Will CBS & ABC Say Goodbye to Primetime’s Third Hour?

'Blue Bloods' star Tom Selleck
John Paul Filo/CBS

Ahead of fall premieres, the possibility of NBC eliminating its third hour of primetime programming was introduced, and it seems like ABC and CBS could be the next to follow suit.

According to Deadline, Hearst Television chief Jordan Wertleib said, “I expect they will, and I hope they will,” during a panel discussion featuring local station chiefs at NAB Show New York. Among the panelists was NBCUniversal’s Valari Staab as talk about NBC’s handing over of the third hour to syndicated television continues.

'The Good Doctor's Richard Schiff and Freddie Highmore

(Credit: ABC/Art Streiber)

As ratings decline amid the rise of streaming services, networks are seeking to maintain their hold by improving the two-hour block and forgoing a third. Without a third hour, fewer resources would be spent on the expense of programming and promoting, allowing networks to focus their spending on a more concise schedule block.

“Take those resources and invest it in a really strong 8 to 10 block and the entire ecosystem improves,” Wertleib said of the concept. While no official changes have been announced by any of the networks, Staab added, “it will definitely look probably different than a traditional newscast, but it’s a huge opportunity for us across the board.”

While other stations are looking to add more news, lifestyle programming, gameshow, or sports, the elimination of the third hour could be the problem-solving solution. Sinclair Broadcast Group CEO Chris Ripley shared during the panel, “streaming has gutted the general entertainment and cable networks. Literally gutted them. When you take a look at that, the core strength of the pay-TV bundle is live, day-and-date content, which is the strength of broadcast. Within the ecosystem, I think broadcast TV will continue to do quite well.”

In other words, keeping the same practices but limiting primetime airing will be beneficial in the long run, but will NBC, CBS, and ABC officially adopt this approach? Stay tuned to find out.