- American Broadcasting Company
network_name = American Broadcasting Company (ABC)
network_type = Broadcast
radio networkand television network
United States, Canada, Mexicoand the Caribbean.
slogan = "Start Here"
The Walt Disney Company(since 1996)
Disney-ABC Television Group
Robert Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company Anne Sweeney, co-chair Disney Media Networks and President, Disney-ABC Television Group
launch_date = October 12, 1943 (radio network)
April 19, 1948 (television network)
founder = (as independent company)
past_names = NBC
brand = "America's Broadcasting Company",
"This is ABC"
website = [http://abc.go.com www.abc.com] |
The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) is an American
television network. Created in 1943 from the former NBC Blue radio network, ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Companyand is part of Disney-ABC Television Group. It first broadcast on television in 1948. Corporate headquarters are in Manhattanin New York City, while programming offices are in Burbank, Californiaadjacent to the Walt Disney Studios and the Walt Disney Companycorporate headquarters. ABC is the most watched television network in the United States as of 2008.
The current slogan is "Start Here", except television idents continue to use the former "America's Broadcasting Company" slogan. Before the "America's Broadcasting Company" slogan, television idents used the full corporate name from 1997-2000.
The formal name of the operation is American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., and that name appears on copyright notices for its in-house network productions and on all official documents of the company, including paychecks and contracts. A separate entity named ABC Inc., formerly Capital Cities/ABC Inc., is that firm's direct parent company, and that company is owned in turn by Disney. The network is sometimes referred to as the Alphabet Network, due to the letters "ABC" being the first three
From the organization of the first true radio networks in the late 1920s, broadcasting in the United States was dominated by two companies,
CBSand RCA's NBC. Before NBC's 1926 formation, RCA had acquired AT&T's New York station WEAF (later WNBC, now CBS-owned WFAN). With WEAF came a loosely organized system feeding programming to other stations in the northeastern U.S. RCA, before the acquisition of the WEAF group in mid-1926, had previously owned a second such group, with WJZ in New York as the lead station (purchased by RCA in 1923 from Westinghouse) . These were the foundations of RCA's two distinct programming services, the NBC "Red" and NBC "Blue" networks. Legend has it that the color designations originated from the color of the push-pins early engineers used to designate affiliates of WEAF (red pins) and WJZ (blue pins).
After years of study, the FCC in 1940 issued a "Report on Chain Broadcasting." Finding that two corporate owners (and the co-operatively owned
Mutual Broadcasting System) dominated American broadcasting, this report proposed "divorcement", requiring the sale by RCA of one of its chains. NBC Red was the larger radio network, carrying the leading entertainment and music programs. In addition, many Red affiliates were high-powered, clear-channel stations, heard nationwide. NBC Blue offered most of the company's news and cultural programs, many of them "sustaining" or unsponsored. Among other findings, the FCC claimed RCA used NBC Blue to suppress competition against NBC Red. The FCC did not regulate or license networks directly. However, it could influence them by means of its hold over individual stations. Consequently, the FCC issued a ruling that "no license shall be issued to a standard broadcast station affiliated with a network which maintains more than one network." NBC argued this indirect style of regulation was illegal and appealed to the courts. However, the FCC won on appeal, and NBC was forced to sell one of its networks. It opted to sell NBC Blue.
The task of selling of NBC Blue was given to
Mark Woods; throughout 1942 and 1943, NBC Red and NBC Blue divided their assets. A price of $8 million was put on the assets of the Blue group, and Woods shopped the Blue package around to potential buyers. One such, investment bank Dillon, Readmade an offer of $7.5 million, but Woods and RCA chief David Sarnoffheld firm at $8 million. The Blue package contained leases on land-lines and on studio facilities in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicagoand Los Angeles; contracts with talent and with about sixty affiliates; the trademark and "good will" associated with the Blue name; and licenses for three stations (WJZ in New York, San Francisco's KGO, and WENR in Chicago - really a half-station, since WENR shared time and a frequency with "Prairie Farmer" station WLS), with which it would later merge after World War II.
RCA finally found a buyer in
Edward Noble, owner of Life Saverscandy and the Rexalldrugstore chain. In order to complete the station-license transfer, Noble had to sell the New York radio station that he owned, WMCA. Also, FCC hearings were required. Controversy ensued over Noble's intention to keep Mark Woods on as president, which led to the suggestion that Woods would continue to work with (and for) his former employers. This had the potential to derail the sale. During the hearings, Woods said the new network would not sell airtime to the American Federation of Labor. Noble evaded questioning on similar points by hiding behind the NAB code. Frustrated, the chairman advised Noble to do some rethinking. Apparently he did, and the sale closed on October 12, 1943. The new network, known simply as "The Blue Network", was owned by the American Broadcasting System, a company Noble formed for the deal. It sold airtime to organized labor.
In mid-1944, Noble renamed his network American Broadcasting Company. This set off a flurry of re-naming; to avoid confusion, CBS changed the call-letters of its New York flagship, WABC-AM 880, to WCBS-AM in 1946. In 1953, WJZ in New York took on the abandoned call-letters WABC.
ABC Radiobegan slowly; with few "hit" shows, it had to build an audience. Noble paid to acquire more stations, among them Detroit's WXYZ; one of the founding stations of the Mutual network. WXYZ was where " The Lone Ranger", "Sergeant Preston", " Sky King" and other popular daily serials originated. With this purchase, ABC instantly acquired a bloc of established daily shows. Noble also bought KECA (now KABC) in Los Angeles, to give the network a Hollywood production base. Counter-programming became an ABC specialty, for example, placing a raucous quiz-show like " Stop the Music!" against more thoughtful fare on NBC and CBS. Unlike the other networks, ABC pre-recorded many programs; advances in tape-recording brought back from conquered Germany meant that the audio quality of tape could not be distinguished from "live" broadcasts. As a result, several high-rated stars who wanted freedom from rigid schedules, among them Bing Crosby, moved to ABC. Though still rated fourth, by the late 1940s ABC had begun to close in on the better-established networks.
