Coronavirus update: ABC shifts “Nightline” an hour earlier (updated)

A blast from the past: A 1988 screenshot of ABC News’ “Nightline”, which is back in its old time slot, at least in the interim.

WGN, ESPN puts sports shows on hiatus

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated. 

When Nexstar CEO Perry Sook a few weeks ago said local stations would benefit from people being at home due to the coronavirus outbreak, many mocked him.

Turns out he could be right.

As restaurants, bars, and other places where people gather are increasingly being shut down, the public is forced to rely on television and online viewing to entertain themselves. But even that’s becoming stretched thin as talk shows and live sporting events are becoming very scarce.

The first major scheduling change in the coronavirus era was announced this weekend, when ABC’s Nightline – a forgotten news magazine shifted back an hour years ago to make room for Jimmy Kimmel Live, is now returning to its post-late local news slot (10:35 p.m. CT/11:35 p.m. ET) where it gained prominence in the 1980s and 1990s anchored by Ted Koppel. Nightline began in 1980 as a nightly wrap-up of the Iranian hostage crisis.

The move came as Kimmel and other late-night talk shows are out of production due to the coronavirus outbreak. ABC is also replacing the out-of-production GMA3 for the time being with a daily update on the coronavirus crisis.

Across town meanwhile, Nexstar-owned WGN-TV is putting its newly-launched GN Sports show on hiatus and replacing it with a daily half-hour show on the coronavirus epidemic, as a station promo attested to last weekend. WGN News Special Report: COVID-19, is anchored by medical reporter Dina Bair and provides updates on the day’s news regarding the epidemic and how the deadly virus is affecting those in the Chicago area.

The lack of sports to talk about has also forced ESPN to shut down its talk show strips Pardon The interruption, Highly Questionable, and High Noon, who apparently had its last show air as the series was canceled a few weeks ago and was scheduled to go off the air later this month. FS1 and NBCSN have also halted studio shows.

NBC’s owned stations announced a news expansion on Tuesday, with Chicago’s WMAQ adding a 6:30 p.m. newscast, putting them back in the news business in the vital prime access time slot for the first time since 1991. Other NBC-owned stations – including WNBC/New York and KNBC/Los Angeles are also expanding their late news an hour, but WMAQ isn’t one of them. The temporary newscast replaces Access: Hollywood here and at KXAS/Dallas, who is also launching a 6:30 p.m. newscast.

The latest programs to go out of production due to the coronavirus epidemic are CBS’ The Talk and NBC’s Saturday Night Live, as reported Monday. Meanwhile, AMC and Regal theater chains have closed indefinitely.

With very little to talk about in media other than the coronavirus outbreak, the blogsite is being updated only sporadically from this point forward as everything is grinding to a halt.  You can follow the blog on Twitter @tdogmedia for the latest updates.

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