Friday night death slot
The "Friday night death slot" or "Friday evening death slot" is a perceived graveyard slot in American television. It implies that a television program in the United States scheduled on Friday evenings (typically, between 8:00 and 11:00 p.m. ET) is likely to be canceled.
The term possibly began as a reflection of certain programs' dominance of Friday night in the 1980s and 1990s, which resulted in decreased ratings for those scheduled opposite their competitors. Today, it reflects the belief that young, single Americans rarely watch television on Friday or Saturday nights, thereby removing from the household the most lucrative demographic for advertisers.
Programs affected by the "death slot"
TGIF was a successful block for ABC, which ran from 1989 to 2000 (although the network had been running a sitcom block on Fridays beginning in 1987); it focused primarily on family-friendly sitcoms. The network had also had success with a block featuring The Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch in the same time slots during the early 1970s. Following the slow collapse of TGIF in the late 1990s, Friday night has fallen into a lower priority for the network. The following are examples of ABC network shows that started on Friday nights and lasted a few episodes, or were moved to Friday nights, lost the battle for television ratings, and were eventually canceled:
|Years aired||Series||Seasons lasted before cancellation|
|1960–1966||The Flintstones||Sixth and final season. The first three seasons aired in the same time slot to much greater success before moving to Thursdays, then back to Fridays at the end of its run.|
|1966–1969||The Felony Squad||Third and final season.|
|1973–1974||Adam's Rib||First and only season|
|1981–1982||Darkroom||First and only season|
|1982||The Phoenix||First and only season|
|1984||Masquerade||Cancelled midway through its first and only season.|
|1986||Sidekicks||First and only season|
|1998–1999||Two of a Kind||First and only season|
|1998–2001||Two Guys and a Girl||Fourth and final season.|
|1999–2000||Odd Man Out||First and only season.|
|1999–2001||The Norm Show||Third and final season (2001). Although initially subject to stellar ratings, the second season saw ratings fluctuate due to timeslot changes.|
|1999–2002||Once and Again||Third and final season|
|2002–2005||8 Simple Rules||Third and final season. The series moved to this timeslot when ratings declined following the death of star John Ritter early in the previous season.|
|2002–2004||Life with Bonnie||Second and final season|
|2004–2005||Complete Savages||First and only season|
|2005||Hot Properties||First and only season|
|2006–2010||Ugly Betty||Fourth and final season (2009). The series moved to this timeslot due to disappointing ratings during season three in its previous Thursday timeslot. It moved to Wednesday nights partway through the season.|
|2006||In Justice||First and only season|
|2007–2008||Women's Murder Club||First and only season; remaining three episodes aired on Tuesday nights during the May 2008 sweeps period.|
|Duel||Last 10 episodes of the show's run, which served as a replacement program due to the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike (the program was renewed as a weekly series after initially airing six episodes over the course of a single week in December 2007, but was cancelled after five episodes were aired under this format due to extremely low ratings). The remaining five episodes were aired during the summer.|
|2009||Surviving Suburbia||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season.|
|2009||The Goode Family||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season.|
|2011–2013||Happy Endings||Third and final season. The final 10 episodes of the series moved to this timeslot in March 2013, due to disappointing ratings on Tuesdays when it was paired with Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, having previously lost Modern Family as its season two lead-in.|
|2011–2018||Once Upon a Time||Seventh and final season.|
|2012–2013||Malibu Country||First and only season.|
|2012–2014||The Neighbors||Second and final season. Although its lead-in, Last Man Standing, was renewed for its fourth season.|
|2014–2015||Cristela||First and only season.|
|2015–2018||Quantico||Moved to Friday midway through its third and final season.|
|2016–2019||Speechless||Third and final season.|
Perhaps the network which has received the most attention and has become the most well known for the "Friday Night Death Slot" has been Fox.
