Live television

"Live TV" redirects here. For the British TV station formerly known by this name, see L!VE TV. For the defunct Italian TV station, see Live! (TV channel).

Live television is a television production broadcast in real-time, as events happen, in the present. Show broadcast live include newscasts, morning shows, awards shows, sports programs, and, occasionally, episodes of television series. Live television was more common until the late 1950s, when videotape technology was invented. Because of the prohibitive cost, adoption was slow, and some television shows remained live until the 1970s, such as soap operas. To prevent unforeseen issues, live television programs may be delayed, which allows censors to edit the program. Some programs may be broadcast live in certain time zones and delayed in others.

Types of shows

From the early days of television until about 1958, live television was used heavily, except for filmed shows such as I Love Lucy and Gunsmoke. Although videotape was invented in 1957, it cost $300 per one hour reel (equivalent to $2,532 in 2015) meaning it was only very gradually adopted.[1] Some genres, such as soap operas, did not completely abandon live broadcasts until the mid-1970s.

In general, a live television program was more common for broadcasting content produced specifically for commercial television in the early years of the medium, before technologies such as video tape appeared. As video tape recorders (VTR) became more prevalent, many entertainment programs were recorded and edited before broadcasting rather than being shown live.

Morning shows

Television networks provide most live television for morning shows with television programs such as: Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, This Morning, etc. broadcast live in the UK; Sunrise live in Australia; Canada AM live in Canada; and Today, Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning in the U.S., which air live only in the Eastern Time Zone. The only exceptions are CBS This Morning - Saturday and Sunday Today with Willie Geist, which air live in the Eastern and Central time zones. Spanish-language morning shows (such as Despierta America and Un Nuevo Día), unlike their English speaking counterparts, air live in the Eastern, Central, and Mountain time zones; they are tape delayed in the Pacific time zone.

A few daytime talk shows in the U.S. broadcast live before a studio audience in select time zones. Shows such as Live with Kelly and the Wendy Williams Show air live in the Eastern time zone only, while shows such as ABC's The View air live in the Eastern and Central time zones. The Talk on CBS airs live in the Eastern and Central time zones Monday through Thursday. A separate program is taped on Thursday afternoon for airing on Friday. Affiliates in the remaining time zones air these programs on a tape delay. Most other daytime talk shows and late night programs are taped before a live studio audience earlier in the day and edited for later broadcast.

Awards shows

During prime time, the Miss America Pageant,[2] and talent shows (such as Dancing With The Stars) air live in the Eastern and Central time zones. Other talent shows (such as The Voice, and America's Got Talent) will pre-record audition rounds and broadcast the live rounds in the Eastern and Central time zones where viewers have the opportunity to vote for their favorite contestants.

Entertainment events such as sports television and the Academy Awards continue to be generally broadcast live in all U.S. time zones. The advent of the Internet and social media outlets (e.g. Facebook and Twitter, which resulted in numerous "spoilers") prompted NBC to begin broadcasting the Golden Globe Awards live in all time zones in 2009, and CBS began offering its affiliates in the Mountain and Pacific time zones a live broadcast of the Grammy Awards in 2016 (with stations in the Pacific time zone airing a rebroadcast of the Grammys immediately after the live broadcast during primetime). [3] Most other award shows in the US typically air live in the Eastern and Central time zones.

News shows

Most local television station newscasts are broadcast live in the U.S. as they are an essential medium for providing up-to-the-minute weather forecasts and breaking news stories. Broadcast television networks in the United States typically air their evening newscasts live in the Eastern and Central time zones. A separate "Western Edition" is broadcast to viewers in the Pacific Time Zone. When a major breaking news event occurs, whether nationally or globally, broadcast television networks will break into regularly scheduled programming and will televise a live "special report" in all time zones. Local television stations break into regularly scheduled programming in the event of severe weather warnings or major local breaking news stories that occur within their viewing area.

