The first made-for-TV movie
appeared on NBC
Driven by increased licensing fees, and a general reduction in production of movies by the film studios, the made-for-TV movie became a staple of the industry in the mid-60's. The saturation reached into every demographic (especially amongst women in all age categories), every night of the week. By the early 80's over half of the movies shown on network television were produced for television only.
The made-for-TV movie brought dramatization of current events to the small screen in a timely manner. Typically, the "concept to premier" period is within two to three months -- often sooner -- compared to the two to three year cycle of a "Hollywood" production. These movies are also produced for a third of the expense of a typical studio production.
This genre of movies was the spawning ground for the television miniseries concept, that addressed the larger issues of the times such as slavery (Roots), genocide (Holocaust), incest (Something About Amelia), nuclear war (The Day After)and spousal abuse (The Burning Bed).
Made-for-TV movies also provided more opportunities and profits for every facet of the movie industry. This allowed the industry to integrate its future with television, rather than treating "the small screen" as detrimental.
Today with the expansion and proliferation of cable television, entire networks exist and thrive through the production of the made-for-television movie presented within a narrow audience profile.