The following are all examples of Fox shows that either started on Friday nights and lasted only a few episodes, or were moved to Friday nights, suffered from dismal ratings, and were eventually canceled.
|Years aired||Series||Seasons lasted before cancellation|
|1993–1994||The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.||First and only season. Music from the show was later utilized for coverage of the Olympic Games.|
|1999–2000||Harsh Realm||First and only season.|
|2000||FreakyLinks||Cancelled midway through its first and only season.|
|2000–2002||Dark Angel||Second and final season.|
|2000–2004||Boston Public||Moved to Friday at the beginning of its fourth and final season. Two episodes remained unaired until they were broadcast in off-network syndication in 2005.|
|2001–2006||The Bernie Mac Show||Fifth and final season.|
|2002–2003||Firefly||Canceled during its first and only season, leaving three of its fourteen episodes unaired.|
|2002–2003||Fastlane||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season.|
|2003||Wanda at Large||Second and final season.|
|2003||Luis||Cancelled during its first and only season, airing only 5 of its 10 episodes in the U.S.|
|2005–2009||Prison Break||Moved to Friday midway through its fourth season. Revived in 2017 for a fifth season in a non-Friday slot.|
|2006||Vanished||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season.|
|2006||Justice||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season.|
|2006–2007||Standoff||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season.|
|2007||The Wedding Bells|
|2008||The Return of Jezebel James|
|2008||Canterbury's Law||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season|
|2007–2009||Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?||Third season, last one to air on Fox. The fourth and fifth seasons were broadcast on MyNetworkTV and syndication outlets with a different format starting in September 2009; the show was cancelled following its second season in syndication. The show was later revived by Fox and Nickelodeon on two different occasions.|
|2007–2009||Don't Forget the Lyrics||Third season, last one to air on Fox. The show was revived for MyNetworkTV and syndication outlets with a new format in 2010, but the syndicated version was cancelled after only one season.|
|2008–2009||Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles||Moved to Friday midway through its second and final season.|
|2009||'Til Death||Received a fourth season order primarily to gain enough episodes for syndication, and was moved to Fridays for the early part of the season.|
|2010||The Good Guys||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season.|
|2010–2014||Raising Hope||Fourth and final season|
|2012||The Finder||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season.|
|2012–2013||Touch||Second and final season.|
|2013–2017||Sleepy Hollow||Fourth and final season.|
|2014||Rake||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season.|
|2014||Utopia||Moved to Fridays less than a month into its first and only season; canceled one month later after 12 episodes due to extremely low ratings.|
|2015–2017||Rosewood||Moved to Friday midway through its second and final season.|
|2016||Second Chance||Moved to Friday midway through its first and only season.|
|2018–2019||The Cool Kids||First and only season|
|2019||Proven Innocent||First and only season|
In January 2011, the sci-fi drama Fringe, then in its third season, was moved into this slot from Thursdays. According to Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly, nearly half of Fringe's viewership time shifts the show to watch at their convenience, and that "if it does anywhere near what it did on Thursdays, we can glue that show to the schedule because it can be a big win for us". The Fox network created a promotional advertisement for Fringe that lampooned its reputation of the Friday night death slot prior to Fringe's move. Despite encountering lower ratings after its move, Fringe was renewed for a fourth season, and later for a shortened final fifth season to allow the creators to complete the story arc they had set out at the start of the program as well as to reach 100 episodes, allowing the show to be resold in syndication. Critics praised Fox for taking the risk and profit lost on the show to satisfy the creators' desires and fans' requests to complete the show's primary story. The series finale aired on January 18, 2013.
After 20 years of unsuccessfully trying to find programming to fill the Friday night death slot, Fox gave up, leaving a one-hour empty hole on that night in the 9:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) hour for the 2013–14 schedule. Encores of Fox programming from the previous week originally aired in that timeslot. However, in November 2012, in the hopes of revitalizing Fox's Friday ratings, the sitcom Raising Hope moved from Tuesdays to Fridays for its fourth season, airing in the 9 p.m. half-hour; the freshman sitcom, Enlisted premiered in the 9:30 p.m. slot before both series swapped timeslots in late January. This "encore slot" was made a permanent part of the schedule for the 2014–15 season. Fox did not include such a slot in 2015–16, but the show chosen to fill the 9:00 p.m. time slot was the low-budget panel game World's Funniest Fails.
In October 2019, Fox will clear its Friday night time slots to make way for WWE SmackDown, which will air on the network until 2024.
