The 1980s: Here’s a look back at another area of ITV presentation that I haven’t covered yet: the Night Time service. This piece will be mostly based around what happened in the Thames/LWT region when ITV finally started to go 24 hours across the country but there will be a look at what some of the other regions did too.
Until the mid-80s, ITV regions always closed down at around 12:30am. ITV then looked for ways to expand their airtime. There were plans at first for the Night Time coverage to be covered by a separate franchise like TV-am was but that never happened. The first region to experiment with going 24 hours a day was Yorkshire. They had already been pioneering by being the first ITV region to broadcast a breakfast time service in 1977, long before the launch of TV-am. In 1986 Yorkshire filled the overnight slot by showing the otherwise little-seen satellite channel Music Box for a few months.
As for Thames, by 1987 they started to extend their hours to 4am, until they finally became one of the first regions to go 24 hours, and they also introduced a special nighttime version of their famous skyline ident, which was rather redundant because none of the landmarks were illuminated so you could barely see anything. They also continued to use in-vision continuity with a mostly female line-up of announcers. These announcers would also be live as well, and between the programmes they would have competitions or show music videos while trying not to nod off.
As for the programming, there were attempts to fill the time with various things to try and keep the viewers interested. As well as showing some films and imports, in the early days of Night Time the programme America’s Top Ten where horrid sweater-wearing Casey Kasem looked at the biggest hits seemed to be on every day. The presenter Phil Donahue turned up a lot too. There was also an attempt to provide some sport and news coverage. There were even adverts and everything too.
LWT experimented with a late night strand in the early-80s called LWT Nightlife which featured their symbol in neon lights. By 1987 they had also gone 24 hours, and introduced a special strand called Night Network under which all their overnight shows would appear over the weekend. There was a lot of original programming made for this strand and at least they put the effort in to try to create something different worth watching.
By the end of 1988, every ITV region had finally gone 24 hours, UTV was the last to do so. (Channel 4 didn’t go 24 hours until 1996.) Other regions had their own strands too including Central, who as they went further into the night introduced their programmes under the banner of More and Even More. Granada also had a strand simply called Night Time that ended up also begin shown in a few other regions too. TVS had a strand called Late Night Late which featured repeats of a lot of cult programming, Anglia also had an entertaining overnight strand called Through The Night where various announcers kept the viewers company, and HTV had a service called Night Club. I have enjoyed watching clips online of the 1980s TVS, Anglia and HTV Night Time services.
By the end of 1989, LWT had dropped the Night Network strand, and now just linked programmes using their ITV corporate ident with no announcements at all. Thames also continued to use in-vision continuity, and now this was the only time of day that viewers would see announcers who kept the insomniacs happy, and Night Time TV was finally beginning to take off. We shall discover what happened to ITV Night Time in the 1990s in part two.