Night Network

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Night Network, Night Time and Night Shift were names given to the overnight (usually between 12 and 6am) schedule of the ITV network in the United Kingdom. The first ITV company began 24 hour broadcasting in 1986, with all of the companies broadcasting through the night by 1988. At first, individual companies began to create their own services, however before too long, many of the smaller ITV station began simulcasting or networking services from others.

From this, numerous services began each offering their own distinct take on programmes, with regions taking one of the services on offer. As each franchise was taken over however, the services became fewer in number. Today, all of the ITV plc regions (except ITV Channel Television for legal reasons), along with UTV show teleshopping or gaming, followed by repeats of daytime programming and the ITV Nightscreen service. STV broadcasts its own strand The Nightshift Thursday to Sunday , with late-night movies, daytime repeats and ITV Nightscreen broadcasting the other three days.

History[edit]

Up until the mid-1980s, all British television stations closed down for the night at around 12:30am, sometimes up to an hour later on Friday and Saturday nights. Some of the ITV companies wanted to expand their broadcasting hours in the belief there was an untapped market for television through the night. As early as 1983, London Weekend Television (LWT) was experimenting with extra hours on Friday and Saturday nights during its Nightlife strand, which pushed back closedown until after 2am.

Towards the latter part of the decade, Channel 4 had extended late night broadcasting hours and transmission staff for the ITV regional companies were required to playout the network's commercial breaks, even if the main ITV station had already closed down. There was also speculation of a threat from the Independent Broadcasting Authority to franchise overnight hours to a new company as had been done with breakfast television (TV-am) in 1983.[1][2] Within just over two years of ITV's first overnight experiment (at Yorkshire Television in 1986), the entire network had commenced 24 hour transmission.

Early experiments[edit]

On 9 August 1986, Yorkshire Television became the first ITV company and the first British terrestrial television station to offer 24-hour broadcasting.[3] This was achieved by simulcasting the satellite station Music Box for a three-month trial, as permitted by the IBA.[4] The all-night simulcasts continued until Friday 2 January 1987 - shortly before Music Box ceased operations as a broadcaster. Thereafter, Yorkshire ran a teletext-based Jobfinder service for one hour after close-down with a Through Till 3 strand on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights introduced a few months later.[5]

On 25 April 1987, Central Independent Television began extending its programming hours to 3am on weeknights and 4am at weekends, airing its own schedule of films, series and hourly Central News bulletins entitled More Central. The station's Jobfinder service (launched a year beforehand) was expanded from a single hour after close-down to fill the remainder of the night until TV-am took over at 6am. Meanwhile, Granada Television took a more restrictive approach - during 1987, the station introduced a Nightlife strand, which saw programming hours extended until around 3am on Friday and Saturday nights only. A short-lived joint schedule was introduced by Central, Granada and Scottish Television when the companies began full 24-hour transmission on 13 February 1988, but was abandoned within a few months. During this time, all three stations provided local presentation. Central continued to air its own overnight service until 1995 (with opt-outs for regional programming until circa 2003).

By late August 1987, Anglia Television, Thames Television and LWT began 24-hour broadcasting - Anglia originally opted to air Night Network on weekends alongside its own overnight schedule on weeknights while LWT filled the post-Night Network slot with a short-lived Thru to 6 strand. Thames's Into the Night strand began in June 1987 with broadcasts originally running until around 4am. Tyne Tees Television also experimented with 24-hour transmission when in November 1987, it began airing its own teletext Jobfinder service between close-down and 6am. This continued until Granada's Night Time service launched on Tyne Tees the following September.

TVS started its own Late Night Late strand in September 1987, gradually extending its broadcast hours until a full 24-hour service began on 20 June 1988 - the strand was the first to be simulcast on another ITV station (Channel Television). HTV Wales and HTV West began broadcasting its own Night Club service on 22 August 1988. Both Late Night Late and Night Club took on a different approach to the practice of in-vision continuity - incorporating viewers' letters, competitions and live studio guests - such features were also used by Thames and Anglia's regional overnight strands.

