Daytime television is the general term for television show produced for airing during the daytime hours on weekdays. The hours and days for daytime television in the United States usually run from 6:00am to 8:00pm ET, Monday through Friday; although it may vary depending on time zone, region, networks and local stations. This article is only about American daytime television that is aired primarily on American network television and their affiliated stations; for information about international daytime television, see Daytime television.
There are several different genres or formats of daytime programming that are produced. Most of these shows can be produced on a low budget, as these shows have to be able to make at least five new episodes per week (sometimes more) for most of the year. Most daytime shows are syndicated, meaning local stations buy the rights to air them. Commercials aired during daytime programming mostly advertise food & drink, household goods and feminine products geared toward housewife and stay-at-home moms, who of course make up the largest portion of the daytime viewing audience. Public service announcement are also usually aired during daytime hours. Additionally, commercials tend to target retirement persons through advertisement of such products as timeshare and retirement insurance, such as those available through AARP. During the 1980s, an entire series of diabetes testing supply commercials were produced for daytime television by Liberty Medical, which became well known due to their spokesman Wilfred Brimley and his often direct and gruff nature when addressing the audience.
There are currently many different court shows produced in United States daytime television. Most of these shows usually deal with one, sometimes two small claims court cases per episode. Other shows deal with family law or reenactments of more serious cases. The cases are typically a form of binding arbitration between two litigating parties who agree to drop their conventional lawsuit to appear on television; they are not scripted, the participants are not actors, and decisions are handed down by real judges or attorneys. All of the following court shows are syndicated. Court shows usually occupy the morning and late-afternoon time slots.
A staple of daytime television since the 1950s, soap operas continue to be among the most popular programs among daytime audiences. These are dramatic serials that tell ongoing stories of the day-to-day lives of large casts of characters, each still having its own identity. The term "soap opera" is somewhat of a misnomer, dating to the early days of radio and television when purveyors of detergents and soaps such as Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever generally sponsored, financed and produced these shows individually. Soap operas usually occupy the afternoon time slots in daytime programming (especially from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. local time).
Game shows, another long-time mainstay of daytime television, involve real people playing a game, or a series of games, as contestants like the title suggests, with the ultimate goal of winning a prize (usually a large amount of money or an expensive luxury item, such as a new car or a trip).
The period from 1972 to 1985 could be considered the golden age of game shows, as all three of the major broadcast networks carried several game shows during their daytime lineups, usually occupying the mid/late-morning and late-afternoon time slots. ABC Daytime ended their block in 1985 (with occasional stand-alone game shows such as Bargain Hunters in 1987 and Match Game in 1990 airing in the years that followed) followed by NBC Daytime in 1991 (with a brief revival in 1993) and CBS Daytime in 1993. CBS still carries two daytime game shows, the long-running The Price Is Right and a revival of Let's Make a Deal. CBS currently allows both daytime game shows to be arranged as a two-hour block by affiliates (10AM ET) if preferred instead of bookending the schedule (11 AM and 3 PM ET).
Of the current daytime game shows, The Price Is Right began as part of CBS's daytime game show block in 1972 and is the only show to have aired continuously on daytime network television since the end of that era. Family Feud, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune (the latter two of which usually airs during the fringe time hour, but are also occasionally scheduled in the daytime, especially in the Central Time Zone and in markets where Jeopardy! airs two episodes a day) have all transitioned from network daytime shows to syndication, while Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (which ended in 2019 after a total of 20 seasons) was a network prime time program that transitioned to syndication, then transitioned back to network prime time in 2020. Both current CBS Daytime game shows began as 30-minute game shows that transitioned into one-hour formats (Price in 1975 and Deal in 2009).
Main article: Breakfast television
These network news programs provide more in-depth coverage of news and current events that are broadcast on the evening news. These programs may also cover life-improvement tips; such as healthy dieting and exercise, do-it-yourself household projects, and other advice and tips to enhance one's well-being. They may also include celebrity guests and concert performances by popular music acts. Most morning shows follow a particular format with hard news and interviews with newsmakers and correspondents in the first half-hour, true crime stories in the second, and lighter fare such as celebrity and lifestyle stories in the second hour (with the concert, if any, closing out the show in the last half-hour). Morning news programs usually occupy the 6:00am to 8:00am or the 7:00 am to 9:00 am time slot.
Some local stations also air their own versions of local morning news programs followed by their network morning news program.
Half-hour newsmagazines generally focus on sensationalist tabloid-style news and entertainment coverage. Originally, the tone was light in nature, focusing on notable events involving celebrities. But market forces and ratings concerns eventually forced programs into a tabloid format, covering such topics as celebrity scandals and major crime events that make national headlines. These programs usually air during the late-afternoon or fringe time hour.
Retired newsmagazine shows include PM Magazine (from the 1980s), Hard Copy and A Current Affair (both from the 1990s), and The Insider (from the 2000s). A Current Affair attempted a comeback in the mid-2000s, but was later canceled due to low ratings.