1948: Enter Leonard Goldenson and ABC's entry into television
Faced with huge expenses in building a radio network, ABC was in no position to take on the additional costs demanded by a television network. To secure a place at the table, though, in 1947, ABC submitted requests for licenses in the five cities where it owned radio stations. All five requests were for each station to broadcast on
channel 7; ABC executives thought at the time that the low-band (channels 2 through 6) TV channels would be discontinued, thus making these five stations broadcasting on VHF channel 7 the lowest on the TV dial and therefore the best channel positions. (Such a move never occurred in the analog era; though with the poor digital TV performance of low-band channels it could conceivably happen in the future, DTV's use of logical channel numbers will protect the lower dial positions.)
On April 19, 1948, the ABC television network went on the air. The network picked up its first affiliate, WFIL-TV in
Philadelphia(now WPVI-TV) before its first owned and operated station("O&O"), WJZ-TV in New York (now WABC-TV) signed on in August.
For the next several years, ABC was a television network mostly in name. Except for the largest markets, most cities had only one or two stations. The FCC froze applications for new stations in 1948 while it sorted out the thousands of applicants, and re-thought the technical and allocation standards set down in 1938. What was meant to be a six-month freeze lasted until 1952, and until that time there were only 101 stations in the United States. For a late-comer like ABC, this meant being relegated to secondary status in many markets. ABC commanded little affiliate loyalty, though unlike fellow startup network DuMont, it at least had a radio network on which to draw loyalty and revenue. It also had a full complement of five O&Os, which included stations in the critical Chicago (WENR-TV, now
WLS-TV) and Los Angeles (KECA-TV, now KABC-TV) markets. Even then, by 1951 ABC found itself badly overextended and on the verge of bankruptcy. It had only nine full-time affiliates to augment its five O&Os--WJZ, WENR, KECA, WXYZ-TVin Detroit and KGO-TVin San Francisco.
Noble finally found a white knight in
United Paramount Theaters. Divorced from Paramount Picturesat the end of 1949 by Supreme Court order, UPT had plenty of money on hand and was not afraid to spend it. UPT head Leonard Goldensonimmediately set out to find investment opportunities. Barred from the film business, Goldenson saw broadcasting as a possibility, and approached Noble about buying ABC. Since the transfer of station licenses was again involved, the FCC set hearings. At the heart of this was the question of the Paramount Pictures-UPT divorce: were they truly separate? And what role did Paramount's long-time investment in DuMont Laboratories, parent of the television network, play? After a year of deliberation the FCC approved the purchase by UPT in a 5–2 split decision on February 9, 1953. Speaking in favor of the deal, one commissioner pointed out that UPT had the cash to turn ABC into a viable, competitive third network. The corporate name became American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, Inc.
Shortly after the ABC–UPT merger, Goldenson approached DuMont with a merger offer. DuMont was in financial trouble for a number of reasons, not the least of which was an FCC ruling that barred it from acquiring two additional O&Os because of two stations owned by Paramount. However, DuMont's pioneering status in television and programming creativity gave it a leg up on ABC, and for a time appeared that DuMont was about to establish itself as the third television network. This all changed with the ABC-UPT merger, which effectively placed DuMont on life support. Goldenson and DuMont's managing director, Ted Bergmann, quickly agreed to a deal. Under the proposed merger, the merged network would have been called "ABC-DuMont" for at least five years. DuMont would get $5 million in cash and guaranteed advertising time for DuMont television receivers. In return, ABC agreed to honor all of DuMont's network commitments. The merged network would have been a colossus rivaling CBS and NBC, with O&Os in five of the six largest markets (all except Philadelphia, which would later become an O & O). It would have had to sell either WJZ-TV or DuMont flagship WABD-TV (now
WNYW) as well as two other stations (most likely WXYZ-TV and KGO-TV) in order to comply with the FCC's five-station limit. However, Paramount vetoed the sale. A few months earlier, the FCC ruled that Paramount controlled DuMont, and there were still lingering questions about whether the two companies were truly separate. By 1956, the DuMont network had shut down.
After its acquisition by UPT, ABC at last had the means to offer a full-time television network service on the scale of CBS and NBC. By mid-1953, Goldenson had begun a two-front campaign, calling on his old pals at the Hollywood studios (he had been head of the mighty Paramount theater chain since 1938) to convince them to move into programming. And he began wooing station owners to convince them that a refurbished ABC was about to burst forth. He also convinced long-time NBC and CBS affiliates in several markets to move to ABC. His two-part campaign paid off when the "new" ABC hit the air on October 27, 1954. Among the shows that brought in record audiences was "
Disneyland", produced-by and starring Walt Disney. MGM, Warner Bros.and Twentieth Century-Foxwere also present that first season. Within two years, Warner Bros. was producing ten hours of programming for ABC each week, mostly interchangeable detective and western series. The middle 1950s saw ABC finally have shows in the top-10 including "Disneyland". Other early hit series on ABC during this period which helped establish the success of the network included " The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet", (starring the real-life Nelson Family), "Leave It To Beaver "(which moved over from CBS )",The Detectives" starring Robert Taylor, and " The Untouchables " starring Robert Stack. However, it still had a long way to go. It was relegated to secondary status in many markets until the late 1960s and, in a few cases, into the 1980s.