Night Network[edit]

Night Network titles

Night Network was ITV's first major experiment into the area of overnight broadcasting beginning on Friday 28 August 1987, originally for the ITV regions covered by LWT, TVS and Anglia, before expanding to other regions during the summer of 1988. Whereas overnight broadcasts are commonplace today, back in the late 1980s, ITV decided it would take a more cautious approach with Night Network only initially broadcasting between 1am and 4am in the Friday and Saturday night schedules, and between 1am and 3am in the Sunday night schedule.

The show was produced for Night Network Productions[6] and LWT by Jill Sinclair who had been the producer of BBC1's Pop Quiz and Channel 4's The Tube at Tyne Tees Television, aiming for a similar audience to that of these two shows. The format of Night Network was similar to Channel 4's Network 7, or even a late night adult version of Saturday morning kids TV, as it was a mixture of quizzes, celebrity guests, imported serials and bands.

Feature segments included Street Cred with Paul Thompson[disambiguation needed], Video View with Steve Allen and Kate Davies, Rowland Rivron in The Bunker Show, Tim Westwood's N-Sign Radio, Emma Freud's chat segment Pillow Talk, Geoffrey Cantor's video segment The Axeman, Barbie Wilde's video review for The Small Screen, and quiz show The Alphabet Game hosted by Nicholas Parsons, whilst cult TV series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and Batman were also frequently seen. Originally, on Sunday nights, classic movies were shown but this was only until the programme was expanded to other ITV regions on Friday 2 September 1988.

Although it proved a success, Night Network was never broadcast nationally - companies such as Central opted out of the entire programme from the start to provide its own schedule. With more programmes (be it imports, repeats or original output) competing for the overnight slots, the Sunday edition was eventually dropped in Autumn 1988. Around the same time, the first hour of Night Network became a regional For London Only segment on LWT while the remaining two hours continued to air across other regions, albeit in differing timeslots depending on the stations' preferred schedules.

Night Network was broadcast for the last time on Friday 31 March 1989.[7]

Night Time from Granada[edit]

Granada Night Time ident

On 2 September 1988, four of the smaller ITV companies (Border, Grampian, Tyne Tees and TSW - joined from 3 October 1988 by Ulster) began 24 hour broadcasting with the introduction of Night Time, a part-networked service provided by Granada Television's presentation department in Manchester and intended to help the smaller ITV stations who were unable to provide a service of their own.

This new late night line up consisted mainly of films, syndicated American shows such as America's Top Ten (presented by Casey Kasem), American Gladiators, WCW Worldwide (which would later be promoted to a Saturday afternoon slot) and Donahue. There was also a limited number of home-produced programming such as Granada's Nightbeat, The Other Side of Midnight, The Hitman and Her, Quiz Night, Stand Up[8] and LWT's Cue the Music.[9]

Granada's Night Time service was wound down during 1995 - with programming carried from LNN from January onwards before presentation was handed over to the London service in June.

Night Shift from Yorkshire[edit]

On 29 May 1988, Yorkshire Television reintroduced a full through-the-night service, this time consisting of films, imports, series and networked original programming including YTV's The James Whale Radio Show, simulcast locally with Radio Aire. Following Yorkshire's buyout of Tyne Tees Television in 1992, a new overnight service for both stations was launched entitled Night Shift, broadcast across both regions from YTV's transmission centre in Leeds with pre-recorded continuity from the station's announcing staff. Separate overnight presentation for the YTV and Tyne Tees areas was introduced two years later.

Both regions aired the same schedule of imports, films, local programming and Bollywood movies although for a short while, YTV refused to air more adult programming such as The Good Sex Guide and God's Gift - while such output continued to air on Tyne Tees. The service remained locally originated (despite the introduction of networked idents in 1997) until May 1998. YTV continued to opt out of the network for its regular Jobfinder programme at 5am until around 2005.

ITV Night Time from Thames/LWT[edit]

1991–92 ITV Night Time logo, as shown on a holding caption. This was displayed during advertising breaks when the slot had not been sold, as described under "Advertising", below

During 1991, Anglia, HTV and TVS discontinued their own overnight strands and began carrying a new ITV Night Time service from London, provided by Thames from Monday to Thursday and LWT from Friday to Sunday. For the first time, both London companies utilised the same on-screen branding throughout the week - the only notable difference being LWT's near non-use of a continuity announcer at the weekend.

