The Time Now > Central Standard Time

Central Standard Time (CST)

Time zone

Central Standard Time, CST

UTC offset

UTC -6:00
Important note:
Most cities located in Central Standard Time (CST) zone currently observe Daylight Saving Time (DST).
Therefore, most cities there are using Central Daylight Time (CDT).

Example of location: Houston
Use the search bar above to look up by city and not by time zone.

Time Zone Examination and Overview

While not entirely centralized in the grand scheme of things, Central Standard Time is a time zone located six hours behind Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) and is used by both North America and Central America. The reason it’s referred to as “standard” is because many of the U.S States and countries within this zone observe a different time zone during Daylight Saving Time known as Central Daylight Time.

During the winter months, these locations switch back to this standard time zone. Join us as we examine the locations that fall into this time zone, and how broadcasts in the United States adjust for these time changes.

Locations Within The CST Time Zone

Parts of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean Islands, and a portion of the Eastern Pacific Ocean utilize CST. During Daylight Saving Time, participating areas move from 6 hours behind UTC to five hours for the portion of the summer.

Below are the areas in Canada that fall into this time zone:

  • Manitoba
  • Ontario - areas west of 90 West, the eastern side is on EST/EDT. The following communities do not observe DST: Atikokan, New Osnaburgh, Pickle Lake
  • Saskatchewan - Only in Creighton and Denare Beach. Lloydminster is in the MST/MDT zone

Manitoba is the only Canadian province that observes Central Time in its entirety. Below are locations in the United States that fall into the CST zone:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Florida - Northwestern locations including Calhoun, Escamia, Holmes, Jacson, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, Washington, and north gulf counties.
  • Illinois
  • Indiana - Northwestern counties including Lake, Porter, La Porte, Newton, Jasper, Starke, and counties near Evansville
  • Iowa
  • Kansas - barring these west counties: Greeley, Hamilton, Sherman, and Wallace use MST/MDT
  • Kentucky - Western counties
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan - Several western counties including Dickinson, Gogebic, Iron, and Menominee
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska - Eastern counties
  • North Dakota - North and East locations
  • Tennessee - Western locations
  • Texas - all but a few counties including El Paso, Hudspeth, Culberson
  • Wisconsin

The Central Time Zone is the most populated in the United States just after the Eastern Time Zone. Many of these states are geographically located on the border of two time zones. In Mexico, most of the country falls under CST, but six of the states do not. They are Baja California Norte, Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Nayarit, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, and Sonora.

The following Mexican states observe Central Time:

  • Aguascalientes
  • Campeche
  • Chiapas
  • Coahuila
  • Colima
  • Distrito Federal
  • Durango
  • Guanajuato
  • Guerro
  • Hidalgo
  • Jalisco
  • León
  • Michoacán
  • Morelos
  • México
  • Nuevo León
  • Oaxaca
  • Puebla
  • Querétaro
  • Quintana Roo
  • San Luis Potosí
  • Tabasco
  • Tamaulipas
  • Tlaxcala
  • Veracruz
  • Yucatán
  • Zacatecas

In Central America, the following countries observe CST all year long:

  • Belize
  • Costa Rica
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua

There are also several other time zones that fall into the same UTC offset as CST. They are listed below with a short description of each:

  1. EAST - Easter Island Standard Time

Easter Island/Rapa Nui observe this time zone during the winter. During the summer months the official time is EASST (Easter Island Summer Time).

  1. GALT - Galapagos Time

The pacific island of Galapagos near Ecuador falls into this time zone, which is six hours behind UTC.

  1. MDT - Mountain Daylight Time

This time zone is a DST variation of Mountain Standard Time that falls into the same offset as CST during the summer months.

  1. S - Sierra Time Zone

This is a military time zone used in aviation and is used at sea between the longitudes of 97.5 degrees West and 82.5 degrees West. It is denoted with the letter “S” and is combined with military time.

