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Network Sign Off

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"It's almost unthinkable in this day and age but, back in the day, TV used to go bed at the same time as its viewers."

A Forgotten Trope that was largely killed off by the rise of 24-hour television.* Once a TV channel reached the end of its scheduled programming for the day, it wouldn't just cut to black. If you had the TV on at say, half past midnight, you might have seen some of the following:

  • A Continuity Announcement telling you the time, often with an onscreen clock. This might also include details of local radio stations still on the air through the night, a brief update on the news and weather and/or a rundown of programmes scheduled for the next day.
  • A Sermonette delivered by a clergyperson.
  • A couple of Public Service Announcements running back-to-back to fill up a spare minute or two of dead air.
  • A reminder to switch off your TV set.
  • The national anthem playing over some stock footage of the country or a stock photo. Some more editorially adventurous stations played pop music instead. Even though these were shown late at night, in no way was the audio subdued or quiet - many a person sleeping on the couch was probably awoken with a start by their country’s anthem blasting out of their television’s speakers in all its patriotic glory.
  • Rather than leaving viewers with a completely blank screen, the network might display a test pattern for part of the dead air, or completely overnight. In the case of the BBC, this is often where they’d play the iconic Test Card F; in the US, the SMPTE Color Bars were typically used.
  • Infomercials in which a near-forgotten TV actor hawks a miracle vegetable slicer or wondrous hearing aid, all for only a few easy payments...
  • Public-Access TV might air programming here, or the broadcast feed may be switched to a 24-hour or evening-only channel until the morning sign-on.
  • If you were watching a channel for young children, chances are they'd show the channel's mascots or characters from their TV shows going to bed.

The less remarked-upon inverse of this trope is the "start-up", which would typically include things like the channel ident, some spritely instrumental music and details about the day's upcoming programmes.

When television networks made the switch from analogue to digital during the 2010s, some of them marked the occasion by reviving their old closedown sequences. For examples in that context, see Network Finale, which can be seen as this trope's more permanent counterpart.


Broadcast TV Channels
  • The BBC
    • Prior to 1997, BBC One would close down with the clock, before showing the channel's globe ident with the National Anthem "God Save the Queen" playing. From 1997 onwards, the channel now hands over to the 24/7 BBC News channel, usually just rushing to cut to the channel, joining in the middle of the headlines.
    • BBC Two also does the same thing with their clock before showing one of their idents. The national anthem is usually averted here.
      • Unlike BBC One, BBC Two still does regular closedowns, however the clock is no longer shown, and the channel now cuts into a preview loop named "This is BBC Two", which shows highlights of programmes on the channel.
    • BBC Three and Four timeshare with CBBC and CBeebies (more below), thus they have to close in the middle of the night so those channels could start up again.
    • CBeebies, the BBC's preschool channel, signs off at 6:58 PM, as the channel timeshares with BBC Four. The channel usually closes down with a bedtime story, before playing "The Time Has Come to Say Goodnight", their goodnight song accompanied by a montage of the channel's characters sleeping. After they show a screen saying that they'll be back at 6am, and the channel hands over to BBC Four.
    • Likewise, the CBBC channel closes at the same time. Prior to 2016, the channel would close with the hosts telling people to go to the CBBC website or BBC iPlayer for more entertainment. After a closedown ident, the channel would hand over to BBC Three.
      • However, when BBC Three moved online, CBBC's broadcast hours extended to end at 9pm. Because of this, post 9pm, a slide saying "we're resting" would loop throughout the night. Averted when BBC Three was revived, as the channel ended its broadcast day at 7pm again.
    • BBC Alba, a Gaelic channel, ends its broadcast day with a screen telling people that the channel will return at 5pm.note 
  • ITV
    • Central TV (pictured above) ended their broadcast day with a video of an animated village turning off their house lights, before the Central logo entered the night sky.
    • LWT would often close down with an in-vision Continuity Announcement from a studio showing the LWT Tower at night as a backdrop.
    • HTV Wales continuity announcers would often close down switching back and forth between English and Welsh. The Welsh national anthem, "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" ("Land of My Fathers") was played instead of "God Save the Queen."
    • ITV channels nowadays no longer closedown at nightnote , instead they usually play a programme named "Unwind with ITV", a show which is nothing but videos of a calming atmosphere, typically made to get you ready for bed. Prior to this, the ITV Nightscreen would be shown, which gave viewers a look into the next day's programmes. The Nightscreen ended in October 2020.
  • Inverted with YTV, which would start up the day with a splice of the English and French versions the Canadian national anthem, "O' Canada", playing over slow-mo footage of happy people in a park sandwiched between shots of a waving Canada flag at the beginning and end.
  • [adult swim] (which timeshares with Cartoon Network) ends their broadcasts with a traditional announcement of their broadcast being concluded every morning as Cartoon Network resumes. They have changed it up a bit over the years, including the national anthem over random footage for a while.
    • Cartoon Network's sign-offs on the other hand are much more subdued, typically consisting of just a brief "good night" bumper before cutting to Adult Swim's content warning.
  • When Noggin was refreshed into a preschool channel, it would close at 6pm before The N would begin. When the channel would shutter in 2002, it would show a reprise of the channel's former anthem, sung by Feetface.
    • In 2003 when Moose and Zee took over, this was replaced by "Done Day", a reprise of the channel's start-up song "Fantastic Day". In 2005, this was replaced by a short video where Moose announces that the day is nearly over, and that it's time to say goodnight. This version has two endings, one where Moose asks the viewer to "see what that cat's up to", and another where Moose advertises the Noggin website. This was gone by 2006 and Done Day returned until Noggin became 24/7.
  • In 2012, the Nick Jr. channel introduced the infamous "NickMom" block. Prior to it starting, they would show a "goodnight poem" before the block began. When NickMom ended for the night, they would show a "Night Mom" bumper, and Nick Jr. would begin again.
  • USSR Television in the late 1970s and early 1980s used this clip, a rendition of the Soviet National Anthem performed over a montage of patriotic imagery, industry, military, agricultural, and parade scenes.
  • The French network TF1 used these signs until 1992. In 1979, the sign off was a Softer and Slower Cover of the opening credits.
  • The second French network, France 2 (formerly Antenne 2) used those until the early 90's as well. The most memorable, used between 1975 and 1983, looked surrealist, with animated men flying while flapping their arms. They watched a giant "2" disappearing at the horizon like a sunset when programs closed. The programs opening looked identical, but in reverse. The music sounded terribly melancholic, and it appeared even harsher when the composer revealed in 2002 that the song was named "Emmanuel", in Homage of his son who died at 5.
  • French free-to-air channel La Sept usually signs off by shrinking its signature trapezoid into the corner of the screen until September 1993 when they rebranded to Sept-Arte.
  • The BBC
    • Radio 4 still ritually closes down before handing over to the World Service, with "Sailing By", the Shipping Forecast and the national anthem.

