ABC Family is an American cable television network currently owned by Disney-ABC Television Group, a division of The Walt Disney Company (also owned by the company itself). ABC Family offers contemporary and inclusive programming, including series, movies, events, and enhanced ABC encore presentations. It was founded in 1977 as an extension of televangelist Pat Robertson's ministry, and eventually evolved into The Family Channel. In 1998, it was sold to Fox Broadcasting Company and renamed Fox Family. On October 24, 2001, it was then sold to The Walt Disney Company, who bought the rights to three divisions, such as: the Fox Kids Library, Haim Saban's Saban Entertainment and Fox Family.As of March 2008, the network is available in 95,680,000 American households (84.82% TV coverage).
The network launched on April 29, 1977 as CBN Satellite Service, an arm of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. It was the first satellite-launched basic-cable network. The network offered only Christian programs when it first began. The offerings included The 700 Club three times a day along with many well known and lesser-known television evangelists. As a result, a few evangelists began making Monday-through-Friday programs. The CBN Satellite Service grew to 10.9 million homes by May 1981.
In September 1981, the format and the name were changed for the first time. CBN Satellite Service changed its name to the CBN Cable Network and became an entertainment cable network, providing family programming. The network continued to offer religious shows about a third of the day. The entertainment shows included classic sitcoms from the 1950s, westerns, reruns of game shows, old movies, and some family drama shows, as well as a handful of Christian or family-friendly animation series (including some anime, such as CBN's own co-productions with Tatsunoko Production in Japan, Superbook and The Flying House). Under the new format, the CBN Cable Network grew from 28 million households in May 1985, to 35.8 million in May 1987.
On August 1, 1988, the word "Family" was incorporated into the name to better reflect the format, becoming The CBN Family Channel. Commercials were changed as well, showing "Family Moments" (Such as a family playing checkers, a grandfather bonding with his grandson, and a mother hugging her daughter on her wedding day).
By 1990, the network had grown too profitable to remain under the CBN banner without endangering CBN's nonprofit status. CBN spun it off to a new company called International Family Entertainment (run by Robertson's son, Tim), and the name was changed to simply The Family Channel. While it significantly upgraded its programming, its programming policy remained moderately conservative so as not to offend its predominantly older (and religious) audience. The network gained more visibility when, for several years in the mid-1990s, it was the primary sponsor of Ted Musgrave's #16 Ford in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. At that point, the 1950s sitcoms and westerns were scaled back for more recent drama shows as well as cartoons and (later) game shows (with a mix of both original programming, like Trivial Pursuit and Shop 'til You Drop and reruns of older programming like Jim Lange's Name That Tune and Let's Make a Deal). By the early 1990s it was seen in 47.6 million households.
As The Family Channel, it attracted an older (and religious) audience not sought by advertisers; only about one-third of homes watching the network included children or youth.
In 1997, it was sold to a joint venture of Fox Broadcasting Company and Haim Saban, and renamed Fox Family in 1998. Under Fox/Saban, it added somewhat racier programming to attract a younger audience. Unfortunately, the hoped-for younger viewership never really materialized.
The 700 Club was scaled back to twice a day. Columbo was moved from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. More cartoons were added to the lineup, many of which were from the Fox Kids library. The network was running about 8 hours of cartoons a day. However, Fox Family also became a cornerstone for syndicating foreign TV series, such as the popular British S Club 7 TV series, which became their flagship series for the channel until the new millennium. The channel also syndicated many Canadian TV series, both animated and live action, including Angela Anaconda, Big Wolf on Campus, I Was a 6th Grade Alien, and briefly, The Zack Files. They even showed cartoons and anime based on video games, such as Donkey Kong Country, Megaman, and Monster Rancher. Most of these were a part of the channel's morning line-up, which also included the original series, The Great Pretenders. The company aired reruns of some of Fox Kids's shows such as Bobby's World, Eek! The Cat, and Life with Louie. They also added some recent family sitcoms as well. When Fox bought the channel in 1997, programmers sought a new dual audience — kids in daytime, families at night.
In 1999, Fox tried to spin off two digital cable networks from Fox Family, the Boyz Channel and the Girlz Channel, which both contained content focusing on each sex; both networks went off the air a year later due to lack of demand and the controversy that developed over the sex-segregated channels. To a point, Disney relaunched the concept on February 13, 2009 with the conversion of Toon Disney into the tween boy-targeting Disney XD, while continuing to push Disney Channel towards an all-girls focus.
Fox Family was sold to Disney for $5.3 billion on October 24, 2001. The sale to Disney included the Fox Kids Network and Saban Entertainment (a joint venture of Fox and Haim Saban) which provided the new ABC Family with hours of children's programming. The network was officially renamed ABC Family on November 10, 2001.
The sale to Disney, was considered one of the largest mistakes or problems occurring during the tenure of Michael Eisner. The failure was primarily due to the acquisition being done by the strategic planning department of Disney, without consulting anyone at ABC. The original plan was to use the channel to essentially show re-runs of ABC programming, but this plan was completely impossible since ABC had no syndication rights to the majority of their own programs. During this time, the network did air same-season repeats of Alias, Less Than Perfect, Life with Bonnie, and The Bachelor, almost all of which were Touchstone Television productions (The Bachelor is distributed by Time Warner's Telepictures). But in trying to change the focus of the channel, Disney also canceled several Fox Family series, like State of Grace, and cut back on the network's TV movies, which were among the few programs Fox Family was doing well with. The ratings tumbled further as the network became dependent on syndicated reruns and no original programs (save for original wrap-around segments around Bachelor repeats, and children's programming).