Cable news outlets (such as CNN and Fox News Channel) air continuous live programming during the day, and air rebroadcasts of earlier live shows during the late night hours, except in cases where breaking news occurs.[4] The PBS NewsHour airs live on PBS stations in the Eastern Time Zone.[5] Sunday morning news programs in the USA such as Meet The Press on NBC, This Week on ABC, and Fox News Sunday air live in the Eastern Time Zone (including select markets in the Central Time Zone), while CBS Sunday Morning and Face The Nation on CBS air live in the Eastern and Central time zones.

Cable outlets (such as CNN and Fox News Channel) incorporate the word LIVE in their network logo (also known as a digital on-screen graphic) when those networks broadcast live content. Some (but not all) sports cable networks will opt to insert the word LIVE somewhere on the corner of the screen. With the exception of special breaking news reports and overseas sporting events, broadcast television networks rarely display such a graphic during its live programming. (although NBC did display the word LIVE next to their logo during its Olympic coverage when live content was being broadcast, a practice that is being continued by its sister station: NBCSN)[6]

Local television station newscasts display time and temperature during their broadcasts, and only display the word LIVE when they air a news report or a live shot on location. Some networks have begun to insert (in addition to the word LIVE) the local time of where that news report is originating from, particularly when that report is airing live via satellite from overseas.

Beginning in 2014, a tend began of harassing female journalists who are broadcasting live, including shouting profane phrases.[7] The most common phrase, "fuck her right in the pussy", comes from a viral video on YouTube in which a comedian staged a fake blooper reel that used the phrase. Fans later started using it to interrupt live broadcasts and humiliate journalists.[8] In 2015, a female CityNews journalist confronted a group of young men who had used the phrase; one of them later lost his job after he was identified.[9] The same year, a teen boy kissed a CBC News reporter during a live broadcast, prompting a discussion of what constitutes sexual assault. The teen later apologized and called it a poorly-considered joke; the reporter declined to press charges.[7] In New Zealand, the boyfriend of a TV3 reporter said she was groped after two young men shouted the phrase at her. When her boyfriend confronted them, the men said the news show should have sent a male reporter. One later apologized.[10]

Sports and events

The Macy's Thanksgiving Parade on NBC airs live only in the Eastern Time Zone. CBS airs the Thanksgiving Parade live in the Eastern, Central, and Mountain time zones; it is taped delayed]] in the remaining time zones. The McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade broadcasts live from Chicago, IL in all USA time zones on WGN America. Other events that air live nationally in all USA time zones include Presidential and Congressional election coverage, Presidential Inaugurations, the State of the Union Address, Presidential news conferences, Presidential Addresses to the Nation, the Tournament of Roses Parade, and funerals of major national or international public and religious figures. (i.e. former presidents or a Pope) Local television stations air live local election coverage and special events, such as large scale parades, big city marathons, funerals of major local public and religious figures, inauguration ceremonies of big city mayors and governors, installation masses of cardinals or bishops in a major Catholic archdiocese, and pep rallies for a major sports team. In the UK, events such as the State Opening of Parliament are broadcast live.

Uses of live television

Live television is often used as a device, even when it is not in various types of programming to take advantage of these often to great success in terms of attracting viewers. The NBC live comedy/variety program Saturday Night Live, for example, has been on that network continuously since 1975 and airs live in the Eastern and Central zones during the show's season which runs from October though May.

On September 25, 1997, NBC broadcast a special live episode of its hospital drama ER, which at the time ranked as the third most-watched episode of any medical drama program ever. Many television news programs, particularly local news ones in North America, have also used live television as a device to gain audience viewers by making their programs appear more exciting. With technologies such as production trucks, satellite truck uplinks, a news reporter can report live "on location" from anywhere where a story is happening in the city. This technique has attracted criticism for its overuse (like minor car accidents which often have no injuries) and resulting tendency to make stories appear more urgent than they actually are.

The unedited nature of live television can pose problems for television networks because of the potential for mishaps. To enforce the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations, television networks often broadcast live programs on a slight delay to give them the ability to censor words and images while keeping the broadcast as "live" as possible.