Around this time, original programming for the network included LWT's Cue the Music, Dial Midnight, ...in Profile, The Big E,[10] Noisy Mothers,[11] One to One,[12] In Bed With Medinner, Night Shift, Get Stuffed and Thames's Video Fashion.,[13] albeit airing in differing timeslots depending on each strand's schedule. Imported output increased with featured shows including Night Heat, Soap, Three's Company, The Time Tunnel, Too Close for Comfort, The Equalizer and American sporting programmes.

Following the loss of Thames' franchise on 31 December 1992, Anglia and HTV began taking Granada's Night Time, leaving LWT with its own overnight presentation - the network-branded 3 Nights, which featured some of LWT's local programming.

Nightime[edit]

In January 1993, the new ITV franchise holder for London weekdays, Carlton introduced a new Nightime [sic] service, airing from Monday - Thursday nights and simulcast by Meridian and Channel Television.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, Meridian & Channel broadcast its own version of Nightime, presented in-vision from Southampton by ex-Late Night Late presenter Graham Rogers. Both Carlton and Meridian/Channel services utilised the same on-screen branding and presentation throughout the week. Around this time, programming largely consisted of output airing on the other services as well as imports including French soap Riviera and in the case of Meridian, regional programming, including World Of Sailing and Freescreen, an experimental series featuring viewers' videos and social action features.

ITV Night Time from LNN[edit]

1995 Break bumper

From 13 February 1995, London News Network (a subsidiary of Carlton & LWT) launched a revamped overnight service featuring new neon-themed presentation (without any station-specific branding) and a year later, a brand slogan - Television with Attitude.[14] Initially broadcast in London only, the service expanded in June to most of the regions formerly served by Granada's version of Night Time (which had been following the same schedule as LNN's service since the start of the year).

New original programming was also produced for the network including Bonkers!, Bushell on the Box, Carnal Knowledge, Club @vision,[15] Cyber Cafe, Cybernet, Curtis Calls,[16] Hotel Babylon,[17] God's Gift, Late and Loud, The Paul Ross Show, Pyjama Party, The Lads and Rockmania. Although less reliant on imports than before, shows including Coach and Box Office America continued to feature within the schedules.

NightTime/The Edge from Meridian[edit]

Following the launch of the LNN service over much of the ITV network, Meridian's overnight service expanded to seven days a week in February 1995 and began airing in the Anglia region. Overnight continuity links were discontinued in favour of announcer-less idents and presentation.

Meridian's programming was also adopted in January 1996 by HTV and Westcountry, who opted to run separate local presentation from HTV's presentation centre in Cardiff. The arrangement continued when Meridian revamped and relaunched the service as The Edge in September 1996. The service largely carried the same programmes provided by LNN with some regional opt-outs for programmes such as Meridian’s World of Sailing and Freescreen.[18]

In 1998, The Edge was dropped and replaced by a set of idents using generic ITV branding. These idents were amended later that year to reflect the change of ITV's generic logo and continued to be used until May 2000, by which time, Meridian had adopted the generic overnight branding used by the rest of the network since November 1999.

1999 - 2000s[edit]

With 24-hour programming becoming the norm on British television, ITV phased out the Night Time logos and presentation on overnight shows by late 1999 with generic network branding taking its place in most regions and ITV Nightscreen starting to take up timeslots towards the end of the night. From 2001 onwards, many of the former overnight programmes associated with the old Night Network and Night Time services were replaced with repeats of networked daytime shows (many of these including on-screen BSL signing for the deaf). By 2005, the only original Night Time programme still airing was the offbeat cookery show Get Stuffed. Scottish and Grampian (both branded overnight as "Nighttime TV") continued to run its own overnight schedule until around late 2004.

Quiz programming in the form of Quizmania and later, ITV Play output such as The Mint and Make Your Play aired overnight between December 2005 and December 2007.

Present[edit]

All ITV plc regions now carry the same schedule from London. ITV's current overnight schedule consists mainly of repeats of talk and lifestyle shows such as The Jeremy Kyle Show and Loose Women, sport reviews, teleshopping, documentaries such as Nightwatch with Steve Scott, films and ITV Nightscreen. STV in Northern & Central Scotland, UTV in Northern Ireland and ITV Channel Television opt-out of the overnight schedule regularly for teleshopping, repeats, films and quiz programming.