In 1955, ABC started a record label division, ABC-Paramount Records, which later became
ABC Recordsin 1965. They subsequently purchased the record labels from the Famous Musicdivision of Gulf+Western(Dot, Steed, Acta, Blue Thumb, and Paramount), along with legendary Country and R&B label Duke/Peacock in 1974, and the entire company was sold to MCA in 1979, the remnants of the ABC record label group are now owned by Universal Music Group. Ironically, after the merger with Disney, ABC became sister company to a record label group once again, the Buena Vista Music Group(which includes such labels as Walt Disney Recordsand Hollywood Records)
1961–1965: Growth and Restructuring
While ABC-TV continued to languish in third place nationally, it often topped local ratings in the larger markets. With the arrival of Hollywood's slickly produced series, ABC began to catch on with younger, urban viewers. As the network gained in the ratings, it became an attractive property, and over the next few years ABC approached, or was approached, by GE (which would have had to sell its stake in RCA, owner of NBC),
Howard Hughes, Litton Industries, GTE and ITT. ABC and ITT agreed to a merger in late 1965, but this deal was derailed by FCC and Department of Justice questions about ITT's foreign ownership influencing ABC's autonomy and journalistic integrity. ITT's management promised that ABC's autonomy would be preserved. While it was able to convince the FCC, antitrust regulators at the Justice Department refused to sign off on the deal. After numerous delays, the deal was called off on January 1, 1968.
By 1960, the ABC Radio Network found its audience continuing to gravitate to television. TheABC owned radio stations were not enjoying very large audiences either. With a decline in listenership and far less network programming, Harold L. Neal, General Manager of WABC in New York, hired Mike Joseph as Music Consultant to program contemporarary "Top 40" music on WABC. Neal also hired Dan Ingram to host the afternoon time period and hired Bruce "Cousin Brucie" Morrow to host early evenings on WABC. WABC's immediate success lead to Neal being named President of all 7 ABC owned radio stations. Neal then spread the popular music programming to WLS Chicago and KQV Pittsburgh and they attained very large audiences. ABC's KABC Los Angeles and KGO San Francisco pioneered news/talk programming and became quite successful. Rick Sklar was hired by Neal in 1963 to program the station, which by the mid-1960s featured hourly newscasts, commentaries and a few long-running serials, which were all that remained on the ABC Radio Network schedule.
Lawrence Welk's musical hour (simulcast from television), and Don McNeill's daily "Breakfast Club" variety show were among the offerings. Romper Room, a children's learning show was featured, both in New York and in ABC subsidiaries, with Nancy Terrellas "Miss Nancy." In 1967, WLS General Manager, Ralph Beaudin, was promoted head up ABC Radio. Beaudin made the bold move on January 1, 1968, when he split the ABC Radio Network into four new "networks", each one with format-specific news and features for pop-music-, news-, or talk-oriented stations. The "American" Contemporary, Entertainment, Information and FM networks were later joined by two others - Direction and Rock. During 1968, KXYZ and KXYZ-FM in Houston were acquired by ABC, giving the network the maximum seven owned and operated AM and FM stations allowed at the time.
In 1969, Neal and Beaudin hired former WCFL Chicago programmer, Allen Shaw, to program theseven ABC Owned FM Radio stations. Shaw pioneered the first album oriented rock format onall seven stations and changed their call letters to WPLJ New York, WDAI Chicago, WDVE Pittsburgh, WRIF Detroit, KAUM Houston, KSFX San Francisco and KLOS Los Angeles. By the mid-1970s, the ABC owned AM and FMstations, and the ABC Radio Network were the most successful radio operations in America interms of audience and profits. Leonard Goldenson often credited ABC Radio for helping fundthe development of ABC Television in those early years.
During this period of the 1960s, ABC founded an in-house production unit, ABC Films, to create new material especially for the network. Shortly after the death of producer
David O. Selznick, ABC acquired the rights to a considerable amount of the Selznick theatrical film library, including "Rebecca" and " Portrait of Jennie" (but not including "Gone with the Wind", which Metro-Goldwyn-Mayerhad acquired outright in the 1940s).
1965–1969: Success at last
"Wide World of Sports" debuted April 29, 1961 and was the creation of
Edgar J. Scherickthrough his company, Sports Programs, Inc. After selling his company to the American Broadcasting Company, Scherick hired a young Roone Arledgeto produce the show. Arledge would eventually go on to become the executive producer of ABC Sports (as well as president of ABC News). Arledge helped ABC's fortunes with innovations in sports programming, such as the multiple cameras used in " Monday Night Football". By doing so, he helped to make sports broadcasting into a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Despite its relatively small size, ABC found increasing success with television programming aimed at the emerging "Baby Boomer" culture. It broadcast "
American Bandstand" and " Shindig!", two shows that featured new popular and youth-oriented records of the day.
The network ran
science fictionfare, a genre that other networks considered too risky: " The Outer Limits", " The Invaders", " The Time Tunnel", " Land of the Giants", and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea". It also ran the Quinn Martinaction and suspense series "The F.B.I." and "The Fugitive". In September 1964 the network would debut a sitcomcalled Bewitchedthat would become the #2 show of the 64–65 season and draw record viewers for the network at that time.
