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Late night television is one of the dayparts in television broadcast programming. It follows prime time and precedes the overnight television programming graveyard slot. The slot generally runs from about 11:30 PM to 2:00 AM local time, with variations according to the time zone and broadcaster.
In the United States and Canada, the term is synonymous with the late-night talk show, a type of comedic talk and variety show. Thus, the late night programming block is considered more important in North America. On most major-network stations, a late local newscast airs at the beginning of the block. (This is nearly universal in Canada, as late local news is an easy way to fulfill Canadian content requirements.)
Due to the complications of American and Canadian time zones, live professional sporting matches such as baseball, hockey and basketball played in Pacific Time Zone cities are often played in the primetime of the Pacific Time Zone, but late night in the Central and Eastern time zones, and their lateness often contributes to a perceived bias for eastern teams in sports media.
In the United Kingdom, the late night spot is from 11:00 PM to 12:30 AM and not seen as a priority; ITV and Channel 4 program repeats in the time slot, and the BBC's channels primarily show BBC World News, air movies or replay documentaries. Similarly, Australian television primarily airs American late shows, lower-priority imported series or overflows of sports programming in the late night time slot.
On cable television, programming strategies in this time slot include timeshifts of prime time programs and, in the case of children's television channels, signing-off and allowing more adult-oriented fare for the overnight hours under another brand. An example is the children's channel Nickelodeon, which changes over to Nick at Nite at an hour when most pre-adolescent children go to sleep. Nick at Nite typically airs series programming, such as reruns of sitcoms, that may have coarser language and more adult themes.
After 11, Japan airs adult talk or variety shows as well as late night anime. This is also true of the United States-based cable channel Cartoon Network, which targets children and young teens during daytime and primetime hours, but changes over to its Adult Swim brand in late-night slots.
11:00 PM – 2:00 AM
Overnight graveyard slot