Main article: Sunday morning talk show
On Sundays, most networks devote at least part of their Sunday morning schedule to news and political discussion programming. These programs review news events that occurred in the previous week and cover events expected to make national headlines in the coming week.
In the early years NBC and ABC added daytime talk shows during late morning and afternoon hours. In the years that followed with daytime soap operas fill the daytime slots, talk shows become limited and some of which has since moved into syndication during the 1970s. In recent years, CBS added talk shows for the first time as a replacement for cancelled soap operas, most notably As the World Turns. This makes ABC the only network to air 2 talk shows having air continuously since the 1950s. Talk shows typically last one hour, and are more often than not hosted by celebrities. Talk shows deal with a variety of topics, like educational or self-help related subjects; to variety shows featuring celebrity interviews, comedic monologues, and stage performances; to tabloid talk show. Talk shows usually occupy the morning and late-afternoon hours. Syndicated talk shows on the other hand have made a comeback in recent years to 12 talk shows, however it might will decrease to 11 if any new talk shows will be added.
See also: Tabloid talk show § Past shows
The Phil Donahue Show (1970 to 1996) was one of the first major hit daytime talk shows and dominated the format up until the mid-1980s, when it was surpassed by The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986 to 2011), which in turn was the highest-rated talk show on television for most of its run, except for a period in the late 1990s when The Jerry Springer Show (1991 to 2018) surpassed Oprah.
A number of daytime talk shows that followed a format more closely resembling the late-night talk show have aired over the course of history, including The Mike Douglas Show and Dinah! in the 1970s, and shows such as The Rosie O'Donnell Show, The Howie Mandel Show and The Martin Short Show in the late 1990s and early 2000s (decade).
Syndication is the practice of selling rights to the presentation of television programs, especially to more than one customer such as a television station, a cable channel, or a programming service such as a national broadcasting system. The syndication of television programs is a fundamental financial component of television industries. Long a crucial factor in the economics of the U.S. industry, syndication is now a worldwide activity involving the sales of programming produced in many countries. While most of the series currently in syndication are either still in production or have only recently ended their runs, the most popular series can command syndication runs lasting decades beyond the end of their production Off-network syndicated series also normally occupy the mid/late morning and late-afternoon time slots.
Networks have also been known to rerun scripted programming in daytime, though much less so with the proliferation of syndication, cable television and satellite television in the 1980s and 1990s. The last time a network is known to have done this is when CBS aired reruns of Designing Women from 1991-1992. However, it wasn't until 14 years later in 2006 When Daytime WB aired reruns of Reba along with previous shows such as ER since 2009 no major TV networks has aired any reruns on the daytime slot.
Note that the series listed below are not necessarily restricted to daytime and can air in any open time slot.
Long before Nickelodeon and other youth-oriented cable channels launched, children's programs were also part of network and syndicated television's daytime programming lineup. These programs specialized in entertainment and education for preschool and children of elementary school age and mostly occupied morning time slots as well as after-school hours (4:00pm – 6:00pm ET). Captain Kangaroo, which aired on CBS from 1955 to 1984, was one of television's longest-running and most popular program of the genre; while Romper Room was a staple in syndication. PBS also aired various children's programs; among its most popular being Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Local stations also occasionally aired classic cartoons along with classic reruns of The Mickey Mouse Club and Our Gang comedy shorts (billed as "The Little Rascals"); as well as youth-oriented sitcoms such as Happy Days, What's Happening!!, and Saved By The Bell.
From the 1970s through the 1990s, ABC and CBS aired weekly specials for teenagers and pre-adolescents: ABC Afterschool Special and CBS Schoolbreak Special, which aired once a week during after-school hours in the academic school year, pre-empting their affiliate stations' regularly scheduled programming on that day. Some stories in these specials were light in nature, while other stories focused on more serious teen issues; such as teen pregnancy, drug/alcohol abuse, runaways, bullying, and family issues.
See also Dayparting
The following table shows the general breakdown of the American daytime television schedule; although, as mentioned above, it may vary depending on time zone, region, networks and local stations.
|Time Range (ET)||Time Slot||Types of daytime programming normally aired|
|6:00am – 9:00am||Early morning||Local and network morning news programs, children's programs|
|9:00am – 11:00am||Mid-morning||Game shows, talk shows, court shows, newsmagazines, syndicated programming, children's programs|
|11:00am - 12:00 noon||Late-morning||Local news (on some stations), game shows, talk shows, court shows, newsmagazines, syndicated programming|
|12:00 noon - 2:00pm||Early afternoon||Local news (in the 12:00 noon hour), soap operas|
|2:00pm – 4:00pm||Mid-afternoon||Soap operas, talk shows, court shows|
|4:00pm – 6:00pm||Late-afternoon||Local news (especially in the 5:00 hour), game shows, talk shows, court shows, newsmagazines, syndicated programming, children's programs|
|6:00pm – 7:00pm||Early evening||Local and network news|
|7:00pm – 8:00pm||Fringe time||Game shows, newsmagazines, off-network sitcoms|