Nightline was the first late-night news program on network television. "We find that 40% of the audience never stayed up before to watch television," host Ted Koppel recounted. "We’re bringing people to the set at 11:30 who didn't find the need to watch Johnny Carson, movies and old reruns."

Initially broadcast in November 1979 as a late-night news special, the program was watched at the time by some 8 million viewers. "The ratings," Ted pointed out, "showed us the appetite viewers had for a regular, late-night, network newscast."

On local stations, the Australian-made soap opera, Prisoner: Cell Block H premiered as another late-night program alternative to the networks' late-night offerings.

"I don’t think people are suddenly interested in more news, but news programs are inexpensive to produce and fairly profitable," Ted conceded. "When Nightline was put on the air no one thought it would be successful."

Of its success, Ted revealed, "You take an event that the public-at-large knows very little about and you do an 'Up Close and Personal.'"

However Ted stressed, "Are we immune from ratings? No."

"Am I," he continued, "enough of a pragmatist or realist to know that no network can keep a program going if it doesn’t have at least a minimal following? The answer is yes."

He also acknowledged, "I agree that the Presidential Election has become a television event." But Ted maintained, "Television didn't create the event, though it has become a partner to it."

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