STV also continues to provide its own localised presentation overnight - in April 2010, the station introduced The Nightshift, a nightly strand consisting of interactive viewers' chat, local & national news and extracts from current and archived STV programming, linked by live out-of-vision announcers in Glasgow. Initially launched as a pilot in the Central Scotland region, the programme began airing a separate edition for Northern Scotland and later, separate editions for each of STV's four sub-regions. A single pan-regional programme is now broadcast across the STV North and STV Central regions at weekends, with opt-outs for regional news.

Advertising[edit]

Most of the ITV stations experienced great difficulty in selling advertising slots for the overnight schedules - many companies were not convinced that the low viewing audiences were enough to justify buying airtime. In most cases, stations who were unable to sell advertising overnight simply replaced commercial breaks with public information films or interval captions. Notably, LWT's Thru To 6 service placed animated captions on-screen with music from the week's charts playing in the background.

By the 1990s, commercials for premium-rate phone chat lines and edited versions of infomercials for firms such as Teledisc and Time–Life became more prominent. Overnight commercial breaks on the ITV network now usually consist of programme trails and promos.

Regional variations[edit]

Regional services

Service Producer Years in operation
Thames Into the Night Thames 1 June 1987 - c. 1991
Thru to 6 LWT 28 August 1987 - early 1988 (weekends only)
Anglia Through the Night Anglia 28 August 1987 - 1 September 1991
More Central Central 25 April 1987 - 19 June 1994
Through the Night/Scottish Night Time Scottish 13 February 1988 - 1998
Through The Night Yorkshire 29 May 1988 - 5 October 1992
Night Club HTV Wales & HTV West 22 August 1988 - 28 April 1991
3 Nights LWT January 1993 - 12 February 1995 (weekends only)

Part-networked services

Service Producer Years in operation Regions
Late Night Late TVS September 1987 - August 1991
Night Network LWT 28 August 1987 - 31 March 1989 (weekends only)
  • LWT
  • Channel (in conjunction with Late Night Late)
  • TVS (in conjunction with Late Night Late)
  • Anglia (in conjunction with Anglia Through The Night)[n 1]
  • All other ITV stations except Central from Friday 2 September 1988 onwards
Night Time Granada 2 September 1988 - June 1995
ITV Night Time Thames/LWT April 1991 - December 1992
Night Shift Yorkshire 5 October 1992 - May 1998
Nightime Carlton/Meridian 1 January 1993 - 9 February 1995
ITV Night Time London News Network
(for Carlton/LWT)
13 February 1995 - November 1999
Night Time (1995)
The Edge (1996-98)
ITV Night Time (1998-2000)
Meridian January 1995 - May 2000
Nighttime TV SMG Late 1998 - 30 May 2006
ITV Night Time Carlton/Granada Late 1999–2002

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ These are the only stations that can be confirmed, using video evidence from TVARK and YouTube, that definitely used the service. Many others used the service in conjunction with their own services.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Who killed the continuity announcers?, Transdiffusion.org
  2. ^ IBA plans network shake-upPeter Fiddick Media Editor. The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 23 Apr 1987:
  3. ^ Regional Television Variations. The Times, Saturday, August 09, 1986; pg. 32
  4. ^ "Yorkshire to get all-night pop trial" The Guardian 10 May 1986: P3
  5. ^ Television and radio. The Times (London, England), Friday, January 30, 1987; pg. 43
  6. ^ BFI entry - Night Network Productions
  7. ^ BFI entry - Night Network
  8. ^ BFI entry - Stand Up
  9. ^ BFI entry - Cue the Music
  10. ^ BFI entry - The Big E
  11. ^ http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/title/511261
  12. ^ BFI entry - One to One
  13. ^ BFI entry - Video Fashion
  14. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrPjvFACx14&
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ BFI entry - Curtis Calls
  17. ^ BFI entry - Hotel Babylon
  18. ^ http://www.tv-live.org.uk/wp/index.php/itv/itv/itv-night-time/