Dateline NBC

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For the Australian television current affairs program, see Dateline (Australian TV program). For other uses, see Dateline (disambiguation).
Dateline NBC
Dateline NBC.png
Presented by Lester Holt (2011–present)
Kate Snow (substitute)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Location(s) NBC Studios
New York, New York[1]
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 1 hour to 2 hours (including commercials)
Production company(s) Peacock Productions
Original channel NBC
Picture format 480i (4:3 SDTV) (1992-2008)
1080i (16:9 HDTV) (2008-present)
Original run March 31, 1992 – present
External links

Dateline NBC, or simply Dateline, is a weekly American television reality legal show/newsmagazine series that is broadcast on NBC. It was previously the network's flagship newsmagazine, but now focuses mainly on true crime stories with only occasional editions that focus on other topics. The program airs Fridays at 8 p.m. Eastern Time (9 p.m. ET for special two-hour editions) and, after NFL football season, on Sundays at 7 p.m. ET. Two-hour feature-length editions sometimes air on any given scheduled evening, often to fill holes in the primetime schedule on the program's respective nights due to program cancellations.


Dateline is historically notable for its longevity on the network. The show debuted on March 31, 1992, initially airing only on Tuesdays, with Stone Phillips and Jane Pauley as co-anchors. Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric joined the program when Now with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric was converted to Dateline Wednesday. Gradually, the program expanded with a third night (Monday) in 1994 and a fourth night (Friday) in 1997 until it aired for five nights a week (eventually adding a Sunday edition) in mid-1999 and 2000. The program began to reduce its airing nights with the rise of equally-economic and popular reality television programming and due to viewer exhaustion. The first episodes were removed beginning in spring 2001, with the main Tuesday slot eliminated in 2003.[2]

Dateline was the first "multi-night" franchise that "established brand power by 'stripping' editions", an entertainment division strategy that placed a program in the same time slot every week. The program was considered as one program rather than multiple weekly programs, and included many teasers and multiple installment interviews (NBC later tried a similar strategy of "stripping" with The Jay Leno Show in 2009). In its prime, from 1995 to 1999, Dateline provided significant breaking news coverage. Dateline sensationalized news stories and drew viewers in with multiple-installment stories. By 1999, an hour of Dateline was in the top 10 most-watched television programs among all viewers most weeks. NBC capitalized on its relationship with CNBC and MSNBC through repackaged stories on Headliners and Legends and Time and Again.[2]

The program first originated from NBC Studio 3K, using the same set that NBC Nightly News was using at the time. When Today moved to its current facility, NBC Studio 1A, in 1994, Dateline took over Studio 3B with a brand-new set.

Past contributing anchors were Bryant Gumbel, who left NBC in 1997; Maria Shriver, who left NBC in 2004; and Katie Couric, who left NBC in 2006. On June 24, 2005, Ann Curry co-anchored "Dateline" for the first time and became permanent host shortly thereafter.

Dateline began broadcasting in high definition for the first time on July 21, 2008, with an episode titled "Tower Dogs". Dateline previously shared the multi-level "Studio 1A" with Today. But in 2013, the program moved back to Studio 3K also the home to Early Today and MSNBC's First Look. Lester Holt replaced Ann Curry as host of Dateline with the start of the 20th season on September 23, 2011 shortly after Curry became permanent co-host of Today.

To Catch a Predator[edit]

Main article: To Catch a Predator

To Catch a Predator was a Dateline series hosted by Chris Hansen. The sting operations begin with recordings of Internet chats with "decoys" from Perverted-Justice, posing as minors generally ages 12–15.[3] To Catch a Predator videotapes men who attempt to meet the minors in person. Shortly after the target is inside the "sting" house, Hansen would confront him and ask him about the Internet chats he had had with the decoy. After being confronted by Hansen, the men are arrested by local police.[4] Hansen departed from Dateline and NBC News in 2013 after his contract was not renewed by the news division.[5]

To Catch a Con Man[edit]

To Catch a Con Man was a series of hidden camera investigations devoted to the subject of identifying and detaining con men who attempt to extract money from victims in advance fee fraud scams. The show also exposes and catches identity thieves. The stories, also reported by Chris Hansen, are conducted as an undercover sting operation. The title of the series is a play on Dateline '​s wildly popular To Catch a Predator series. The spin-off is featured with a credit card watchdog group called, who investigate ID thefts and catching them in the act. Hansen calls the ID thieves "a different kind of predator."

