spanish-language programming, the best known being the long-running variety show Sábado Gigante, hosted and created by Chilean national Don Francisco. Univision's distant second-place competitor, Telemundo, produces a much greater share of in-house content, including a long line of telenovelas.

In Quebec, the largest Francophone area of North America, French-language programming consists of originally produced programs (most of which are produced in Montreal, with a few produced in Quebec City) and French-language dubs of English language programs.


Prime time in Australia is officially from 6:00 p.m. to midnight, following Australian Eastern Standard Time, with the highest ratings normally achieved between 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Prime time in New Zealand is considered to be 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. (Four's prime time ends at 11 p.m. on Tuesdays to Fridays), but can be extended to cover the entire evening of television (6 to 11 p.m.).

Latin America

In a great part of Latin American countries, prime time is considered to be from 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. The time slot is usually used for news, telenovelas and television series, and special time slots are used for reality shows, with great popularity, especially in Mexico and Brazil. In Mexico, Prime Time is known as horario estelar ("Stellar Time"). In Brazil, it is called horário nobre (“noble time”), which is the time the three most famous telenovelas in the country are shown each weekday and on Saturdays. There are also news programs, reality shows, and sitcoms.


In Argentina, prime time is considered to be from 8.00 p.m. until 12.00 a.m.; with the most successful series and telenovelas in the country (such as Los Roldán and Valientes), and entertainment shows, like CQC (Caiga Quien Caiga).


In Chile, prime time is considered to be from 10.30 p.m. until 01.00 a.m.; with the most successful series and telenovelas in the country (such as Socias and Las Vega's). Investigation entertainment shows (like Informe Especial, Contacto, Apuesto por tí) also air.

See also


  1. Genre breakdown of primetime TV advertising expenditure in the United States in 2011. Nielsen. April 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  2. How Much TV Do People Watch During the Day? April 4, 2013. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  3. "MDA Annual Report Annex", ' 'Media Development Authority' ', March 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  4. Television in Singapore
  6. Prime Time web page, May 2011
  8. "1971-1972 TV Shows / Television in 1971 / TVparty!". 1971-01-20. Retrieved 2012-10-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Steve Daley (1987-09-13). "Comedies trying to get the jump on game shows". Chicago Tribune.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Preceded by
Daytime television
Television dayparts
7:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Succeeded by
Late night television