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For the Irishmarker news show, see Prime Time.
PrimeTime is a Americamarker news magazine show which debuted on ABC in 1989 with co-hosts Sam Donaldson and Diane Sawyer and originally had the title PrimeTime Live. Originally, the program was aired live on the ABC network and featured a live studio audience. [48783] 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. [48784] 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. [48785] One hidden camera investigation, of 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 Appealsmarker resulted in the damages reduced to $2.00. [48786] [48787]

Cancellation and Re-Launched

In 1998, ABC, in an effort to consolidate all of their newsmagazines, canceled Primetime Live and combined it with ABC's other well-known newsmagazine, 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. Beginning in the 2004–2005 season, the show was known once again as Primetime Live, and announcements were made live in the Eastern Time Zone. Its pair of co-hosts from the previous season, Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer, was replaced by the team of Sawyer, Chris Cuomo, Cynthia McFadden and John Quiñones. Beginning with the July 21, 2005, broadcast, the show's title has been Primetime [48788].

While Primetime has never been a newsmagazine in the style of 60 Minutes, it has participated in the general trend of newsmagazines doing more tabloid programming. For example, it aired an interview with Corey Clark, an American Idol contestant who allegedly had a sexual affair with judge Paula Abdul. [48789]

Current formats

Starting with the 2006–07 season, Primetime stopped airing in a regular year-round weekly timeslot. The series currently airs as over the summer in special formats of the newsmagazine, as well as being aired as filler programming in case dramas airing in the 10PM timeslot are cancelled by ABC. That season debuted with Primetime: Basic Instincts, which brings some of most well known intellectual theories and psychological experiments to life and tests people's innate decision making processes. Different formats of Primetime now include:
  • Primetime: What Would You Do? the hidden camera series sets up everyday scenarios and then captures people's reactions. Whether they're compelled to act or mind their own business, Primetime reports on their split-second - and often surprising - decision-making process.
  • Primetime: Medical Mysteries reports on some of the rarest disorders and syndromes in medicine today. The series examines cases that still leave scientists and doctors with unanswered questions when trying to explain the human body.
  • Primetime: The Outsiders features reports on people who live by their own rules and in their own worlds - worlds that the average person may find unimaginable. The limited series takes viewers behind closed doors and into the lives of people outside the bounds of conventional society.
  • Primetime: Family Secrets goes behind closed doors and sees first-hand the secrets most families would never talk about.
  • Primetime: Crime investigates crime in a whole new way by going deep inside real and provocative cases. In some episodes these involve unsolved cases where, for various reasons, the criminal has not been brought to justice. In other episodes the viewer will watch incriminating video of a crime made by the criminal himself. Primetime: Crime will retrace the twists and turns of cases, providing new clues and forensic evidence that could potentially solve crimes.


David Sloan is executive producer of Primetime. Robert Lange and Jessica Velmans are the senior producers.

International broadcasts

ABC News programming is shown daily on the 24 hour news network Orbit News in Europe and the Middle East. This includes ABC Primetime.

In Australia, the program airs at 2pm Saturdays (Extended Edition) and 1.30pm Thursdays on Sky News Australia.

In Canadamarker, Citytv does have rights to the show but only airs it when a limited series is scheduled. Primetime: What Would You Do? is currently on the air airing in simulcast with ABC.


Highest Rated Episode: 6/14/1995-Diane Sawyer interviews Michael Jackson & Lisa Marie Presley and garners 37,532,000 viewers.

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