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Iranian hostage-watch as must-see TV

Ted Koppel reporting on the 100th day of

Ted Koppel reporting on the 100th day of the Iran hostage crisis during ABC News' "Nightline." (Feb. 13, 1980) Credit: ABC News

'Argo," Ben Affleck's movie set against the backdrop of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, has become the favorite to win best picture at tonight's Academy Awards. Of course, 33 years ago, that crisis in Tehran also provided the impetus for network TV news to move into the previously unexplored territory of late-night programming. Here are five things to know about ABC News' "The Iran Crisis: America Held Hostage."

1. The program first aired on Nov. 8, 1979, four days after the hostage crisis began. ABC News president Roone Arledge saw an opportunity to compete against NBC's "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" by offering a nightly update of the latest developments.

2. The show originally aired for only 15 minutes, from 11:30 to 11:45 p.m.

3. "ABC World News Tonight" anchor Frank Reynolds hosted the show.

4. On Nov. 29, ABC News' diplomatic correspondent Ted Koppel subbed for Reynolds and shortly thereafter took over as host.

5. As the show's ratings increased, ABC News executives realized there truly was an appetite for a late-night news alternative. "America Held Hostage" morphed into "Nightline" on March 24, 1980, with Koppel hosting -- and the rest is late-night TV history.

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