In a medium where even your most popular comedies and dramas have a typical prime-time shelf life of anywhere between five and ten seasons, imagine a NEWS program standing the test of time and running consistently in prime-time for nearly half a century with no end in sight — and in an era where news can barely still be called journalism.
That news program is 60 Minutes — a Sunday night staple that has carved out its own unique place in television history. Consider these facts:
– It is the only news program to ever place #1 in the Nielsen rankings — which it did a record-tying FIVE times (1980, 1983, 1992, 1993 and 1994). All in the Family from 1972 to 1976 and The Cosby Show from 1986 to 1990 also achieved this feat, but consecutively.
– It ranked in the Nielsen Top 10 from 1977 to 2000 — with the exception of the 1996-1997 TV season when it ranked #11.
– It ranked in the Nielsen Top 20 in 1977, 1997, 2000-2002, 2003-2005, 2008-present.
– It has ranked in the Nielsen Top 25 since 1977 — with the exception of the 2006-2007 TV season when it ranked #26.
– Having aired on Sunday nights at 7pm since 1975, it holds the record for the longest length of time a prime-time program has aired in the same time slot. Prior to its current long-standing time slot, 60 Minutes aired in two other time slots — Tuesdays at 10pm from 1968-1971 and then on Sundays at 6pm from 1971-1975 (this is not prime-time as we know it today as this time slot is typically taken up by sports or local programming, but during that time the Prime Time Access Rule was in effect).
– It is the longest consistently running prime-time program in television history (Hallmark Hall of Fame and the Walt Disney anthology series have run longer at a respective 65 years and 62 years, but not as regularly-scheduled series).
– It is currently the second longest running program on television behind Meet the Press — which has been on the air since 1947, but primarily on Sunday mornings.
– It launched a comparatively short-lived prime-time spinoff called 60 Minutes II (later 60 Minutes Wednesday) that aired for 6 1/2 seasons from 1999-2005.
– With a median age of 63 for its current slate of hosts (Steve Kroft, Lara Logan, Scott Pelley, Lesley Stahl and Bill Whitaker), it defies the illogic that young and pretty is what sells on television.
Now in its FORTY-NINTH television season, 60 Minutes is averaging 12.82 million L+SD viewers through 1/15/16 — nearly flat with last season-to-date and currently 3rd in the Nielsen rankings in L+SD viewership behind fellow CBS programs NCIS and The Big Bang Theory (4th if you include NBC’s Sunday Night Football).
The success and longevity of 60 Minutes is remarkable in the annals of TV history. It has weathered repeated shifts in programming trends, viewing habits and the arrival of basic cable, premium cable and now internet streaming with a level of consistency that is unheard of — especially today when so many other programs are doing whatever they can to grasp at any extra eyeballs.
And there’s no end in sight for one of the most venerable programs in television history — the likes of which we will never see again.