CBS "inherited Sunday afternoon NFL contests from the defunct DuMont network in the fall of 1956". Accordingly, "the expansion into Sunday sports by CBS (and NBC) meant that the traditional afternoon 'egghead' slots for highbrow programming had to be broken up, pushing those shows into the few odd spots still open in the day, or eliminating them completely. This reflected the networks' shift in emphasis during the mid-1950s, slanting television much more toward broad-based popular entertainment. Increasingly, this meant television programming produced in Hollywood [...] In 1957, the amount of prime time programming originating on the West Coast jumped from 40% to 71%."
NBC, behind CBS in the network Nielsen ratings, hired Robert Kintner to revamp NBC's schedule. According to Castleman and Podrazik (1982), NBC's plan was to launch a program which would compete directly with CBS's second most popular series, The Ed Sullivan Show, on Sunday, the most heavily-viewed TV night: "Sullivan's show was popular enough to boost the ratings of the programs on both before and after his; as a result, CBS had a chain of hits to begin the evening." NBC's strategy was designed to weaken CBS's Sunday night line-up. NBC's new program, The Steve Allen Show, debuted in the summer to get a head start on the competition. Although the two programs enjoyed a fierce rivalry, Sullivan's program would remain wildly popular, finishing second among all TV programs in the ratings that year, while Allen's show missed the top 30.
New fall series are highlighted in bold, while shows ending their runs are highlighted in italics.
The highest-rated show for the year is highlighted in lime. The top ten rated programs are highlighted in yellow. The top 20 rated programs are highlighted in cyan. The top 30 rated programs are highlighted in magenta.. Each of the 30 highest-rated shows is listed with its (rank/rating) as determined by Nielsen Media Research.
↑ 1.01.1Castleman, H. and Podrazik, W. (1984) The TV Schedule Book: Four Decades of Network Programming from Sign-on to Sign-off. McGraw-Hill. pg 79-85. ISBN 0-07-010277-5
↑Castleman, Harry; Walter J. Podrazik (1982). Watching TV: Four Decades of American Television. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 109–115. ISBN0-07-010269-4.
↑Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine. p 1681. ISBN 0-345-31864-1.
↑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.