The second season of Star Trek aired on Fridays from 8:30–9:30 p.m. (Eastern Time). Although NBC discussed plans to move it to a 7:30–8:30 p.m. slot on Mondays for mid-season, that never occurred. After fans deluged NBC with a mail-in protest, producer Gene Roddenberry stated that he was promised the same 8:30–9:30 time slot for Season 3, but airing on Monday instead of Friday. However, that would have meant Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In had to start a half-hour later (moving from 9:00 to 9:30). Laugh-In producer George Schlatter saw no reason why his show, which was a ratings smash at the time, had to yield its slot to the poorly rated Star Trek, and he made no secret of his displeasure. Star Trek instead remained on Fridays, moving to the even less desirable 10:00 p.m. timeslot. Lamented Roddenberry, "If the network wants to kill us, it couldn't make a better move."
The following are examples of NBC shows that started on Friday nights and lasted for a few episodes, or were moved to Friday nights, lost the battle for television ratings, and were eventually canceled:
|Years aired||Series||Seasons lasted before cancellation|
|1940–1968||The Bell Telephone Hour||Last season, after 28 years on air. Already one of the last highbrow Golden Age of Television shows on the air, this final season consisted mostly of documentaries and not the concert performances seen and heard in the 27 prior seasons. The series moved back to radio at the end of the season, airing only in reruns.|
|1965–1974||The Dean Martin Show||Ninth and final season. (Martin would continue hosting Man of the Week Celebrity Roasts for NBC irregularly for the next decade.)|
|1966-1969||Star Trek||Last season, after 2 years on air at 8:30pm timeslot, third and final season moved to the 10:00pm timeslot.|
|1974||Lotsa Luck||Moved to Friday midway through its only season.|
|1979-1980||Hello, Larry||First and part of the second season. Last 18 episodes were moved to Wednesdays in a failed attempt to boost ratings.|
|1980||Pink Lady||Moved to Friday after its first episode, canceled four weeks after the move with one episode unaired. Widely considered one of the worst TV shows of all time.|
|1981||Sanford||Second and final season. Its predecessor Sanford & Son had aired, with greater success, on Fridays throughout much of its run.|
|1982||Cassie & Company||First and only season.|
|1982–1986||Knight Rider||Fourth and final season.|
|1983||Manimal||First and only season.|
|1983–1987||The A-Team||Fifth and final season|
|1984–1986||Riptide||Third and final season|
|1984–1989||Highway to Heaven||Fifth and final season; last episodes burned off in summer 1989|
|1987–1993||A Different World||Moved to Friday midway through its sixth and final season|
|1987–1997||Unsolved Mysteries||Moved to Friday for its seventh season in the fall of 1994. The ninth season was the last one to air on NBC; the show moved to CBS for its tenth season in 1997, where it continued to air until its original run ended in 1999 after 11 seasons. Lifetime and Spike later revived the show on two different occasions.|
|1988–1991||Midnight Caller||Third and final season|
|1988–1992||Dear John||Fourth and final season|
|1999–2005||Third Watch||Moved from Mondays to Fridays starting with the fifth episode of its fifth season, and ended its run after its sixth season|
|2002–2003||Boomtown||Second and final season|
|2003||Miss Match||Cancelled during its first and only season, airing only 11 of its 18 episodes in the U.S.|
|2003||Mister Sterling||First and only season|
|2004–2005||Medical Investigation||First and only season|
|2005||Law & Order: Trial by Jury||First and only season|
|2006||The Book of Daniel||First and only season|
|2006||Conviction||First and only season|
|2006–2008||1 vs. 100||Second season; last one to air on NBC. The show would be revived for GSN with a half-hour format in 2010, but was ultimately canceled in late 2011.|
|2007–2012||Chuck||Fifth and final season|
|2008–2009||Lipstick Jungle||Second and final season|
|2010||Outlaw||First and only season|
|2011–2012||Rock Center with Brian Williams||Moved to Fridays (the fourth time slot for the series) partway through its second and final season.|
|2013–2014||Dracula||First and only season|
|2014–2016||Undateable||Third and final season|
|2014–2015||Constantine||First and only season|
|2015||Truth Be Told||First and only season|
|2018||Midnight, Texas||Second season|