The next major plan was to reposition the channel to market it to college students, young women, or to a more hip audience under the name XYZ, a reverse reference to ABC. Disney soon found that the channel could never be renamed as such. The original sale from CBN to Fox/Saban contained a stipulation that the channel contain the word "Family" in the name forever, no matter who owns the network. To create XYZ, the Family Channel would have had to cease to exist — terminating all existing cable TV contracts — and XYZ would have to be created as a new network. Cable companies would not be obligated to put XYZ in the spot vacated by the Family Channel. ABC scrapped the idea after discovering this clause..
The name was revisited at one point in 2003, serving as a program block entitled "The XYZ.", showing programs and movies aimed at the above groups. The network was also used as a buffer to burn off failed ABC series, such as All American Girl, which featured Spice Girl Geri Haliwell.
Another one of Robertson's stipulations in his sale of the original Family Channel to its future line of secular owners was the demand that his syndicated talk show, The 700 Club, be aired twice daily on the network, along with a shorter CBN talk show called Living the Life. Following controversial remarks made by Robertson on the former program about Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, as well as other equally controversial comments regarding gays, feminists, Muslims, abortion, and many other social issues , ABC Family moved to distance itself from the program (the showing of which is also required under Robertson's original sale stipulations, along with the airing of a day-long CBN telethon in late January every year); ABC Family changed the disclaimers before, during, and after the broadcasts from "The following/preceding program is brought to you by CBN" to "The following/preceding CBN telecast does not reflect the views of ABC Family." Since 2003, ABC Family has been producing more successful ABC Family Original Movies and series. .
In August 2006, an all new slogan and visual style premiered on ABC Family: A New Kind of Family. As previously stated, the word "Family" is required under the terms of the lease from Robertson.
On August 31, 2006, ABC Family aired Jetix for the last time as a part of Disney's plan to convert all Jetix airings to Toon Disney. Jetix aired various programs since its debut on the network in 2002, which included Metabots, Beyblade, Digimon: Digital Monsters, Daigunder, Get Ed, and many others. Of its long list of programs, the Power Rangers series was its most successful. Sitcom repeats currently air in Jetix's former timeslot from 7 a.m.-9 a.m. ET, with the morning airing of the 700 Club/Living the Life block pushed back an hour further to 9 a.m. ET. .
In October 2007, ABC Family completely redesigned their website, giving it a more modern look as compared to its previous look. They also streamlined the Broadband Player, putting more content on it including reruns of Three Moons Over Milford, and episodes of 7th Heaven, Grounded for Life, Kyle XY, and Greek, as well as adding some Fox Kids programming they still own, such as "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes". .
ABC Family has also recently been generating high levels of viewers with their weekend movie events. The "Harry Potter Weekend" Block generated some of the highest levels of viewers for the year so far weekend events. The popular show Kyle XY had given the channel the most viewers in the network's history.
ABC Family is also becoming known for giving previews to upcoming movies, as it has done for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Hairspray and Stardust. .
In early 2008, the network launched a companion HDTV channel. Currently the network's original series are produced in a 16:9 HD format (currently downgraded to letterboxed 4:3 on the current channel), and episodes of Kyle XY and Greek have been broadcast in 720p on ABC HD during summer Friday broadcasts.
ABC Family HD logoOn June 16, 2008, The Middleman premiered, based on the comic book of the same name from Viper Comics.
On September 5, 2008, Samurai Girl, a special 3-night event, based on a young adult novel series premiered.
Aside from some common programming, ABC Family (formerly The Family Channel) has never been affiliated with the Canadian channel known as the Family Channel, however, some American cable providers have used Family Channel Canada's "Paint and Sun" logo, for its logo on the channel guide.
ABC Family Original Movies Edit
The sale of FOX Family also included Fox's Major League Baseball cable rights. Starting with the 2002 season, Disney moved the regular season games previously on Fox Family and FX to their sister network ESPN. The Division Series playoff games, however, aired on ABC Family due to complications in the sale. These games used ESPN graphics and announcers. A deal was made to move those playoff games to ESPN, starting with the 2003 season. Although the games aired on Disney networks, Fox kept the exclusive negotiation to renew the contract after the 2006 season, although they chose not to renew those rights, which went to TBS.
See also: Major League Baseball on FOX, Major League Baseball on ESPN, and Major League Baseball on TBS
Holiday programming Edit
13 Nights of Halloween Edit
Starting on October 19 through the 31st. As the title suggests, ABC Family features thirteen nights of Halloween programming.
25 Days of Christmas Edit
Since its final year of ownership by Pat Robertson, The channel has been known for airing many Christmas specials, such as the Rankin-Bass programs The Little Drummer Boy and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. ABC has since expanded this holiday programming, adding made-for-television movies, a litany of Rankin-Bass sequels (this was complicated somewhat because the broadcasting rights some of the original specials, including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, were still owned by CBS), and other original programming to create "The 25 Days of Christmas." This program block airs from December 1 through 25th, in prime time during the weekdays and from noon through prime time during the weekends. There have been some movies that aren't necessarily holiday related. In 2006, for example, Harry Potter movies were shown along with Mary Poppins (the 2004 Enhanced Home Theater Mix version) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Also that year, the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman specials were dropped, and Dr. Seuss on the Loose and The Cat in the Hat were added, however, not with How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Programming blocks Edit
Aired various children's programs since its debut on the network in September 2002, which included Metabots, Beyblade, Digimon: Digital Monsters, Daigunder, Get Ed, and many others. Of its long list of programs, the Power Rangers series was its most successful (and still is). Sitcom repeats currently air in Jetix's former timeslot from 7 a.m.-9 a.m. ET, with the morning airing of the 700 Club/Living the Life block pushed back an hour further to 9 a.m. ET. Most of Jetix's Programming was previously aired on Fox Kids and Fox Family.