In January 1966, an unheralded mid-season replacement show became a national pop culture phenomenon. "Batman", starring Adam West as the Caped Crusader and Burt Ward as his youthful sidekick Robin the Boy Wonder, helped establish ABC as a TV force with which to be reckoned. Each week, a two-part "Batman" adventure aired on Wednesday and Thursday nights, blending the exploits of the popular comic-book hero with off-the-wall "camp" humor. The unusual combination made the series an immediate hit with thrill-seeking youngsters, and a cult favorite on high-school and college campuses. Special guest villains such as Cesar Romero (the Joker), Burgess Meredith (the Penguin), Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt (Catwoman) and Joan Collins (the Siren) added to the show's mass appeal. A two-part episode featuring Liberace in a dual role, as the great pianist Chandel and his criminal twin brother Harry, would prove to be the highest-rated "Batman" tandem of the series (canceled in March 1968). In 1968, the parent company changed its name from American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, Inc. to American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., formally dropping the Paramount name from the company and all subsidiaries which bore that name.
1969–1985: "Still the One"-Rising to the Top
Continuing the network's upswing in the 1960s were highly rated primetime
sitcomssuch as " That Girl", " Bewitched", " The Brady Bunch", and dramas such as " Room 222" and " The Mod Squad". Edgar J. Scherickwas Vice President of Network Programming and responsible for much of the line up during this era.
ABC's daytime lineup became strong throughout the 1970s and 1980s with the
soap operas" General Hospital", " One Life to Live", " The Edge of Night", " All My Children", and " Ryan's Hope" and the game shows" The Dating Game", " The Newlywed Game", " Let's Make a Deal", " The $20,000 Pyramid" and " Family Feud",.
By the early 1970s, ABC had formed its first theatrical division, ABC Pictures. It made some moneymaking films like
Bob Fosse's "Cabaret", Woody Allen's " Take the Money and Run", and Sidney Pollack's " They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"; while other films like "Song of Norway" and "Candy", were critical and box-office disasters upon release despite them both heavily promoted while still in production. They also started an innovation in television, the concept of the Movie of the Week. This series of made for TV films aired once per week on Tuesday nights. Three years later, Wednesday nights were added as well. Palomar Pictures International, the production company created by Edgar J. Scherickafter leaving ABC, produced several of the Movies of the Week.
The network itself, meanwhile, was showing signs of overtaking CBS and NBC. Broadcasting in color from the mid-1960s, ABC started using the new science of
demographicsto tweak its programming and ad sales. ABC invested heavily in shows with wide appeal, especially situation comedies such as " Happy Days", " Barney Miller", " Three's Company" and "Taxi". Programming head Fred Silvermanwas credited with reversing the network's fortunes by spinning off shows such as " Laverne & Shirley" and " Mork and Mindy". He also commissioned series from Aaron Spellingsuch as " Charlie's Angels". Furthermore, ABC acquired broadcasting rights for telecasting the annual Academy Awardsceremony in 1976, which today is contractually planned to do so until 2014. By 1977, ABC had become the nation's highest-rated network. Meanwhile CBS and NBC ranked behind for some time, and due to NBC ranking third place, ABC sought stronger affiliates by having former NBC affiliations swap networks for ABC.
ABC also offered big-budget, extended-length
miniseries, among them " QB VII", and " Rich Man, Poor Man". The most successful, "Roots", based on Alex Haley's novel, became one of the biggest hits in television history. Combined with ratings for its regular weekly series, "Roots" propelled ABC to a first-place finish in the national Nielsen ratings for the 1976–1977 season— this was a first in the then thirty-year history of the network. In 1983, via its revived theatrical division, ABC Motion Pictures, " Silkwood" was released in theaters, and " The Day After" (again produced in-house by its by-then retitled television unit, ABC Circle Films) was viewed on TV by 100 million people, prompting discussion of nuclear activities taking place at the time.
ABC-TV began the transition from
coaxial cable/ microwavedelivery to satellite delivery via AT&T's Telstar 301. ABC maintained a West Coast feed network on Telstar 302 and, in 1991, scrambled feeds on both satellites with the Leitch system. Currently, with the Leitch system abandoned, ABC operates digital feeds on IntelsatGalaxy 16 and IntelsatGalaxy 3C. ABC Radio began using the SEDAT satellite distribution system in the mid-1980s, switching to Starguide in the early 2000s.Now ABC provides programming in supermarkets in an agreement with InStore Broadcasting Networks [ [http://www.variety.com/index.asp?layout=story&articleid=VR&cs=1&s=h&p=0 Variety.com - This article does not exist] ] .ABC acquired majority control of the fast-growing ESPNsports network in 1984.
1985–1996: The Capital Cities era
ABC's dominance carried into the early 1980s. But by 1985, veteran shows like "
The Love Boat" and "Benson" had run their courses, while Silverman-era hits like " Three's Company" and " Laverne & Shirley" were gone. As a resurgent NBC was leading in the ratings, ABC shifted its focus to such situation comedies as "Webster", " Mr. Belvedere", " Growing Pains", and " Perfect Strangers". During this period, while the network enjoyed huge ratings with shows like "Dynasty", "Moonlighting", " MacGyver", " Who's The Boss?", " The Wonder Years", "Hotel", and "Thirtysomething", ABC seemed to have lost the momentum that propelled it in the 1970s; there was little offered that was innovative or compelling. Like his counterpart at CBS, William S. Paley, founding-father Goldenson had withdrawn to the sidelines. ABC's ratings and the earnings thus generated reflected this loss of drive. Under the circumstances, ABC was a ripe takeover target. However, no one expected the buyer to be a media company only a tenth the size of ABC, Capital Cities Communications. The corporate name was changed to Capital Cities/ABC.