Notable events on live television

Many events have happened on live television broadcasts that are well-remembered, sometimes because they were part of a major breaking news story already, and always because they happened unexpectedly and before audiences of thousands or millions of viewers.



Live television episodes

Although all programs were once live, the use of video tape means that very few television programs in the modern era have ever attempted such a feat. In the U.S., soap operas including As the World Turns and The Edge of Night were broadcast live until 1975.

On rare occasions, a scripted series will do an episode live to attract ratings. In the U.S. and Canada, the episode is occasionally performed twice: once for the east coast which is composed of the Eastern Time Zone and Central Time Zone and again three hours later for the west coast which is composed of the Mountain Time Zone and the Pacific Time Zone unless they have Dish Network or Direct TV who provides the live feed in all states. The most recent scripted series to air all live episodes was Undateable on NBC during its third season, which aired from October 2015 until January 2016.[37]

Notable examples of shows that have had a live episode include:

Since 2000, there have been a number of special films broadcast live. These include the remakes of Fail Safe (2000) and The Quatermass Experiment (2005). Some recent examples of live episodic TV series include shows such as Melissa and Joey (2010), Whitney (2011) and Undateable (2014).

A live television advertisement was shown for the first time in 40 years to celebrate the arrival of the new Honda Accord in the United Kingdom. It was broadcast on Channel Four on 29 May 2008 at 20:10 during a special episode of 'Come Dine With Me'. The ad featured skydivers forming the letters of the word Honda over Spain.

Live television specials

Many live television specials were telecast during the pre-videotape era. Among the most successful were the 1955 and 1956 telecasts of Peter Pan, a 1954 musical adaptation of J. M. Barrie's 1904 play, starring Mary Martin, and Cyril Ritchard. This was such a hit that the show was restaged and rebroadcast (this time on videotape) with the same two stars and most of the rest of the cast in 1960, and rerun several times after that. The Peter Pan telecasts marked the first-ever telecasts of a complete Broadway musical with most of its original cast.

On December 5, 2013, NBC broadcast a live television special called "The Sound of Music Live!" starring Carrie Underwood. This program aired live in the Eastern and Central time zones, and was the first television musical special to air live on NBC in almost fifty years.

