|Created by||Roone Arledge|
|Presented by||John Quiñones|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||23|
|Production location(s)||ABC News Headquarters, New York City, New York|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Production||ABC News Productions|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
|Original release||August 3, 1989 -|
May 18, 2012
Primetime was an American news magazine television program that debuted on ABC in 1989 with co-hosts Sam Donaldson and Diane Sawyer and originally had the title Primetime Live. The program's final episode aired May 18, 2012.
Originally, the program aired live on the ABC network and featured a live studio audience. The first interviews included Roseanne Barr and a piece on a Middle East hostage crisis reported by Chris Wallace. Donaldson and Sawyer would allow audience members to comment on the program and ask questions of the guests, who were usually interviewed live via satellite or in studio, a practice that resulted in many technical difficulties and easy satirization on Saturday Night Live. Internal conflicts between Sawyer and Donaldson later led them to be separated, and the audience eliminated. However, the program has always had some live elements when broadcast as Primetime Live, generally consisting of Donaldson reading the opening remarks of packaged stories and the opening title as Primetime... LIVE!. Over time, live interviews were de-emphasized and hidden camera investigations began to occupy more of the schedule.
In 1998, ABC, in an effort to consolidate all of their news magazines, canceled Primetime Live and combined it with ABC's other well-known news magazine, 20/20. The move was made to compete more effectively with NBC's Dateline, which ran multiple nights of the week. In 2000, however, ABC relaunched the program. It was renamed Primetime Thursday with Charles Gibson replacing Donaldson.
In 2003, ABC aired a short-lived 2003 continuation of the newsmagazine 20/20 Downtown as Primetime Monday.
Beginning in the 2004–2005 season, the show was known once again as Primetime Live. Its pair of co-hosts from the previous four seasons, Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer, was replaced by the rotating team of Sawyer, David Muir, Chris Cuomo, Cynthia McFadden and John Quiñones. The format shifted back to investigative reporting and a new executive producer was brought on board. On July 21, 2005, the show's title was changed to Primetime.
Beginning in the 2006-2007 television season, the news magazine adopted a subseries format, where multiple episodes would be focused on one topic such as crime and medical mysteries, with no set weekly timeslot. Sawyer departed the program around the time this change in format occurred, though she occasionally anchored special editions of Primetime. David Muir joined as co-anchor in 2007.What Would You Do? has become the most popular sub-series and can be regularly seen on ABC, often with a set timeslot. In 2011 ABC aired a special edition of Primetime: an interview by Diane Sawyer with Jaycee Duggard. In 2012, beginning with the sixth season, the Primetime branding was removed from the What Would You Do? show. It still airs sans branding and is anchored by Quiñones. The branding has not been used by any program or special since this time.
One hidden camera investigation, of Southeast grocery chain Food Lion, backfired on ABC when Food Lion sued. Food Lion sued for trespass and breach of loyalty, claiming that the report was produced under deceptive pretenses, and ABC employees hired by Food Lion wearing hidden cameras filmed other Food Lion employees without following proper notification procedures. Food Lion did not sue for libel, as the one-year statute of limitations had already run by the time it received all the footage shot by ABC, and prior to receiving the footage, its attorneys believed it would be difficult to prove that ABC acted with actual malice. A jury awarded Food Lion $5.5 million, but later appeals by ABC to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals resulted in the damages reduced to $2.00. This scandal resulted in Food Lion closing stores in brand-new markets in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Delaware and Pennsylvania, cancelling expansion into states like Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas, as well as bad publicity and a downturn in profit for the company.
Formats of Primetime include:
The program's highest rated episode was the June 14, 1995 episode which featured Diane Sawyer interviews Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley and the world premiere of Jackson's music video for his latest single, "Scream". The transmission garnered 37.5 million viewers. Sawyer's interview was controversial in the journalism industry for her use of pre-taped "persons on the street" to ask the couple questions.
1989-1990: #92, 9.1 million
1990-1991: #60, 9.8 million
1991-1992: #40, 12.4 million
1992-1993: #31, 12.7 million
1993-1994: #17, 14.2 million
1994-1995: #31, 11.7 million
1995-1996: #18, 12.3 million
1996-1997: #15, 11.9 million
1997-1998: #22, 14.2 million
2000-2001: #50, 11.1 million
2001-2002: #49, 10.3 million
2002-2003: #81, 8.5 million
2003-2004: #83, 8.0 million
2004-2005: #95, 7.0 million
2005-2006: #98, 7.1 million
2006-2007: #145, 6.1 million