CBS was the most successful network on Friday nights in the 1980s due to their hit shows Dallas and Falcon Crest, but both shows were struggling by the end of the decade and were cancelled in the early 1990s. In an effort to revive Friday night television in the 1990s, and to compete with ABC's successful TGIF block of family comedies airing opposite it, CBS first attempted to compete with ABC launching a comedy night in the fall of 1992 with The Golden Palace (a spin-off/continuation of NBC's The Golden Girls), Major Dad and Designing Women, along with a new sitcom from Bob Newhart, Bob. The Golden Girls had been a top-10 hit on Saturday nights for NBC (though it had fallen to 30th in its final season), while Major Dad and Designing Women had also been top-10 hits on Monday nights, and Newhart's previous sitcom, Newhart, had spent most of its run in the top 30. Nevertheless, this effort failed, and only Bob was renewed for the 1993–1994 season, only to end in December 1993. A later effort to counterprogram TGIF, the CBS Block Party (which included former TGIF series Family Matters and Step by Step, both of which were hits for several years while on ABC before both shows were canceled in 1997), met a similar fate in the fall of 1997.
In general, however, CBS has found ways, particularly in the years following the cancellation of the Block Party, to be at least somewhat more successful in the Friday night time slots than its broadcast competitors.
The following are all examples of CBS shows that either started on Friday nights and lasted a few episodes, or moved to Friday nights, lost the battle for television ratings, and were eventually cancelled:
|Years aired||Series||Seasons lasted before cancellation|
|1958-1959||The Phil Silvers Show||Fourth and final season.|
|1958–1960||The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour||Last thirteen episodes. An hourlong revival of I Love Lucy that aired sporadically as part of Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, dwindling ratings and the disintegrating marriage between Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz led to the show's end.|
|1970||Headmaster||Only season. Lasted 14 episodes.|
|1971||The New Andy Griffith Show||Only season. Last-minute replacement for Headmaster; lasted 10 episodes. One of many shows caught in the rural purge.|
|The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour||Third season. The program would be moved off Friday nights midway through the season, which contributed to a major spike in viewership. Moved back to Friday nights during its sixth and final season in 1977, when ratings again fell.|
|1975||Big Eddie||First and only season.|
|1977||Nashville 99||First and only season.|
|1986–1993||Designing Women||Seventh and final season.|
|1989–1993||Major Dad||Fourth and final season.|
|1990||Max Monroe: Loose Cannon||First and only season.|
|1990||The Bradys||First and only season. Dramatic sequel to The Brady Bunch, a sitcom that aired to more success in the 1970s on Fridays.|
|1992–1993||Bob||Second and final season.|
|1992–1993||The Golden Palace||First and only season; eighth and final season (only one on CBS) in the continuity of The Golden Girls storyline.|
|1993||The Building||First and only season.|
|1993–1997||Dave's World||Fourth and final season.|
|1994–1995||Under Suspicion||First and only season.|
|1995||Dweebs||First and only season.|
|1996–2000||Cosby||Moved to Friday midway through its fourth and final season.|
|1997–1998||Family Matters||Ninth and final season. Only season to air on CBS.|
|1997–1998||Step by Step||Seventh and final season. Only season to air on CBS after declining ratings in seasons five and six.|
|1997–1998||The Gregory Hines Show||First and only season; only 15 episodes were aired out of 22 produced.|
|1997–1999||Unsolved Mysteries||Last two seasons of the original series' run; only two seasons to air on CBS. The show was later revived by Lifetime and Spike on two different occasions.|
|1997–2005||JAG||Tenth and final season (2004). The series ran on CBS since the second season and moved to Fridays at the beginning of the ninth season.|
|1999–2005||60 Minutes II||Last three months of the series' run, which had otherwise run on Wednesdays. The series was already heavily damaged by the Killian documents controversy by the time it moved to a burn-off slot on Fridays.|
|2000–2002||That's Life||Second and final season.|
|2001–2002||The Ellen Show||Canceled during its first and only season; only 13 episodes were aired out of 18 produced.|
|2002–2003||Robbery Homicide Division||Canceled during its first and only season; only 10 episodes were aired out of 13 produced.|
|2003–2005||Joan of Arcadia||Second and final season.|
|2005–2007||Close to Home||Second and final season.|
|2007–2008||Moonlight||First and only season.|
|2008||The Ex List||Canceled during its first and only season; only four episodes were aired out of 13 produced.|
|2005–2011||Medium||Seventh and final season. Two seasons aired on CBS after suffered declining ratings in season five.|
|2010–2011||The Defenders||Moved to Friday nights midway through its first and only season.|
|2011–2012||A Gifted Man||Canceled at the end of its first and only season despite high ratings in its timeslot.|
|2012||Made in Jersey||First and only season; canceled after two episodes. The remaining six episodes were aired on Saturdays.|
|2012–2013||Vegas||Moved to Friday nights midway through its first and only season.|
|2013||The Job||First and only season. Canceled after two episodes due to extremely low ratings.|
CBS has aired MacGyver, Hawaii Five-0 and Blue Bloods in that order on Friday night between 2016 and 2019.