As the 1990s began, one could conclude the company was more conservative than at other times in its history. The miniseries faded off. Saturday morning cartoons were phased out. But the network did acquire Orion Pictures' television division in the wake of the studio's bankruptcy, later merging it with its in-house division
ABC Circle Filmsto create ABC Productions. Shows produced during this era included " My So-Called Life", " The Commish", and " American Detective" (the latter co-produced with Orion before the studio's bankruptcy). In an attempt to win viewers on Friday night, the "TGIF" programming block was created. The lead programs of this time included " Full House", "Family Matters", and "Step by Step". These shows were family-oriented, but other shows such as " Roseanne" were less traditional in their worldview, but were very successful in the ratings.
1996–2003: Disney Purchase and the Network Decline
The Walt Disney Companyacquired Capital Cities/ABC, and renamed the broadcasting group ABC, Inc., although the network continues to also use American Broadcasting Companies, such as on TV productions it owns.
ABC's relationship with Disney dates back to 1953, when Leonard Goldenson pledged enough money so that the "Disneyland" theme park could be completed. ABC continued to hold Disney notes and stock until 1960, and also had first call on the "Disneyland" television series in 1954. With this new relationship came an attempt at cross-promotion, with attractions based on ABC shows at Disney parks and an annual soap festival at Walt Disney World. (The former president of ABC, Inc.,
Robert Iger, now heads Disney.) In 1997, ABC aired a Saturday morning block called One Saturday Morning which changed to ABC Kids in 2002. It featured a 5-hour line-up of children's shows (mostly cartoons) for children ages 5-12. but it was changed to a 4-hour line-up in 2005. Since then, it was aimed for children more in the 10-16 range.
Despite intense micro-managing on the part of Disney management, the flagship television network was slow to turn around. In 1999, the network was able to experience a brief bolster in ratings with the hit
game show"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire". A new national phenomenon, "Survivor", on CBS persuaded the schedulers at ABC to change "Millionaire"'s slot over to the Wednesday Time slot at 8:00 to kill "Survivor" before it got a ratings hold. The first results were promising for CBS; they lost by only a few ratings points. ABC tried to keep the strength running, so they tried an unprecedented strategy for "Millionaire" by airing the show four times a week during the next Fall season, in the process overexposing "WWTBAM", as it appeared on the network sometimes five or six nights during a week. ABC's ratings fell dramatically as competitors introduced their own game shows and the public grew tired of the format. Alex Wallautook over as president in 2000. Despite the repeated overexposure of "Millionaire" and its switch to syndication, ABC continued to find some success in dramas such as " The Practice" (which gave birth to a successful spinoff, " Boston Legal", in 2004), "Alias", and " Once and Again". ABC also had some moderately successful comedies including " The Drew Carey Show", " Spin City", " Dharma & Greg", " According to Jim", " My Wife and Kids" and " The George Lopez Show".
Still one asset that ABC lacked in the early 2000s that most other networks had was popularity in
reality television. ABC's briefly lived reality shows " Are You Hot?" and " I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!" proved to be an embarrassment for the network. By end of the 2003–2004 television season, ABC slumped to fourth place, becoming the first of the original "Big Three" networks to fall into such ratings.
2004–present: The Resurgence of the Alphabet Network
Determined not to lose its prominence on TV, ABC was able to find success in ratings beginning in 2004. In the fall of that year, ABC premiered two highly anticipated series "
Desperate Housewives", and "Lost". Immediately, the network's ratings skyrocketed to unprecedented levels thanks in part to the shows' critical praises, high publicity, and heavy marketing over the summer. It followed up its prosperity with the premieres of " Grey's Anatomy" in 2005, and in 2006, the dramedy " Ugly Betty" (the latter being based on a popular international telenovela), which are all popular among viewers and critically acclaimed.
ABC finally found reality television prosperity first with ' in 2003 and then with "Dancing with the Stars" two years later. In spite of these newfound successes ABC continues to flounder in creating new reality television series. Particularly during the summer months, ABC has repeatedly attempteed to launch new unscripted shows such as "
Shaq's Big Challenge", " Fat March", and " Brat Camp". One show of note in ABC's attempt to expand its reality TV brand was the rebuttal of Fox's enormously popular "American Idol", ', which attempted to splice a talent competition with a traditional reality show. The show came in response to 5 years of utter dominance by " American Idol" over even ABC's most popular shows. However, "The One" pulled some of the lowest ratings in TV history and was cancelled after only two weeks. Nevertheless, ABC continues to place second in ratings thanks to its niche with highly popular shows mainly "Desperate Housewives", "Lost", " Grey's Anatomy", "Ugly Betty", and "Dancing with the Stars".
Borrowing a proven Disney formula, there have been attempts to broaden the ABC brand name. In 2004, ABC launched a news channel called
ABC News Now. Its aim is to provide round-the-clock news on over-the-air digital TV, cable TV, the Internet, and mobile phones.
With the Disney merger, Touchstone Television began to produce the bulk of ABC's primetime series. This culminated in the studio's name change to
ABC Studiosin 2007, as part of a Disney strategy to focus on the 3 "core brands": ABC, Disney, and ESPN. Buena Vista Television, the studio's syndication arm also changed their name, to Disney-ABC Domestic Television.
Through the early 2000s, the ABC Sports division and ESPN merged operations. As a result, dating back to fall 2006, all sports broadcasts on ABC are presented under the "
ESPN on ABC" banner, with ESPN graphics and announcers (including both the ESPN and ABC logos on-screen; ESPN in the presentation graphics with an ABC bug in the corner of the screen).