A Brief Examination of Central Daylight Time

Between the months of March and November, a modified time zone is in effect for much of the CST zone called Central Daylight Time. This modification is UTC -05:00 instead of the normal six hour offset. As mentioned earlier, the Canadian province of Saskatchewan does not participate in this practice.

Most of this example province is geographically located in the Mountain Time Zone, so by moving into the CST Zone, they essentially placed themselves on a permanent Daylight Saving Time. The exception to this rule is the city of Lloydminster which chose to stay on Mountain Time with DST to stay in sync with Alberta’s time.

In locations where DST is observed, the clocks change from 2:00 local time to 3:00 local time on the second Sunday in March. On the first Sunday in November, the clocks go from 2:00 to 1:00. Mexico has a slight change to this formula and changes their time on the first Sunday in April and the last Sunday in October. Some of the border cities adopted the U.S. DST schedule after gaining approval from the government in 2010.

The Effects of Time Zones on American Broadcasting

The United States is composed of four separate time zones, which makes timing and scheduling for television broadcasts more complicated. In most cases, television networks will have two separate feeds that go to their owned-and-operated stations and affiliates. The same process is true in the case of cable and satellite channels.

There is an “eastern feed” that is aired at the same time for both the Eastern and Central Time Zones. Then there’s a “western feed” that is tape-delayed for three hours to accommodate the time difference in the Pacific Time Zone. This tape-delay is used for a variety of other purposes as well. For live broadcasts it is delayed seven seconds to account for possible profanity, bloopers, violence, or other things that would need to be censored.

This delay allows programs to air at the same time in different zones. A show that begins at 8 P.M on the east coast can also air at 8 P.M on the west coast through a tape-delay. The Mountain Time Zone complicates things further as it is sometimes given its own feed or a mixture of the east and west variations.

The Fox broadcasting company set a standard for a “common prime schedule” in 1987 when they set prime time shows to end by 10:00 P.M Central and Mountain Time, and `11:00 P.M for Eastern and Pacific Time. It essentially removed an hour from the Monday through Saturday schedule, making it two hours, and three hours on Sundays.

Since this time, other stations have adopted the same schedule including The WB and UPN. The CW and MyNetworkTV services also used this schedule when they launched in September of 2006. The United States territory of Guam presents an even larger complexity to the mix. This area is located on the other side of the International Date Line.

This imaginary line exists at a specific point on the Earth where one day becomes another because of time zone differences. It’s located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at roughly 180 degrees longitude. Since Guam is on the other side of this line, United States broadcasting shows the day after they are shown in the mainland.

In some cases, a fourth stream is used for the Central Time Zone. With shows like Good Morning America starting too early for viewers in the Midwest, this fourth feed is tape-delayed an hour to show at 7:00 A.M. in Central Time. When it comes to live vents like breaking news, the State of the Union address, and Academy Awards, these are broadcasted simultaneously across the nation, creating new issues.

These events are advertised using both Eastern and Pacific Time. A live show beginning at 8 P.M Eastern will begin at 5 P.M in the Pacific region. 

Final Thoughts

Possibly the most complicate aspect of being geographically located in the Central Standard Time Zone is the fact that many states will find themselves divided between two different sets of time. Indiana is a perfect example of such a situation. The fact that the United States is divided into multiple time zones also complicates things like broadcasts and live events.

The structure of how we tell time may not be perfect, but it is a necessity when it comes to calculating for the rotation of the Earth and the apparent changes in time across the vast land mass that is the United States. The Eastern Standard Time Zone tends to be more favored because it houses the nation’s capital, along with some of the largest cities. This favoritism has led to many different changes and modifications to the way we handle broadcast scheduling.

These complications are a necessary evil though as it helps keep everything running smoothly. With outliers like Guam running on entirely different days though, it can be quite taxing just trying to wrap your head around these processes.

Once you throw Daylight Saving Time into the mix, it’s almost too much but now that we’ve explained it here you can go forward being aware of the locations that observe the CST time zone. For more articles, be sure to check out our blog.