The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) is a US-based television network. Created in 1943 from the former NBC Blue radio network, ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company and is part of Disney-ABC Television Group. It first broadcast on television in 1948. Corporate headquarters are in Manhattan, while programming offices are in Burbank, adjacent to the Walt Disney Studios and the Walt Disney Company corporate headquarters. ABC is among the most successful networks as of 2006.
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 Latin letters.
From the organization of the first true radio networks in the late 1940s, broadcasting in the United States was dominated by two companies, CBS and RCA's NBC. Prior to NBC's 1926 formation, RCA had acquired AT&T's New York station WEAF (later WNBC, now WFAN). With WEAF came a loosely organized system feeding programming to other stations in the northeastern U.S. RCA, prior to 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 network.
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, Read made an offer of $7.5 million, but Woods and RCA chief David Sarnoff held firm at $8 million. The Blue package contained leases on land-lines and on studio facilities in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and 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).
RCA finally found a buyer in Edward Noble, owner of Life Savers candy and the Rexall drugstore 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 Radio began 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. Crosby was such a believer in pre-recorded programs that he also purchased one of the first two videotape recorders sold in the 1950s (Sony bought the other, and ordered its engineers to lower the cost from $50,000 each so that VCR player/recorders could become a home product within 20 years). 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. Interestingly, 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-TV in Detroit and KGO-TV in San Francisco.
Noble finally found a white knight in United Paramount Theaters. Divorced from Paramount Pictures at 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 Goldenson immediately 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.
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). 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-Fox were 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, which included Disney's own occasion Western series starring Fess Parker in its timeslot. 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 Records in 1965. They subsequently purchased the record labels from the Famous Music division of Gulf+Western 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.
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. The ABC 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 Rick Sklar to program contemporary "Top 40" music on WABC. Neal also hired Dan Ingram to host the afternoon time period and Rick Sklar 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. But by the mid-1960s, hourly newscasts, commentaries and a few long-running serials 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 subsideries, with Nancy Terrell as "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. Due to the decline of the entire radio industry, the F.C.C. did not object as it had to NBC's Red and Blue networks earlier.
In 1969, Neal and Beaudin hired former WCFL Chicago programmer, Allen Shaw, to program the seven ABC Owned FM Radio stations. Shaw pioneered the first album oriented rock format on all seven stations and changed the call letters to WPLJ New York, WDVE Pittsburgh, WRIF Detroit, KSFX San Francisco and KLOS Los Angeles. By the mid 1970s, the ABC owned AM and FM stations, and the ABC Radio Network were the most successful radio operations in America in terms of audience and profits. Leonard Goldenson often credited ABC Radio for helping fund the 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-Mayer had 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. Scherick through his company, Sports Programs, Inc. After selling his company to the American Broadcasting Company, Scherick hired a young Roone Arledge to 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.
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). A spinoff series, "The Green Hornet," lasted just one season despite costarring a young Bruce Lee as Kato.
1969–1985: Still the One-Rising to the Top
Continuing the network's upswing in the 1960s were highly rated primetime sitcoms such as My Three Sons, That Girl, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, and The Mod Squad. Edgar J. Scherick was 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, 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. Three of its few moneymaking films were Bob Fosse's Cabaret, Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run, and Sidney Pollack's They Shoot Horses, Don't They?; more typical of the film division's offerings were Song of Norway and Candy, both heavily promoted while still in production but critical and box-office disasters upon release. They also started a new 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. Scherick after 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 demographics to 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 Silverman was 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 Spelling such as Charlie's Angels. 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/microwave delivery 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 Intelsat Galaxy 16 and Intelsat Galaxy 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. ABC acquired majority control of the fast-growing ESPN sports 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, MacGyver, Who's The Boss?, and Hotel, ABC seemed to have lost the momentum that once 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 Films to 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 no less successful in the ratings. From 1994 to 1996, they aired the canadian CG cartoon series ReBoot. ABC changed quite alot of the show, by making it more light hearted. When Disney bought the compony in 1996, they did not renew the series for the Third season.
1996–2003: Disney and the Millionaire Overhaul
In 1996, The Walt Disney Company acquired 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. However, WWTBAM became overexposed, appearing 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 Wallau took over as president in 2000. In the shadow of the station's abuse 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 Spin City, Dharma & Greg, According to Jim, and The George Lopez Show.
Still one asset that ABC lacked in the early 2000's that most other networks had was popularity in reality television. Such gimmicks ABC tried were The Mole (and the creation of its subsequent spinoff Celebrity Mole) whose failure was blamed on mismanagement and the continued failures of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. 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 dying 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. Immedaitely, 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 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition 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, The One: Making a Music Star, 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 canceled 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 Studios in 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.
In 2007, ABC unveiled 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.