In-Universe Examples

Films — Animated
  • In The Brave Little Toaster, while the appliances rest for the night, Radio is playing the National Anthem and then ends with:
    "And that concludes our broadcast day. This is Lowell Winchell signing off. Good night, America and all the ships at sea." [static]
  • Toy Story 2: After Buzz gives a speech about not giving up on getting Woody back to Andy's room, the American flag (or globe in international versions) in the background match cuts to a black-and-white screen on Al's TV saying "And that concludes our broadcast day." before showing static.
Films — Live-Action
  • Back to the Future Part III: Inverted with Doc waking up when the TV starts broadcasting for the day with Howdy Doody.
  • Coming Home: After Sally and Vi see Bob and Bill off when they leave for their tour in Vietnam, they head to Vi's place. When Sally turns the TV on, it's playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" over some of the Stock Footage as part of a sign-off sequence.
  • Creep Show: The TV set was left on while Jordy was sleeping. The channel was signed off which woke him up. The Jordy sees the living room and himself covered in alien plant life.
  • Poltergeist (1982): The opening scene of the movie shows a random channel on TV playing "The Star Spangled Banner" as it closes down.
Live-Action TV
  • The Fast Show: To close out an evening of Fast-Show-themed programming on The BBC, we see Ted and Ralph in a studio where Ralph awkwardly starts singing "God Save the Queen", including visibly counting out the ascending chords in the middle.
  • Spitting Image: One episode shows a Soviet television network closing down by having one of the techies hold up black card in front of the camera and making a whistling sound to simulate the high-pitched noise of an old CRT television being switched off.
  • The Young Ones: In "Boring", the house residents decide to watch TV to alleviate their boredom, only to find the channels are already closing down. While Rick complains about this, the Beefeater onscreen says "Go to bed, spotty".
Web Video
  • Oddity Archive: The third episode "TV Sign Offs" is dedicated to this subject. Towards the end, it features a recreation of a network sign-off the for the fictional KLAK-13 network.
    • The episode "The Death Of Analog TV" dedicates a segment to the American TV stations that commemorated the end of their analog signals by reviving old sign-off tapes.
Western Animation