In 2002 ABC committed over $35 million to build an automated Network Release (NR) facility in New York to distribute programming to its affiliates. This facility, however, was designed to handle only
standard definitionbroadcasts, not the modern HDTV, so it was obsolete before construction began. As of early 2007 it is three years behind schedule and fails several times a week. NR's biggest error, to date, is the loss of several minutes of the " Dancing with the Stars" results show live telecast on March 27, 2007 to 104 affiliates. The previous biggest blunder was the airing of " A Charlie Brown Christmas" in December 2006 with several acts in the wrong order. In 2008 ABC committed $70 million to build a new HDTV facility.
In 2007, ABC unveiled a new, glossier logo and their new imaging campaign, revolving around the slogan "ABC: Start Here", which signifies the network's news content and entertainment programming being accessible through not only television, but also the Internet, portable media devices,
podcasting, and mobile device-specific content from the network. [ [http://www.abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=3184117&page=1 ABC News: TV Online: A Glimpse of the Future ] ]
History with Disney
Before being bought by
The Walt Disney Company, ABC was the first television network to air programs produced by Walt Disney. In 1954, the Disney anthology television series, under the title "Disneyland", began showing not only programs made exclusively for television by the Disney studio, but also edited versions of some of the studio's theatrical films, such as "Alice in Wonderland". Occasionally, a full-length film would be shown, such as "Treasure Island", but these would be divided into two one-hour episodes. "Disneyland", which premiered in conjunction with the impending opening of Disney's theme park of the same name, changed its name to "Walt Disney Presents" in 1958. Walt Disneyhad long wanted ABC to broadcast his show in color, but the network still cash strapped balked at the idea because of the cost of color broadcasting. In 1961, Walt Disneystruck a deal with NBCto move the show to their network. At the time, NBCwas owned by RCA, who was promoting color at the time in order to sell their color TV sets. The show moved in the fall of 1961 and was renamed Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Colorallowing Disney to show color broadcasts including shows that had previously been show in black and whiteon ABC. It became one of the longest-running TV series of all time. The 1955 premiere of " The Mickey Mouse Club", featuring an ensemble cast of talented yet unspoiled young "Mouseketeers", set a new standard for children's programming. The show included Disney cartoons, newsreels, a talent competition and one of the most beloved TV show themes in history, the "Mickey Mouse March". Several of the original Mouseketeers, such as Annette Funicelloand Cubby O'Brien, have enjoyed lifelong success in the entertainment industry.
The sale of ABC Radio
Through the 1980s and 1990s, as radio's music audience continued to drift to FM, many of ABC's heritage AM stations -- the powerhouse properties upon which the company was founded, like WABC New York and WLS Chicago -- switched from music to talk. ABC Radio Networks currently syndicates conservative talk show hosts such as
Sean Hannity, Larry Elder, and Mark Davis. In addition to its most popular offerings, ABC News Radioand " Paul HarveyNews and Comment", ABC also provides music programming to automated stations, along with weekly countdown and daily urban and Hispanic morning shows.
While many of ABC's radio stations and network programs remained strong revenue producers, growth in the radio industry began to slow dramatically after the dot-com boom of the early 2000s and the consolidation that followed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. In 2005, Disney CEO Bob Iger sought to sell the ABC Radio division, having declared it a "non-core asset." On February 6, 2006, Disney announced that all ABC Radio properties (excluding
Radio Disneyand ESPN Radio) would be spun off and merged with Citadel Broadcasting Corporation. In March 2007 the Federal Communications Commissionapproved the transfer of ABC's 24 radio station licenses to Citadel; the $2.6 billion merger closed on June 12, 2007. ABC News – a unit of the ABC Television Network – will continue producing ABC News Radio, which Citadel has agreed to distribute for at least ten years.
With the sale of ABC Radio, ABC becomes the second heritage American television network to sell its original radio properties. NBC sold its radio network to Westwood One in 1987, and its stations to various companies through 1988. CBS is now the only broadcast television network with its original radio link, though both Fox News & Fox Sports (through
Clear Channel Communications) and CNN (via CBS' Westwood Onedivision) have a significant radio presence.
Today, ABC owns nearly all its in-house television and theatrical productions made from the 1970s forward, with the exception of certain co-productions with producers (for example, "The Commish" is now owned by its producer,
Also part of the library is the aforementioned Selznick library, the Cinerama Releasing/Palomar theatrical library and the Selmur Productions catalog the network acquired some years back, and the in-house productions it continues to produce (such as "
America's Funniest Home Videos", " General Hospital", and ABC News productions), although Disney-ABC Domestic Television(formerly known as Buena Vista Television) handles domestic TV distribution, while Disney-ABC International Television(formerly known as Buena Vista International Television) handles international TV distribution.
Worldwide video rights are currently owned by various companies, for example,
MGM Home Entertainmentowns US video rights to many of ABC's feature films.
Most of the in-house ABC shows produced before 1973 are now the responsibility of
CBS Paramount Television(via its acquisition of Worldvision Enterprisesin 1999).
ABC presently operates on a 92½-hour regular network programming schedule. It provides 22 hours of
prime timeprogramming to affiliated stations: 8-11pm Monday to Saturday (all times ET/PT) and 7-11pm on Sundays. Programming will also be provided 11am-4pm weekdays (currently the talk show " The View" and soaps " All My Children", " One Life to Live" and " General Hospital"); 7-9am weekdays (" Good Morning America") along with one-hour weekend editions; nightly editions of " ABC World News", the Sunday political talk show "This Week with George Stephanopoulos", early morning news programs " World News Now" and " America This Morning" and the newsmagazine "Nightline"; the late night talk show " Jimmy Kimmel Live!"; and a four-hour Saturday morning live-action/animation block under the name ABC Kids.
In addition, sports programming is also provided weekend afternoons any time from 12-6pm (all times ET/PT).
