"Nightline" was a late-night news gamble when it debuted 30 years ago, at a time when Johnny Carson ruled the 11:30 p.m. timeslot as host of "The Tonight Show."
And yet, in 1980, ABC News executives banked on a new show called "Nightline." It was born out of the temporary broadcast, "America Held Hostage," devoted to coverage of the Iran hostage crisis of 1979.
Ted Koppel, then a lesser known ABC News correspondent who had guest-anchored the special coverage, was tapped to host the new show.
"Nightline" debuted March 24, 1980. It was received with mixed reviews.
"To judge from its premiere, it is not likely to see 'America Held Spellbound,'" wrote reviewer Tom Shales in the Washington Post. Even Koppel noted that the first show was "flat."
But it soon clicked with audiences.
"Nightline" distinguished itself by embracing new satellite technology to "bring people together who are worlds apart." Koppel negotiated live interviews with guests interacting simultaneously from such far-flung cities as Tehran, Moscow and Washington.
The show also made television history several times.
Correspondent Jack Smith gained the world record for the highest altitude standup in TV news while reporting for "Nightline" from Mt. Everest and science contributor Michael Guillen broadcast the first live report from Antarctica for "Nightline."
The show's pioneering use of technology sometimes hit snags.
When "Nightline" broadcast the first live shot from Mt. Everest in 1982, the historic moment was almost derailed by a wandering yak. Shortly before the broadcast, it kicked over one of the five dishes linked together to send images back to Kathmandu.
The live shot made air, but barely.
"Nightline" inaugurated the town hall format to host historic live debates around the world.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and South African leader Pik Botha debated their nation's policy of apartheid in the first public debate held between black and white leaders.
Israeli and Palestinian leaders debated the Mideast conflict, under the stipulation from the Palestinians that a symbolic wall separate the stage.
And a live town hall answering viewers' questions on the new epidemic of AIDS ran past 3 a.m. ET.
Over the years, "Nightline" would host everyone from Kermit and his gang of Muppets, a feisty young pop star named Madonna, fiery Libyan leader Muammar Qaddfi, and every sitting U.S. president.
The show distinguished itself with in-depth coverage from the ground at the Tiananmen Square massacre, the war in Bosnia, Congo, the first Gulf War and embedded with troops as they entered Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The tradition of ground-breaking reporting continued in 2005, when the newly formatted "Nightline" debuted, anchored by Terry Moran, Cynthia McFadden and Martin Bashir, with correspondents John Donvan and Vicki Mabrey.
The show continues to bring a new take to the day's news, interspersing it with investigations, features and in-depth political coverage.
During the 2008 election, Moran conducted more interviews with Barack Obama than any other network news anchor.
Bashir anchored a special on the highly controversial Church of Scientology. And McFadden got exclusive interviews with the likes of Hillary Clinton, Martha Stewart and Paula Abdul.