CBS' Later Sunday Night Starting Times: Can It Be An Opportunity?

Messy prime-time schedules can follow Sunday afternoon NFL games, especially doubleheaders.

Sunday prime time runs from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. in the Eastern and Western time zones -- and one hour earlier in Central and Mountain time. CBS, long-plagued by NFL overruns lin the Eastern and Central zone, has decided to make things easier by shifting everything a half-hour later --  which should take care of almost all long-ish games. (Mountain and Pacific prime time starts stay the same).

So CBS' "60 Minutes" on those nine big doubleheader days will start at 7:30 p.m., with everything else also starting a half-hour later. The network's last show of the night, "The Mentalist," will air from 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

CBS says DVRs -- which are pegged to TV listings -- will be adjusted accordingly.



It would be good if all TV worked this way. Right now, viewers can sometimes get caught in TV netherland when a live program like "American Idol" runs long and their DVR doesn't pick up the whole show properly. (Hey, you should be watching live anyway!)

Perhaps CBS will get a bit of an advantage of sorts -- especially with viewers in DVR-less homes who can't find anything to watch on ABC, NBC, Fox or the hundreds of cable channels where the majority of shows start on the hour.

You may remember those super-sized NBC episodes of some sitcoms that Jeff Zucker liked some much. They would run just over 30 minutes, leaving viewers to consider staying with NBC for another show (since the viewers had already missed the beginning of other shows that started exactly on the hour or half-hour).

CBS' intention isn't necessary to mess up other network schedules. All this is important when considering that over 50% of U.S. viewers still don't have a DVR. So CBS wants to be more predictable in Sunday prime time -- even against such strong competition as NBC's "Sunday Night Football," last year's number-one rated show among 18-49 viewers.

Then again, maybe there is a marketing silver lining here. Many years ago, TBS started some shows at 7:05 p.m. 8:05 p.m or 9:05 p.m. to get an extra marketing wrinkle from standing out in TV Guide and other program listings.

Maybe starting most shows on the half-hour will be the new thing.

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