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Prime time or primetime is the block of programming on television during the middle of the evening.

The term prime time is often defined in terms of a fixed time period, for example, from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm.


Timeslot's relationship to radio and 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. Most people tend to watch television at prime time because most people who are usually tired coming home from work or school tend to watch TV, usually right after dinner. This is usually the main reason for the high ratings for TV programming at this time, as well as the attractiveness of the timeslot for advertisers.

The existence of prime time in the United States is largely an artifact of now repealed regulations of the Federal Communications Commission which limited the number of hours that a network can require its affiliates to broadcast.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. (That is to say, from 20:00 to 23:00 local time (PT and ET), from 19:00 to 22:00 local time (CT), and from 18:00 to 21:00 local time (MT).)
  • GMT prime time is exactly 12 hours from NZT prime time.




In Israel prime time is from 6.00 pm to 10.00 pm. The 3 main news programs are broadcast at 8.00 pm and the highest-rated tv program at 9.00 pm.


In Japanese television, the 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm time slot is 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 the first week of May, Golden Week.


Malaysian prime time starts with news at 8:00 pm, and ended at 12:00 am. Usually, programmes during the prime time are usually domestic dramas, foreign drama series (mostly American), movies and entertainment programmes. Programs that classified as 18PA, 18PL, 18SG or 18SX, is not allowed to be broadcasted before 10:00 pm and on RTM. However, programmes broadcast after 12:00 am, and programmes that was still broadcast after 12:00 am is still considered prime time. NTV7's prime time continues until the transmission ends at 1:00 am. Programmes during prime time may have longer commercial breaks due to number of viewers.


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. Another major network, TV5 (the newly launched ABC), has a prime time block different from that of the two other stations. TV5's prime time line-up features anime (called prime time anime), weekly shows and movies. Programs on other stations are more varied. Prime time usually starts at 6:00 pm and ends between 10:30 pm – 11:00 pm.

South Korea

In South Korea, traditionally, prime-time usually starts from about 5:30 – 9 pm (for evening programming that are targeted family audiences and usually 5:30 to 8:00 programs are variety programs and 8 – 11 pm is news or drama) and 9 pm to 12 midnight (for night time programming that are targeted older age groups).


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.



The oldest public national broadcasting network of Germany, Das Erste (The First) airs the Tagesschau, Germany's most watched news broadcast, at 8:00 pm 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 pm. 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 pm were not successful because people generally refused to watch anything but the Tagesschau at that time slot.


In Italy prime time is from 9.00 pm to 11.30 pm. 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. The average rating a prime time show can reach is about 15-20 million viewers.


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


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 10 pm till 1 am. Most news programmes in Spain air from 9 pm 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 11 pm. 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 10:15 pm. Despite channels publishing and advertising programmes as starting at 10:15 pm, none keep to the announced, and the reality is that prime-time programmes start at any time between 10:15 and 11 pm. The change has come about as a result of channels now inserting what they have deemed "access prime-time" shows at 9:40 pm or 9:45 pm. 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 LaSexta are the only two channels in Spain that have adhered to starting prime-time shows at 10 pm.

In the 1990s, prime-time in Spain began at 9 pm, moving to 9:30 pm in the latter half of the 1990s. Prior to the arrival of the commercial broadcasters in 1991, Spanish prime time began at 9 pm.

New commercial broadcaster La Sexta and the second channel from State Broadcaster TVE2 (Or La2) have attempted to shift prime time back to 9:30 pm 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 10 am – 2 pm and then 5 pm – 8 pm as opposed to the standard 9 am – 5 pm. Popular late night show Crónicas Marcianas in 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 2 am.

Spain might also be unique in that it has a 2nd prime time, this being 2:30–5 pm which coincides with the extended Spanish lunch break. 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, soap operas, tabloid shows and magazine / talk shows.

United Kingdom

In the UK, prime time (usually referred to as "peak time") refers to the hours between 6 pm and 10:30 pm — which is the period in which the most popular shows are screened and the highest ratings are achieved. The hours between 6 pm and 8 pm are more popular with families and after that time prime time television is mostly watched by an older demographic. Primetime is also a UK TV channel, on Sky Channel 480.

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 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.

In North America the hours traditionally taken as constituting prime time are 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm Eastern and Pacific and 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm Central and Mountain Monday–Saturday. On Sundays, prime time begins an hour earlier, at 7:00 pm Eastern and Pacific and 6:00 pm 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 pm to 11:00 pm all seven days of the week. Some networks such as Fox, The CW, and MyNetworkTV only broadcast from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm, 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.

Prime time can be extended or truncated if coverage of sporting events runs past its allotted end time. For example, Sunday afternoon games of the National Football League sometimes end after 7:00 p.m. (Eastern) Fox schedules repeats of its animated series in the 7:00 hour, allowing themselves to simply pre-empt the reruns if a game runs long. However, CBS shows its weekly newsmagazine 60 Minutes at 7:00. Usually, prime-time is delayed so 60 Minutes can be shown in its entirety; if coverage of the NFL ends at 7:30 p.m., then prime time will end at 11:30 p.m. However, in the rare case where the NFL game runs excessively late (7:50 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' prime time can be extended past midnight during broadcasts of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament.

Until the FCC regulated time slots prior to prime time with the now-defunct Prime Time Access Rule in the 1971-1972, networks began programming at 7:30 pm Eastern and Pacific / 6:30 pm 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.)[1] 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 pm to compete against syndicated reruns or game shows such as Wheel of Fortune on rival stations.[2]


Prime time in Australia is from 6:00 pm to 10:30 pm, following Australian Eastern Standard Time, with the highest ratings normally achieved between 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm. Prime time in New Zealand is considered to be 7:30 to 10:30 pm (C4's Prime time ends at 11 pm on Tuesdays to Fridays), but can be extended to cover the entire evening of television (6 pm – 11 pm).

South America

In a great part of South America (as well as in some other Latin American countries), prime time is considered 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 TV series, and special time slots are used for reality shows, with great popularity, especially in Mexico and Brazil.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Steve Daley (1987-09-13). "Comedies trying to get the jump on game shows". Chicago Tribune. 

External links


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