Comparison with other news magazines[edit]

In contrast to NBC's now-cancelled "hard news" magazine program, Rock Center with Brian Williams, Dateline focuses on true crime and human interest stories, predominantly featuring a single story for the entire program.[6] Often Keith Morrison narrates shows and cliffhangers are used prior to commercial breaks.[7]

The Friday night edition of Dateline features special emphasis on true crime stories, which includes the "To Catch a Predator" series. NBC News specials also air under the Dateline banner. However, on occasion, the Sunday broadcasts (airing in a time slot otherwise reserved for family-friendly programming, aside from CBS' competitor 60 Minutes) focuses on stories tailored for younger viewers, such as recent Sunday reports on teen drivers and child safety.

Dateline features a single story format, although in the past Dateline was a traditional newsmagazine with multiple segments of varying length, such as with the Sunday version.[7] Unlike the other flagship newsmagazines on U.S. television (CBS News' 60 Minutes and ABC News 20/20), Dateline featured more character-driven stories focusing on the audience's emotional attachment to the persons featured, and fewer non-character driven international and national news stories. However, the success of Dateline led to the other networks to create additional versions of their newsmagazines, 60 Minutes II and additional nights of 20/20.[2]

Executive producer Neal Shapiro pioneered "signature segments" that appeared regularly. These segments included Dateline: Survivor, where a person talks about their near death experience and rescue; Dateline Timeline, where a popular product, person, and music single are played and viewers are invited to guess what year it appeared in; State of the Art, explaining how something was technically accomplished in a movie; Consumer Alert, where common consumer complaints or issues, such as food safety, are investigated, Dateline Hidden Camera Investigation, a story using hidden cameras to focus on an issue of public concern, and Newsmakers, light interviews of major figures in politics, entertainment, and business, as well as regular people in the news. Dateline did cross-promotional segments with Court TV, People magazine, Good Housekeeping, and Consumer Reports. In the 1990s, a common week would feature several "signature segments", breaking news, updates on past stories, multi-part investigations, and interviews.[2] Dateline also pioneered viewer feedback including telephone polling and a unique format, the Interactive Dateline Mystery, where viewers voted similar to Choose Your Own Adventure on where the story should go next.[8]


Critics claimed that Dateline used voyeuristic and titillating stories for higher Nielsen ratings.

General Motors vs. NBC[edit]

Dateline NBC aired an investigative report on November 17, 1992, titled "Waiting to Explode". The 60-minute program focused on General Motors' Rounded-Line Chevrolet C/K-Series pickup trucks allegedly exploding upon impact during accidents due to the poor design of fuel tanks. Dateline '​s footage showed a sample of a low-speed accident with the fuel tank exploding. In reality, Dateline NBC producers had rigged the truck's fuel tank with remotely controlled model rocket engines to initiate the explosion. The program did not disclose the fact that the accident was staged.

GM hired Failure Analysis Associates (FaAA, now Exponent) whose investigators studied the footage, and discovered that smoke actually came out of the fuel tank six frames before impact. Acting on a tip from someone involved in the Dateline crash test, FaAA investigators searched through 22 junkyards in Indiana before finding the charred wreckage of the GM pickups.[9][10]

It was also later revealed that the Dateline report had been dishonest about the fuel tanks rupturing and the alleged 30 miles per hour (48 km/h) speed at which the collision was conducted. The actual speed was found to be higher, around 40 miles per hour (64 km/h), and after x-ray examination of the fuel tanks from the C/K pickups used in the televised collision, it was found that they had not ruptured and were intact.[11][12] GM subsequently filed an anti-defamation/libel lawsuit against NBC after conducting an extensive investigation. On February 8, 1993, GM conducted a highly publicized point-by-point rebuttal in the Product Exhibit Hall of the General Motors Building in Detroit that lasted nearly two hours after announcing the lawsuit.[13] The lawsuit was settled the same week by NBC, and Jane Pauley read a 3½ minute on-air apology to viewers.

The General Motors lawsuit and the subsequent settlement were arguably the most devastating blows for NBC in a series of reputation damaging incidents during the 1990s and early 2000s. Within NBC, Michael Gartner, who resigned shortly after the incident, was the source for much of the blame. NBC News President Reuven Frank stated Gartner was hired in 1988, despite having no background in television news, in an attempt to satisfy parent company General Electric, by replacing current journalists with cheaper, less experienced reporters and producers.[14]

Three Dateline NBC producers were dismissed as a result: executive producer Jeff Diamond, senior producer David Rummel, and Robert Read, producer of the report on the pickups. Michele Gillen, the reporter involved in the segment, was transferred to NBC's Miami owned-and-operated station WTVJ, where she became an evening anchor. Michael G. Gartner, president of the news division, resigned under pressure.