Returning comedies are in red; new comedies are in pink; returning dramas are in green ; new dramas are in blue; returning reality shows are in yellow; new reality shows are in gold; returning game shows are in orange; new game shows are in beige; news programming is in brown; sports programming is in purple.
* The weeknight late night schedule comprises news show "Nightline", talk show "
Jimmy Kimmel Live!", and the ABC News overnight news service, " World News Now".
* † The Saturday night schedule airs live across the country, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT.
As of 2008, ABC currently airs three soap operas on its daytime schedule: "
All My Children" (1970-), " One Life to Live" (1968-), and " General Hospital" (1963-).
ABC Daytimesoaps of the past include " Dark Shadows" (1966-1971), " Ryan's Hope" (1975-1989), " Loving" (1983-1995), "The City" (1995-1997), and " Port Charles" (1997-2003). ABC also aired the last nine years of " The Edge of Night" (1975-1984) after that series was dropped by CBS, although many ABC affiliates did not air the show in its final years.
ABC Daytime is also the home of the Emmy Award-winning talk show, "
The View". The show has been a staple of ABC's morning lineup since 1997.
ABC's daytime game shows over the years have included the long-running hits "
The Dating Game", " The Newlywed Game", "Password", " Let's Make a Deal", "Pyramid" and " Family Feud". ABC stopped carrying daytime game shows in 1987, the first of the major networks to do so, with the exception of a short-lived revival of " Match Game" in the 1990-91 season. However, ABC's syndication wing does still distribute one game show, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
For most of the network's existence, in regards to children's programming, ABC has aired mostly programming from
Walt Disney Televisionor other producers (most notably, Hanna-Barbera Productions). The crown jewel of its children's programming lineup was the award-winning " Schoolhouse Rock!" which aired beginning in 1973 and was finally retired in 2001.
Following ABC's sale to Disney, the network's content produced by its new owners would increase; this also included the animated and/or live-action children's programming.
In September 1997, ABC remodeled its Saturday morning children's programming lineup, renaming it "
Disney's One Saturday Morning". It featured many programs (mostly animated series) from Walt Disney Television. In 2001, ABC began a deal with sister network Disney Channelto air its original programming. Originally, the lineup aired only a couple of Disney Channel series, "Lizzie McGuire" and "Even Stevens", but has since grown to take up the entire lineup which was rebranded back to ABC Kids in September 2002. Now every series on the ABC Kids schedule are series from Disney Channel as well as Jetix. As of 2007, the only Jetix show that ABC Kids air is the " Power Rangers", which previously aired on the Fox network from 1993 to 2002, one year after Disney bought what Fox Family became ABC Familyand what Saban Entertainmentbecame known as BVS Entertainment from Fox's parent company News Corporationand partner Haim Saban. The only exception is " NBA Inside Stuff", which moved from NBC in 2002 when it acquired the broadcast NBA contract, but now currently airs on NBA TV.
ABC.com Full Episode Player
ABC.com was the first network website to offer full-length episodes online from May-June 2006. Beginning with the 2006-2007 television season, ABC.com has regularly begun airing full length episodes of most of its popular and new shows on its website the day after they aired on ABC, with some advertisements (though less than when broadcast for television). This is assumed to be a response to the popularity of digital recording devices and piracy issues that major network broadcasters are facing. In April 2007 the full-episode player began offering full-screen viewing, as well as a small "mini" screen that users can position wherever they choose on their desktops, in addition to the two original standard viewing size viewing options. In July 2007, ABC.com began presenting content in HD. Launching initially as a beta test in early July, the full-episode broadband player's HD channel will feature a limited amount of content in true high-definition 1280x720 resolution from such series as "Lost", "
Desperate Housewives", " Grey's Anatomy", and " Ugly Betty". In conjunction with the launch of the new season in September, a more robust HD programming lineup will be offered. This fall ABC.com's full episode player will be expanded further to include national news and local content, in addition to primetime entertainment programming. This new player will be geo-targeted, offering the ability for local ads and content to be more relevant to each individual user.
ABC On Demand
On November 20, 2006, ABC and
Comcastreached a landmark deal to offer hit shows ("Lost" and " Desperate Housewives") through Video on demand. [ [http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/business&id=4780317 Disney, Comcast Reach Landmark Deal] , "ABC7Chicago.com", November 21, 2006]
On February 25, 2008, ABC said it will release hit shows ("
Lost" and " Desperate Housewives") for free over video on demand services, including Comcast; only this time, viewers who watch the shows on demand will not be able to fast forward through supported commercial advertisements. [ [http://www.newsvine.com/_news/2008/02/25/1325186-abc-to-offer-shows-via-video-on-demand ABC to Offer Shows Via Video-On-Demand] , "Newsvine", February 25, 2008]
Launched September 27, 2004, ABC1 was a British digital channel available on the Freeview (digital terrestrial), Sky Digital (satellite) and
Virgin Media(cable) services owned and operated by ABC Inc.. Its schedule was a selection of past and present American shows, nearly all produced by ABC Studios, and was offered 24 hours a day on the digital satellite and digital cable platforms, and from 6:00AM to 6:00PM on the Freeview platform. Since ABC1's launch, it had aired the long-running soap " General Hospital", making it the only U.S. daytime soap to air new episodes in the UK; however, in late 2005, it was pulled off the air due to low ratings. It was announced in September 2007 that the channel was to close in October because a 24-hour slot on the digital terrestrial platform could not be gained, and a corporate decision to focus on the Disneybrand in the United Kingdom. [http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/broadcasting/a75298/disney-opts-to-axe-abc1.html ] ABC1 closed on Wednesday September 26 at around 12:00PM, which was earlier than the original closing date of October 1. [http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/broadcasting/a76429/disney-pulls-plug-on-abc1.html ] The channel's old broadcasting space '9010' on the Sky Digital satellite network was used for the Playhouse Disney Plus channel (a 25-minute timeshift of the main channel), and the channel's space on the Virgin Mediacable network is currently a holding page with information about the closing. So far the only program from the channel to be rebroadcast is " 8 Simple Rules" which the channel Five is now airing on Sundays at 11:00AM (This is excluding "Scrubs" which also airs on the channels E4, Channel 4and Paramount Comedy 1and " Ghost Whisperer" which also airs on the E4 and Living.) "Home Improvement" is also being aired on Virgin 1.
