60 Minutes is the longest running and most iconic prime-time news program in television history. Since first airing in 1968, the show has provided viewers with hard-hitting, investigative journalism and stories of national interest on a near-regular basis for nearly five decades. Read on to learn more about 60 Minutes, and keep an eye out for part two of our list, coming soon.
Number Fifteen: The Program Has Been in the Same Time Slot for 40 Years
After bouncing around time slots for a while, mostly due to FCC programming regulations, CBS scheduled 60 Minutes for 7 p.m. on Sunday nights starting in 1975. With the exception of sports presentations going over time, it remains in this time slot to this day, making it the longest-running prime-time show in history.
Number Fourteen: It Floundered at First, but Now Has the Highest Ratings of Any Prime-Time Show Ever
News programs were never seen as a big draw during prime-time hours when 60 Minutes first began. For its first three years, CBS wasn’t confident that the program could pull in the ratings it needed. However, after the program’s move to Sunday nights and the addition of popular CBS News reporter Dan Rather, it’s ratings steadily improved. In 1976, 60 Minutes was the top-watched show on Sunday nights and in 1979, the program became number one against all other programs.
Number Thirteen: It Has Had a Number of Unsuccessful Spin-Offs
Over the program’s history, CBS tried to maximize their profits from the show by creating several “spin-offs.” Between 1978 and 1982, there was a children’s version of the program called 30 Minutes. In 1996, they decided to update old stories with 60 Minutes More, but the series only lasted one season. When 60 Minutes II premiered in 1999, it had moderate success, but the station kept changing its title and time slot, with it eventually going off the air in 2005 (with its original title) due to poor ratings. There are currently two spin-offs still running: 60 Minutes on CNBC, which focuses more on business stories and never-before-seen footage, and 60 Minutes Sports, which airs on the premium channel Showtime.
Number Twelve: The ‘Point/Counterpoint’ Segment Has Been Parodied Many Times
“Point/Counterpoint” was originally a debate segment between conservative commentator James J. Kilpatrick and liberal commentator Nicholas von Hoffman (later Shana Alexander after von Hoffman left the show). The segment has been parodied many times, most famously by Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtain on Saturday Night Live and the movies Airplane! and Kentucky Fried Movie. 60 Minutes parodied it themselves a bit when they brought the segment back for a month with Bill Clinton and Bob Dole.
Number Eleven: The Program Does Not Have a Theme Song.
It remains the only prime-time show that does not have theme music associated with it. Instead, it has the sound of a ticking stopwatch counting down the minutes of the show.
Number Ten: 60 Minutes Used to Go on Hiatus During Football Season
Due to the infamous “Heidi Bowl” incident in 1968, networks were not allowed to interrupt sports telecasts. For this reason, 60 Minutes went on hiatus in the fall from 1972 through 1975, as well as the summer of 1972.
Number Nine: The Radio Version Never Gets Interrupted
One of the only things that can interrupt 60 Minutes is televised sports. If a football game goes overtime, 60 Minutes gets pushed back that amount of time before it airs in its entirety. However, there is no such rule for radio broadcasts, so the program continues on at 7 PM on the dot on CBS Radio’s stations. Check back for part two of our list of 15 interesting facts about 60 Minutes, coming soon.