The 1953–54 United States network television schedule began in September of 1953 and ended in the spring of 1954.
Despite hit filmed programs such as I Love Lucy, both William Paley of CBS and David Sarnoff of NBC were said to be determined to keep most programming on their networks live. Filmed programs were said to be inferior to the spontaneous nature of live television. Thus, NBC and CBS continued to schedule many live programs, including two new 1953 fall NBC series The Dave Garroway Show and Bonino. According to Brooks and Marsh (2007), Garroway's show "was faced with overwhelming competition from Mama and Ozzie & Harriet, which were running opposite on CBS and ABC, and it only lasted a single season".Bonino did not even last the full season. CBS had more luck with new live programs Person to Person and My Favorite Husband (which would later make the switch to film).
ABC, perennially in third or fourth place among the four U.S. television networks, had been on the verge of bankruptcy, but the February 1953 merger of United Paramount Theaters with ABC had given ABC a $30 million cash infusion. ABC revamped its schedule for Fall 1953 with big-budget programs. New ABC programs included Make Room for Daddy, and an ABC version of NBC's popular Kraft Television Theatre; the strategy was designed to "take on CBS and NBC with a strong schedule".
In contrast to ABC's revamped schedule, DuMont's Fall 1953 prime time schedule looked weak, with programs that were "doomed from the start by third-rate scripts and cheap production." The 1953–1954 season would be the last year DuMont was able to schedule nearly 20 hours of programming in prime time. By the 1954–1955 season, DuMont would be forced to cut back its schedule, while the other three networks continued to expand.
During the 1953 season, both DuMont and ABC "made sporadic efforts to compete for the daytime audience, but faced so many problems just filling prime time that they found it much more efficient to focus primarily on weekend sports". DuMont paid $1.3 million in 1953 for the rights to broadcast National Football League games in prime time; starting December 12, DuMont also broadcast a series of NBA basketball games, the first time pro basketball was seen regularly on network TV. Both DuMont and ABC "were especially aggressive in pursuit of sports broadcasts because they were desperately in need of special attractions to bring in viewers".
New fall series are highlighted in bold. The highest-rated show for the year is colored in gold, the second-highest appears in silver, and the third-highest in bronze. (Actually, there were two shows tied for third; hence, the two bronze colors.) Each of the 30 highest-rated shows is listed with its (rank/rating) as determined by Nielsen Media Research.
On CBS, The Jack Benny Program alternated with Private Secretary every third week. As of February 14, 1954, Letter to Loretta on NBC became The Loretta Young Show.
On April 18, 1954, The Martha Wright Show replaced The Jane Pickens Show, starring vocalist Jane Pickens Langley, at the 9:15 p.m. time slot on Sundays on ABC. Pickens had previously replaced The Orchid Award.
7:00 The Walter Winchell Show / 7:15 John Daly and the News
Of Many Things
Junior Press Conference
The Big Picture
This Is the Life
7:30 Douglas Edwards with the News / 7:45 The Perry Como Show
↑Boddy, William (1993). Fifties Television: The Industry And Its Critics. Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-06299-X
↑ 2.02.1Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine. pp 517–518, 1576-1577. ISBN 0-345-31864-1.
↑ 3.03.13.2Castleman, H. and Podrazik, W. (1984) The TV Schedule Book: Four Decades of Network Programming from Sign-on to Sign-off. McGraw-Hill. pg 45-46. ISBN 0-07-010277-5
↑Castleman, Harry; Walter J. Podrazik (1982). Watching TV: Four Decades of American Television. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 87. ISBN0-07-010269-4.
↑Highest-rated series is based on the annual top-rated programs list compiled by Nielsen Media Research and reported in: Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.