"The Path to 9/11"
ABC aired the controversial two-part miniseries "
The Path to 9/11" in the US on September 10, 2006, at 8 p.m. EDT and September 11, 2006, at 8 p.m. EDT. The extensive pre-broadcast controversy over the film has included disputes over the accuracy of its dramatization of key events, as well as calls by historians and from former Clinton and Bush administration officials for ABC to re-edit part of the film or not broadcast it at all. According to the official statement released by ABC on September 7, 2006, the film is "a dramatization, not a documentary, drawn from a variety of sources, including The 9/11 Commission Report, other published materials, and from personal interviews. [cite web|url=http://www.wzzm13.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=60898|title=www.wzzm13.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=60898 ] "
The main source of the controversy stems from portions of the film concerned with the Bill Clinton administration in the 1990s. Critics say that certain dramatized scenes tend to suggest that blame for the events that took place on September 11, 2001 lies with Clinton and his cabinet. One example cited is a scene in which then National Security Advisor,
Sandy Berger, does not approve of the order to take out a surrounded Osama bin Ladenand tells the squad in Afghanistanthat they will have to do the job without official authorization and then hangs up the phone. According to Sandy Berger and others – including conservative author and Clinton critic Richard Miniter– this never happened. [cite web|url=http://thinkprogress.org/2006/09/07/miniter-911/|title=thinkprogress.org/2006/09/07/miniter-911/ ] Screenwriter Cyrus Nowrastehhas now admitted that the abrupt hang-up was not in the script and was improvised. [cite web|url=http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/07/washington/07path.html?hp&ex=&en=83f7ae6acba5dd2f&ei=5094&partner=homepage|title=www.nytimes.com/2006/09/07/washington/07path.html?hp&ex=&en=83f7ae6acba5dd2f&ei=5094&partner=homepage ] American Airlinesreportedly threatened to pull its advertising from ABC after this program aired. The liberal watchdog group Media Matters for Americanamed ABC its third annual "Misinformer of the Year" award in 2006, not only for the miniseries, but for the alleged conservative pandering of ABC Newsdirector Mark Halperinand for biased claims on news programs such as " ABC World News" and " Good Morning America".
Alexis Debat, a consultant for ABC for years and also a writer for " The National Interest", resigned from ABC in June 2007 after the broadcasting company discovered that he did not have a Ph.D. from the Sorbonneas he pretended. Howard Kurtz, [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/12/AR2007091202333.html?sub=AR Consultant Probed in Bogus Interview] , " The Washington Post", September 13, 2007 en icon] Furthermore, in September 2007, the French news media " Rue 89" revealed that he had made at least two bogus interviews, one of Barack Obamaand another of Alan Greenspan, both published in the French magazine " Politique internationale". [ Pascal Riché, [http://www.rue89.com/mon-oeil/une-fausse-interview-dobama-dans-politique-internationale Une fausse interview d'Obama dans Politique internationale] , " Rue 89", 5 September 2007 fr icon ] Pascal Riché, [http://www.rue89.com/2007/09/13/apres-la-fausse-interview-dobama-celle-de-greenspan Après la fausse interview d'Obama, celle de Greenspan] , " Rue 89", September 13, 2007 fr icon] This in turn also led to his resignation from "The National Interest". Debat had specialized in reports on terrorismand national securityfor the past six years (writing, for example, on the JundallahBalochi and Sunni organization. [ Alexis Debat, [http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/04/crackdown_in_th.html Crackdown on the Secret War Against Iran] , ABC News, April 13, 2007 en icon]
ESPN on ABC
List of ABC slogans
*List of ABC owned and affiliated television stations, arranged by market
*List of ABC owned and affiliated television stations, arranged by state
List of programs broadcast by American Broadcasting Company
List of United States broadcast television networks
American Broadcasting Company logos
* Barnouw, Erik. "The Golden Web: A History of Broadcasting in the United States,". New York: Oxford University Press, 1968.
* Goldenson, Leonard, and Marvin J. Wolf. "Beating the Odds: The Untold Story Behind the Rise of ABC". New York: Scribners, 1991.
* Kisseloff, Jeff, "The Box: An Oral History of Television,". New York: Viking Press, 1988.
* Sampson, Anthony. "The Sovereign State of ITT". New York: Stein and Day, 1973.
* Sobel, Robert. "ITT". New York: Truman Talley - Times Books, 1982.
* Taylor, Alan. "We, the media: Pedagogic Intrusions into US Mainstream Film and Television News Broadcasting Rhetorics", Peter Lang, 2005, pp. 418 (includes Touchstone Pictures/ABC)
* [http://abc.go.com ABC website]
* [http://www.disneyabctv.com/ Disney-ABC Television Group]
* [http://www.80stvthemes.com/promos/abc.html ABC Promos]
* [http://members.fortunecity.com/tvnetworks//abc The Evolution of ABC] [http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/S/htmlS/silvermanfr/silvermanfr.htm A bio of Former President Fred Silverman]
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