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, and switched from ABC to NBC in 1961, changing its name again—this time to Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. 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 Funicello and 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 Radio and Paul Harvey News 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 Disney and ESPN Radio) would be spun off and merged with Citadel Broadcasting Corporation. In March 2007 the Federal Communications Commission approved 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 and CNN have a significant radio presence. The Mutual Broadcasting System had also been sold to Westwood One in 1985, for $39 million, but was determined to have a name with "no value," so the name eventually disappeared. Westwood One was itself taken over by Infinity Broadcasting in 1994. In a deal announced in June 1996 and completed that December, CBS's new parent company, Westinghouse, acquired Infinity for just shy of $5 billion. The direct descendants of the three original U.S. network companies had merged. In April 1999, Westwood One announced it was dropping the Mutual brand in favor of CNN Radio—yet another acquisition.
A 2003 Nielsen estimate found that ABC could be seen in 96.75% of all homes in the United States, reaching 103,179,600 households. ABC has 10 VHF and UHF owned-and-operated television stations and 218 affiliated stations in the U.S. and U.S. possessions.
Since the 1950s, ABC has split "live" production between east- and west-coast facilities; ABC Television Center West in Hollywood, (once the Vitagraph film studios) accommodates sets for the daily soap operas; and the ABC Television Center East, once clustered around a former stable on West 66th Street, and now split between several soundstages in the same New York neighborhood. (ABC's corporate headquarters and TV news studios are located on the north side of West 66th Street, while some of its soap facilities are across the street. The stages for The View and "All My Children" are in the same building as ABC News Radio, further west on 66th Street near the Hudson River.) Some ABC News programs such as Good Morning America are broadcast from Disney's studios in Times Square. ABC's west coast corporate offices are located in Burbank, California adjacent to the Walt Disney Studios and the Walt Disney Company corporate headquarters.
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 definition broadcasts, not the modern HDTV, so it was obsolete before construction began. Building a standard definition facility today is like building a black and white studio in 1967; it will meet the minimum current requirement but will soon be out of date. 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.
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, Stephen Cannell).
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 Entertainment owns US video rights to many of ABC's feature films.
Most of the in-house ABC shows produced prior to 1973 are now the responsibility of CBS Paramount Television (via its acquisition of Worldvision Enterprises in 1999).
American Broadcasting Company logos
Before its early color transmissions, the ABC identity was a lowercase 'abc' inside a lower case 'a'. That logo was known as the "ABC Circle A." The logo was modified in the fall of 1962 when ABC started using the current "ABC Circle" logo (designed by Paul Rand) with ultra-modern (for its time) lower case 'abc' inside. The typeface used is a simple geometric design inspired by the Bauhaus school of the 1920s; its simplicity makes it easy to duplicate, something ABC has taken advantage of many times over the years (especially before the advent of computer graphics). It does not correspond to a particular font; however, several common geometric typefaces (including Avant Garde and Horatio) are close, and a recently developed typeface is inspired by it. ABC Family also currently uses the logo's typeface for their promotional graphics and advertising, all in lower-case like the ABC logo. A variation of ABC's logo is used by Brazilian TV network SBT. A radio station in Mexico's Federal District, XEABC, duplicates the 'abc' lettering as its logo.
ABC presently operates on a 92½ hour regular network programming schedule. It provides 22 hours of prime time programming 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). List of programs broadcast by American Broadcasting Company as of 2007: Prime time
Sunday: America's Funniest Home Videos, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Desperate Housewives, Brothers & Sisters
Monday: Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann, Notes from the Underbelly, October Road
Tuesday: Just For Laughs, According to Jim, Carpoolers, Boston Legal
Wednesday: Supernanny, Wife Swap, Cashmere Mafia
Thursday: Ugly Betty, Grey's Anatomy, Big Shots
Friday: Men in Trees, Women's Murder Club, 20/20
Saturday: ABC Saturday Night Movie, Women's Murder Club
The weeknight late night schedule is comprised of news show Nightline, talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live, and the ABC News overnight news service, World News Now.
ABC currently airs only three soap operas on its daytime schedule: All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital.
Notable ABC Daytime soaps 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.
For most of the network's existence, in regards to children's programming, ABC has aired mostly programming from Walt Disney Television or 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 Channel to 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 Family Channel and what Saban Entertainment became known as BVS Entertainment from Fox's parent company News Corporation and 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 starting 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 will begin 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. Writers are not paid any extra for these network showings, which caused talks in the writers strike in December, 2007, to break down entirely for the rest of the year when Producers refused to even consider extra money for internet broadcasts of network TV-series.
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, it was the first use of the ABC name outside of the United States. ABC in Australia is unrelated, it stands for Australia Broadcasting System. 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 6:00 am to 6:00 pm on the Freeview platform. Since ABC1's launch, it had aired the long-running ABC 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 Disney brand in the United Kingdom . ABC1 closed on Wednesday 26 September at around 12 noon, which was earlier than the original closing date of 1 October. The channels old broadcasting space '9010' on the Sky Digital satellite network was used for the Playhouse Disney Plus channel (a 25 minute time-shift of the main channel), the channels space on the Virgin Media cable network is currently a holding page with information about the closing, and its Freeview space has been announced to be the home of a 'lite' version of the Disney Channel with content from the main channel and Playhouse Disney to be launched as part of the Sky Picnic Plan . So far the only programme 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 4, Sky One and Paramount Comedy 1 and Ghost Whisperer which also airs on E4 and Living.)