Up until the mid 1980s, all British television stations closed down for the night at around 12:30am, sometimes up to an hour later on Friday and Saturday nights. Some of the ITV companies wanted to expand their broadcasting hours in the belief there was an untapped market for television through the night. As early as 1983, London Weekend Television (LWT) was experimenting with extra hours on Friday and Saturday nights during its Nightlife strand, which pushed back closedown until after 2am.
Towards the latter part of the decade, Channel 4 had extended late night broadcasting hours and transmission staff for the ITV regional companies were required to playout the network’s commercial breaks, even if the main ITV station had already closed down. There was also speculation of a threat from the Independent Broadcasting Authority to franchise overnight hours to a new company as had been done with breakfast television (TV-am) in 1983.
Within just over two years of ITV’s first overnight experiment (at Yorkshire Television in 1986), the entire network had commenced 24 hour transmission. On 9 August 1986, Yorkshire Television became the first ITV company and the first British terrestrial television station to offer 24-hour broadcasting. This was achieved by simulcasting the satellite station Music Box. The arrangement come about when Yorkshire were able to get a three month trial from the IBA to broadcast the station overnight from the last programme until 06.15. IBA said “it would review the trial, but if loads of youngsters are going in to school bleary-eyed through watching that its a question of parental responsibility, but if its a teenager or a little older that is the decision we will evaluate from the public”. The trial lasted until Friday, January 02, 1987; Thereafter, Yorkshire ran a teletext-based Jobfinder service for one hour after closedown with a Through Till 3 strand on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights introduced a few months later.
On 25 April 1987, Central Independent Television began extending its programming hours to 3am on weeknights and 4am at weekends, airing its own schedule of films, series and hourly Central News bulletins under the branding of More Central. The station’s Jobfinder service (launched a year beforehand) was expanded from a single hour after closedown to fill the remainder of the night until TV-am took over at 6am. Meanwhile, Granada Television took a more restrictive approach – during 1987, the station introduced a Nightlife strand, which saw programming hours extended until around 3am on Friday and Saturday nights only. A short-lived joint schedule was introduced by Central, Granada and Scottish Television when the companies began full 24-hour transmission on 13 February 1988, but was abandoned within a few months. During this time, all three stations provided local presentation. Central continued to air its own overnight service until 1995 (with opt-outs for regional programming until circa 2003).
By late August 1987, Anglia Television, Thames Television and LWT began 24-hour broadcasting – Anglia originally opted to air Night Network on weekends alongside its own overnight schedule on weeknights while LWT filled the post-Night Network slot with a short-lived Thru to 6 strand. Thames’s Into the Night strand began during the summer of 1987 with broadcasts originally running until around 4am. Tyne Tees Television also experimented with 24-hour transmission when in November 1987, it began airing its own teletext Jobfinder service between closedown and 6am. This continued until Granada’s Night Time service launched on Tyne Tees the following September.
TVS started its own Late Night Late strand in September 1987, gradually extending its broadcast hours until a full 24-hour service began on 20 June 1988 – the strand was the first to be simulcast on another ITV station (Channel Television). HTV Wales and HTV West began broadcasting its own Night Club service on 22 August 1988. Both Late Night Late and Night Club took on a different approach to the practice of in-vision continuity – incorporating viewers’ letters, competitions and live studio guests – such features were also used by Thames and Anglia’s regional overnight strands.
Local ITV Night time brands