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50 longest-running TV series

  • #20. Days of Our Lives

    - Total length: 54 years
    - Network: NBC
    - First broadcast: Nov. 8, 1965
    - Final broadcast: Ongoing

    American soap opera fans have been following the lives of the residents of Salem since 1965. One of the longest-running scripted programs in the world, “Days of Our Lives”—or “Days” as its viewers lovingly call it—features all the romance, plotting, and scheming soap opera lovers expect from the genre, but it also gained a reputation, particularly in its early years, for its almost subversive storylines, including story arcs featuring topics like interracial romance and infertility.

  • #19. As the World Turns

    - Total length: 54 years
    - Network: CBS
    - First broadcast: April 2, 1956
    - Final broadcast: Sept. 17, 2010

    Created as a companion for “Guiding Light,” “As the World Turns” was meant to be a slow, contemplative, and character-focused story. The program featured several characters representing different legal and medical professions. It has the third-longest continuous run of any soap opera and was canceled in 2009 due to low ratings.

  • #18. The Wonderful World of Disney

    - Total length: 54 years
    - Networks: ABC, NBC, CBS, Disney Channel
    - First broadcast: Oct. 27, 1954
    - Final broadcast: Dec. 24, 2008

    “The Wonderful World of Disney” presented numerous Disney theatrical releases on network and cable television and often hosted network premieres of popular films (including “Toy Story”). Upon its second run on ABC, the program began running film from other studios, such as the “Harry Potter” films. Despite the series' end, “The Wonderful World of Disney” title has returned infrequently for special presentations of films like “Frozen.”

  • #17. NASCAR on ABC

    - Total length: 55 years
    - Network: ABC
    - First broadcast: Feb. 26, 1961
    - Final broadcast: Oct. 11, 2014

    Initially, NASCAR's business and broadcast involvement with ABC began with presentations through the “Wide World of Sports” program. Beginning in 1981, ESPN would also air NASCAR races until 2002, later starting up again in 2007. The deal between ESPN and NASCAR ended in 2014, ending an almost 50-year run across ABC and ESPN.

  • #16. General Hospital

    - Total length: 57 years
    - Network: ABC
    - First broadcast: April 1, 1963
    - Final broadcast: Ongoing

    “General Hospital” has the distinction of being the longest-running dramatic series and soap opera that is still in production to this day. The series takes place in what used to be an unnamed town, now known as Port Charles. For most of the series' run, “General Hospital” has focused on the Quartermaine and Spencer families.

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  • #15. Guiding Light

    - Total length: 57 years
    - Network: CBS
    - First broadcast: June 30, 1952
    - Final broadcast: Sept. 18, 2009

    Holding the record as the longest-running drama and daytime television show of all time, “Guiding Light” leaves a long legacy that began on radio in 1937. The program cycled through various writers, characters, and storylines through the many decades (Agnes Nixon, the creator of various other soap operas such as “All My Children,” is one notable name). The show reached its eventual end in 2009 due to declining ratings.

  • #14. Professional Bowlers Tour

    - Total length: 58 years
    - Networks: ABC, CBS, Fox Sports Net, ESPN
    - First broadcast: Jan. 27, 1962
    - Final broadcast: Ongoing

    It may not have the name recognition of “Wide World of Sports,” but the “Professional Bowlers Tour” still had a long presence on the same ABC television network. Now on ESPN, the program airs matches from the Professional Bowlers Association.

  • #13. It's Academic

    - Total length: 58 years
    - Networks: WRC-TV, WJZ-TV, WVIR-TV
    - First broadcast: Oct. 7, 1961
    - Final broadcast: Ongoing

    While classified as a game show, “It's Academic” is based more on local academic competitions. This long-running quiz show is only broadcast in Baltimore, Charlottesville, and Washington D.C., and features quiz competitions for high school students around the country. The program has spun off in other U.S. cities and even internationally.

  • #12. NFL on CBS

    - Total length: 59 years
    - Network: CBS
    - First broadcast: Sept. 30, 1956
    - Final broadcast: Ongoing

    CBS began airing NFL games in 1956, even before the AFL-NFL merger. Factors such as competition from the then-relatively new Fox network led to a period from 1994 to 1997 where CBS was left without football games, leaving the network scrambling for replacement programming.

  • #11. The Open Mind

    - Total length: 63 years
    - Network: Syndicated
    - First broadcast: May 1956
    - Final broadcast: Ongoing

    “The Open Mind” is the longest-running public access program on television, with the goal of serving as a “thoughtful excursion into the world of ideas.” Created by Richard Heffner, the show has attempted to provide insights into politics, science, technology, and the arts. After Heffner's death in 2013, his grandson Alexander Heffner took over hosting duties.

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