Further reading


  1. "The History of Magnetic Recording", BBC, 20 December 2004. Retrieved on 23 October 2014.
  2. "2011 Miss America Pageant: Ratings increase 47% for ABC telecast". ... 2-hour live telecast (tape delayed on the West Coast) ...
  3. "CBS To Broadcast 58th GRAMMY Awards Live Nationwide", "", 19 January 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  4. Shows such as The O'Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel are pre-recorded the afternoon of its broadcast. However, this show occasionally airs live if breaking news or special events are being covered..
  5. "History - PBS NewsHour", Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  6. In 2015, NBC began inserting the word LIVE above its on-air graphic during live telecasts of "Undateable" and "The Wiz", and in 2016, the Golden Globe Awards. However, they do not display the LIVE graphic during programs such as Saturday Night Live and the NBC Nightly News. Broadcast networks such as CBS, ABC, PBS, and FOX typically do not display a LIVE graphic during any of their live telecasts.
  7. 1 2 Pelley, Laura (August 10, 2015). "Teen who kissed CBC reporter live on-air apologizes". The Toronto Star. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  8. Mallick, Heather (November 14, 2014). "Mallick: sick new trend of trying to humiliate female TV reporters". The Toronto Star. Retrieved October 19, 2016.
  9. Nelson, Miranda (May 12, 2015). "Man gets fired after sexist heckling of Toronto reporter Shauna Hunt". The Georgia Straight. Retrieved October 19, 2016.
  10. "TV3 reporter Kim Vinnell was groped, claims boyfriend". The New Zealand Herald. February 3, 2016. Retrieved October 19, 2016.
  11. "The story of BBC Television - Baird and the BBC". BBC. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  12. "Truman to Be Televised In First National Hook-Up", The New York Times, September 4, 1951, p. 2.
  13. "Television Highlights", The Washington Post, September 4, 1951, p. B13.
  14. "Coast to Coast Television" (CBS advertisement), The Wall Street Journal, September 4, 1951, p. 9.
  15. Gerstenberger, Tim. "15 Things You Didn't Know about The Today Show", "", 11 September 2014. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  16. Moran, Joe. "Why Elizabeth II's 1953 Coronation is the day that changed television.", "", London, 02 June 2013. Retrieved on 01 November 2014.
  17. Klein, Christopher. "The Birth of Satellite TV, 50 years ago", "", 23 July 2012. Retrieved on 25 October 2014.
  18. "A Remote that Broke all the Records", "Broadcasting Magazine", New York, 28 July 1969. Retrieved on 25 October 2014.
  19. Keisewetter, John. "In 20 years, CNN has changed the way we view the news", "", 28 May 2000. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  20. Moca, Diane Pilot Joined The Chase, Controversy Followed, Orlando Sentinel, 10 February 1991. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  21. Brown, Maggie "Sky TV's launch: 'a wing and a prayer', The Guardian, London, 5 February 2009. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  22. At 8:56am ET, all three U.S. broadcast morning shows (Early Show, Today, and Good Morning America) suspended tape delayed broadcasting and went live in all time zones coast to coast.
  23. Sandoval, Silverstein, and McShane, "TV news reporter, cameraman are fatally shot during live broadcast in Virginia; suspected shooter posts video of attack, then kills himself", New York Daily News, 27 August 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  24. Koppett, Leonard. "Baker Field: Birthplace of Sports Television", "Columbia University", 1999. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  25. "Columbia vs. Princeton: First Televised Sporting Event Marks 70th Anniversary", "Columbia University Athletics", 17 May 2009. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  26. Bacon, James. "TV Will Carry Film Awards Show Tonight", The Fresno Bee, Associated Press, 19 March 1953. Retrieved on 25 October 2014.
  27. "The 1950's - A History of Emmy", "", Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  28. "The Oscars - Academy Awards Trivia & Fun Facts", "About Education". Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  29. "Our World - The World's First Ever Live Satellite TV Broadcast (1967) Included The Beatles & Marshall McLuhan", 30 August 2014. Retrieved on 25 October 2014.
  30. Ehrlich, Ken (2007). "At The Grammys: Behind the Scenes at Music's Biggest Night", Hal Leonard Books. ISBN 978-1-4234-3073-5.
  31. Sex Pistols vs Bill Grundy
  32. Jones, Graham. "Live Aid 1985: a day of magic", "", London, 06 July 2005. Retrieved on 25 October 2014.
  33. "Super Bowl XLIX most-watched show in U.S. history", Patra, Kevin, "", New York, 02 February 2015. Retrieved on 02 February 2015.
  34. "Miss Universe Forgives Steve Harvey: 'Don't Beat Yourself Up for This Anymore'".
  35. Ramisetti, Kirthanna,"Stephen Colbert’s ‘Late Show’ airs live episode in warm-up for post-Super Bowl telecast", "New York Daily News", New York, 09 January 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  36. Itzkoff, Dave "Seth Meyers Takes ‘Late Night’ Live as Convention Coverage Heats Up", New York Times, 08 July 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  37. Nededog, Jethro. "What happens behind the scenes of a hit NBC show as it airs live", Business Insider, New York. 29 January 2016. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  38. "GIMME A BREAK / TV SITCOM SHOWN LIVE -- AND IT WORKS", San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco, Calif.: February 25, 1985. pg. 37
  39. 1 2 3 4 5 Performed twice so that viewers in multiple time zones saw a live version
  40. Howard, Brandon "WWE SmackDown Going Live Shows Cable TV's Desperation for DVR-Proof Content", "", 25 May 2016, Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  41. Pallotta, Frank "Stephen Colbert's 'Late Show' to go live during political conventions", 22 June 2016, "CNN", Retrieved 22 July 2016.
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