|Years aired||Series||Seasons lasted before cancellation|
|2000–2001||Popular||Second and final season.|
|2002–2003||Greetings from Tucson||First and only season.|
|2005–2006||Twins||First and only season. Used before the holdover to The CW.|
WWF SmackDown! was first broadcast on UPN on Thursdays to compete with WCW Thunder (eventually forcing Thunder to Wednesdays because of high ratings for SmackDown!, before a majority of the assets belonging to WCW were ultimately purchased by Vince McMahon in 2001). UPN moved the show to Friday nights in the United States on September 9, 2005, because of low ratings in its original Thursday night slot, and the show retained its Friday night time slot after moving to The CW in September 2006. Upon its move to the "death slot," UPN/The CW Friday nights saw a substantial increase in ratings over UPN's movies and most of The WB's sitcoms. SmackDown! had also initially garnered even better ratings in the death slot than the ratings on its former Thursday night airings (after WCW was bought by the WWF in 2001). Despite this, The CW chose not to renew SmackDown's contract in 2008 due to the change of the demographic of the network's viewers (shifting more towards women 12–34 years of age), and the show moved to MyNetworkTV that fall, eventually leaving network television altogether with a move to SyFy in 2010. Smackdown then moved to the USA Network in 2016, thus sharing the same network as WWE's flagship show, Raw. As previously noted, the show is slated to move to Fox and return to Friday nights in 2019.
UPN also moved Star Trek: Enterprise to Friday nights at the start of its fourth and final season in 2004. UPN was subject to heavy sports pre-emptions by local affiliates on Friday nights in the Major League Baseball, high school football, and NHL/NBA seasons, pushing it to late night. A good number of viewers thus chose to watch the show's weekend repeat whenever it was offered by their UPN affiliate, though the network and the show's Internet fanbase heavily discouraged watching it, as it was an unrated airing by Nielsen.
Despite its reputation, Friday night prime time has also seen numerous successful series run for multiple years. The aforementioned Dallas rated in the Top 10 of the Nielsen ratings for seven consecutive seasons and was the top-rated series for three of those seasons. It had also aired the all-time most watched non-series finale single U.S. television episode (in the 1980 resolution episode of the internationally prominent Who Shot J.R. cliffhanger). The Dukes of Hazzard, which preceded Dallas on Friday nights from 1979–1985, was rated in the Top 20 in the Nielsen ratings during its first four seasons before falling in the ratings in its fifth (the season in which series stars John Schneider and Tom Wopat left due to their salaries and merchandising royalties), sixth, and seventh seasons. The Incredible Hulk, which aired on Friday nights during most of its run, went for five seasons to decent success in the ratings before being abruptly and controversially cancelled midway through its fifth season.