Michelle Madigan[edit]

In August 2007, Dateline reporter Michelle Madigan attempted to secretly record hackers admitting to crimes at that year's DEF CON in Las Vegas, Nevada. After being outed by DEF CON founder Jeff Moss during an assembly, she was heckled and chased out of the conference by attendees for her use of covert audio and video recording equipment. DEF CON staff tried to get Madigan to obtain a press pass before the outing happened.[15] A DEF CON source at NBC had tipped off organizers to Madigan's plans.[16]


Current on-air staff[edit]


Contributing anchors


Former on-air staff[edit]

Former anchors

Former correspondents


Repackaged episodes of Dateline air on various cable and satellite channels under the names Dateline on ID on Investigation Discovery, Dateline on Cloo on Cloo, Dateline on E! on E! (both Cloo and E! are owned by NBC parent company NBCUniversal), Dateline: Real Life Mysteries on TLC, and Dateline on OWN on OWN.

International broadcasts[edit]

Dateline is broadcast in Canada, mainly through NBC affiliates from U.S. border cities (such as KING-TV in Seattle, WKYC-TV in Cleveland and WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, New York) that are widely available in that country. Dateline NBC is also seen on the 24-hour news network Orbit News in Europe and the Middle East, which broadcasts MSNBC and other NBC News programs for several hours a day. It is also broadcast on the Seven Network in Australia on Sundays at 5 a.m., although is pre-empted by paid programming on regional affiliates Prime Television and Golden West Network.

TV Ratings[edit]

2007 to present day includes live plus ratings

  • Series Debut: 12.9 household rating/17.1 million viewers
  • Series High: 21.2 million viewers (10/4/1994)

Season Averages

  • 1993
  • 1994
  • 1995
  • 1997
  • 1998
  • 1999
  • 2000
  • 2001
  • 2002
  • 2003
  • 2004
  • 2005[17]
  • 2007
  • 2008[18]
  • 2009
  • 2010 [19]
  • 2011 [20]
  • 2012 [21]
  • 2013

AD Prices[edit]

per 30-second spot

  • 2003: $49,000
  • 2004: $47,000
  • 2007: $43,000
  • 2008: $42,000
  • 2009 season: $41,000
  • 2010 season: $40,000
  • 2011 season: $39,000
  • 2012 season: $38,000
  • 2013 season: $37,165[22]


  1. ^ Source: USPS.
  2. ^ a b c d Encyclopedia of Television, p. 661 Encyclopedia of Television
  3. ^ although some U.S. states have ages of consent of 17 or 18, not 16.
  4. ^ "Prosecutor Kills Himself in Texas Raid Over Child Sex", by Tim Eaton, The New York Times, November 7, 2006. Retrieved February 9, 2008
  5. ^ NBC News and Chris Hansen Part Ways, The Hollywood Reporter, August 2, 2013.
  6. ^ Guthrie, Marisa (October 24, 2011). "'Rock Center' Looks to Bring More Hard News to Primetime". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 18, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Carter, Bill (August 19, 2011). "True Crime TV on Shows Like ‘Dateline'". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ FRAZIER MOOREAP Television Writer (January 6, 2001). "With viewers' help, 'Dateline' reports on murder | | Brainerd, Minnesota". Retrieved December 18, 2011. 
  9. ^ Flinn, John (February 26, 1995). "THRIVING ON FAILURE". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  10. ^ "Where NBC Went Wrong". 
  11. ^ "City's crash test spawns controversy". Retrieved September 18, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Seeing Is Not Believing". Retrieved September 18, 2012. 
  13. ^ "GM vs. NBC, a New Wave of Employee Pride". GMHeritageCenter. Retrieved July 14, 2010. 
  14. ^ Fretts, Bruce (February 26, 1993). "'Dateline' Disaster". Entertainment Weekly. 
  15. ^ Cassel, David (August 4, 2007). "Transcript: Michelle Madigan's run from Defcon". Retrieved August 15, 2007. 
  16. ^ Zetter, Kim (August 3, 2007). "Dateline Mole Allegedly at DefCon with Hidden Camera -- Updated: Mole Caught on Tape". Wired Blog Network. Retrieved August 15, 2007. 
  17. ^ 2005 ratings
  18. ^ 2008 Ratings
  19. ^ 2010 Ratings
  20. ^ 2011 Ratings
  21. ^ 2012 Ratings
  22. ^ Ad Prices & for 2013

External links[edit]