Falcon Crest, which aired after Dallas from 1981–1990, went for nine seasons with successful ratings, reaching the Top 25 in the Nielsen ratings in its first six seasons before dropping in the ratings in its final three seasons. In the 1970s, NBC's Sanford and Son managed to crack the Top 10 throughout its run except in its final season, despite airing its entire run on Friday nights. The Rockford Files, which only cracked the Top 30 in its first season, ran for six seasons on NBC on Friday nights and received critical acclaim by being nominated for eighteen Emmys, winning five. During the 1980s, NBC aired the popular police drama Miami Vice on Friday nights for five seasons. Its popularity was due to the show's fashions, pastel colors, expensive cars, and its incorporation of various popular songs of that era in the show which resonated to younger fans who were really into images that they had seen on MTV at the time. Annual telecasts of the movie The Wizard of Oz were aired by CBS on Friday nights beginning in 1979 with success after many years of Sunday evening airings.
ABC branded the evening TGIF and, for many years, scheduled a number of long-running sitcoms that evening, such as Perfect Strangers, Full House, Family Matters, Boy Meets World and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Prior to TGIF in 1989, ABC had sitcoms that were successful on Friday nights such as Benson, Webster, and Mr. Belvedere. During the early 1970s, ABC had a successful Friday night comedy lineup with The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Room 222, Love, American Style and The Odd Couple. More recently, Last Man Standing enjoyed a six-season run on ABC with the last five seasons having been aired on Friday nights. The show remained on Friday nights in 2018 after switching networks to Fox. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit developed a large and loyal audience on NBC on Friday nights when it was moved there from Mondays in the middle of the first season in January 2000. SVU remained on Fridays through the second, third and fourth seasons before moving to Tuesdays in season five in September 2003. Now airing on Wednesdays, SVU is in its 20th season as of September 2018.
More recently, the CBS fantasy series Ghost Whisperer enjoyed a successful five-season run on Friday nights, as did the light crime thriller Numb3rs, which ran for six, and The Unit, which ran for four. Currently airing shows Hawaii Five-0, Magnum P.I. and Blue Bloods are also faring well, though they admittedly appeal to older audiences who are more likely to stay home on Friday nights (CBS in and of itself typically targets a slightly older key demographic than its competitors). From 2014 to 2016, the long-running reality TV series The Amazing Race moved from Sunday to Friday nights. The Amazing Race moved out of its Friday schedule for the 29th season and now aired on Thursdays, as of March 2017.
The CW show Supernatural was moved to Friday for its 6th and 7th seasons, allegedly to test its true drawing power compared to the stations more glitzy drama shows. Many fans, knowing about the 'death slot', feared that this meant it was on its way to be cancelled but actually increased in viewership. This led to the network moving them back up into mid-week scheduling, eventually back to its original WB slot, Tuesdays. In 2015, midseason, the show was moved to Wednesday evenings where it had also aired. For a majority of the show's run, the program was scheduled on Thursdays, Mondays being the only weekday it was not aired on and it has maintained its audience in all time slots.
A general exception to the "Death Slot" is in regards to children's television. Disney Channel and Cartoon Network have long experienced success on Friday nights with their respective children's program blocks. Cartoon Network's original programming success on this night began in 1999 with the launch of Cartoon Cartoon Fridays (later known as simply Fridays), a two-hour block of original animated series during primetime that included series such as Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Cow & Chicken, Johnny Bravo, Samurai Jack, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, and Camp Lazlo. After the block was discontinued in 2007, Cartoon Network shifted its programming towards more action-oriented series such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Ben 10 in the Friday primetime slot. Disney Channel did not begin airing original programming on Friday evenings until 2001; premieres of its made-for-cable films moved to that night from Saturdays that year. This was followed by its original series in 2007 (which had aired during the two hours preceding the designated "Death Slot" period); since then, Disney Channel has been successful with its original programming on that night (which have included popular series such as Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, Jessie, Girl Meets World and The Suite Life on Deck – the latter of which was the number one series among children between the ages of 6 and 12 years in 2008). Its original movies have also generally performed well on Friday nights; in particular, the August 17, 2007 premiere of High School Musical 2 was the channel's highest-rated made-for-cable film to date, and holds the Nielsen record for the highest-rated made-for-cable movie premiere and the highest-rated non-sports program in the history of basic cable, it was watched by 17.2 million viewers.
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