American Broadcasting Company
(defunct radio network)
First air date
|Slogan||The Only Place To Be, ABC|
|Headquarters||77 West 66th Street, New York City, New York|
|Parent||Disney–ABC Television Group
(Disney Media Network)
|October 12, 1943
April 19, 1948 (television)
|NBC Blue Network|
480i (4:3 SDTV)
By state or by DMA
The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) is an American commercial broadcast television network viewed in the United States and Canada. Throughout its history, ABC has supported its financial operations by diversifying into the press, the publishing industry, the operation of theaters, and filmmaking. Many of the company's assets in these fields have been sold to other companies, and since 2007, when ABC Radio was sold to Citadel Broadcasting, ABC has reduced its operations almost exclusively to television.
The network was created on October 12, 1943 as a radio network, successor to the NBC Blue Network which was purchased by Edward Noble, then extended its operations to television in 1948. In the mid-1950s, ABC merged with United Paramount Theatres, a former subsidiary of Paramount Pictures. Leonard Goldenson, who had been the head of UPT, managed to make the new television network profitable by leading it to broadcast many successful series. In the 1970s, ABC sold its theater operation division to Henry Plitt, who renamed it as Plitt Theatres. In the 1980s, after buying an 80% stake in the cable sports channel ESPN, the network merged with the publishing/broadcasting group Capital Cities Communications. In 1996, ABC and Capital Cities' other assets were purchased by The Walt Disney Company.
As one of the "Big Three television networks", ABC has broadcast many programs that have contributed significantly to American popular culture. These include classic series such as Zorro, The Untouchables, The Brady Bunch, Happy Days, and The Fugitive; more recent titles such as Castle, Lost, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, and Modern Family; live broadcasts such as Monday Night Football; the reality shows America's Funniest Home Videos, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and Dancing with the Stars; and the morning news program Good Morning America.
- 1 History
- 1.1 1927–1945: Blue Network
- 1.2 1945–1949: Entry into television
- 1.3 1950s: Merger with United Paramount Theatres
- 1.4 1960s: Transition to color
- 1.5 1970s: Success in television
- 1.6 1980s: Merger with Capital Cities, purchase of ESPN, reprogramming Friday Nights
- 1.7 1990s: Acquisition by Disney
- 1.8 2000s: Separation of the radio network
- 1.9 2010s: Decline
- 2 Affiliated television stations
- 3 Facilities and studios
- 4 Economic data
- 5 Television programming
- 6 Analysis
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
1927–1945: Blue Network
In the 1930s, radio in the United States was dominated by only a few companies, namely the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), and the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the last of which was owned by the electronics manufacturer Radio Corporation of America (RCA). RCA owned two networks which each ran different varieties of radio programming, and were named NBC Blue and NBC Red. NBC Blue was created in 1927 primarily to test new programs on less important markets than those served by NBC Red, which served the major cities, and to test drama series.
In 1934, Mutual Broadcasting filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding its difficulties in establishing new stations, in a radio market that was already being saturated by NBC and CBS. In 1938, the FCC began a series of investigations into the practices of radio networks and published its report on the broadcasting of network radio programs in 1940. The report recommended that RCA separate either NBC Red or NBC Blue from its control. At that time, NBC Red was the principal radio network in the United States and, according to the FCC, RCA was using NBC Blue to eliminate any hint of competition. Having no power over the networks themselves, the FCC established a regulation forbidding licenses to be issued for radio stations if they were affiliated with a network which already owned multiple networks that were of interest to the public.
Once Mutual's appeals against the FCC were rejected, RCA decided to sell NBC Blue in 1941, and gave the mandate to do so to Mark Woods. In January 1942, RCA converted the NBC Blue Network into an independent subsidiary, and NBC Red and NBC Blue became two separate companies, dividing their respective assets. Between 1942 and 1943, Woods offered the entire NBC Blue Network on sale for a price of $8 million. This package included leases on land lines, three television stations (WJZ in New York, KGO-TV in San Francisco and WENR in Chicago), sixty affiliates, four facilities (in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C.), contracts with actors, and the brand associated with the Blue Network. The investment bank Dillon, Read & Co. (acquired in 1997 by the Swiss Bank Corporation) offered $7.5 million, but Woods and RCA president David Sarnoff rejected the offer.
Edward John Noble, the owner of Life Savers candy, the Rexall drugstore chain, and the radio station WMCA in New York, accepted the $8 million purchase of the network. According to the FCC's rules, the transaction, which was to include Noble's purchase of three RCA stations, would require Noble to resell his station with the FCC's approval. The commission authorized the transaction on October 12, 1943. Soon afterward, the Blue Network was purchased by the new company founded by Noble, the American Broadcasting System. The network was renamed American Broadcasting Company (ABC) in 1944, and its parent company became American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. Woods retained his position as president and CEO of ABC until December 1949, then became vice-chairman of the board before leaving ABC altogether on June 30, 1951.
Meanwhile, in August 1944, the West Coast division of the Blue Network, which owned the station KGO-AM in San Francisco, bought the KECA-AM station in Los Angeles from Earl C. Anthony for $800,000. Both stations were then managed by the vice-president of the Blue Network's West Coast division, Don Searle.
1945–1949: Entry into television
The ABC Radio Network created its audience slowly. The network's acquisition of WXYZ-AM, a station in Detroit, from KingTrendle Broadcasting in 1946 for a little less than $3 million, allowed it to acquire several radio serials, including The Lone Ranger, Sergeant Preston, and The Green Hornet, which had originated on that station. WXYZ continued to be owned by ABC until 1984.
ABC became an aggressive competitor to NBC and CBS when, continuing NBC Blue's traditions of public service, it broadcast symphony performances conducted by Paul Whiteman, performances from the Metropolitan Opera, and jazz concerts delivered through its broadcast The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street announced by Milton Cross. The network also became known for such suspenseful dramas as Sherlock Holmes, Gang Busters, and Counterspy, as well as several mid-afternoon youth programs. However, ABC made a name for itself by using the practice of counterprogramming, with which it often placed shows of its own against the offerings of NBC and CBS, adopting the use of the Magnetophon tape recorder, brought to the U.S. from Nazi Germany after its conquest, to record its programming. With the help of the Magnetophon recorder, ABC was able to provide its stars with greater freedom in terms of time, and also attract several big names, such as Bing Crosby.
While its radio network was undergoing reconstruction, ABC found it difficult to avoid falling behind on the new medium of television. To ensure a space, in 1947 ABC submitted five applications for licenses, one for each market where it owned and operated a radio station. These applications requested the allocation of frequency 7, as Frank Marx, then ABC's vice-president of engineering, thought that the lower frequencies would be requisitioned and reallocated for the U.S. Army.
On April 19, 1948, the ABC television network began its broadcasts and picked up its first primary affiliate, WFIL-TV in Philadelphia (later renamed WPVI-TV). In August 1948, the network's flagship owned-and-operated station, WJZ-TV in New York City (later renamed WABC-TV), began its broadcasts. The first broadcast ran for two hours in the evening of August 10, 1948. ABC's other owned-and-operated stations launched over the course of the next 13 months. WENR-TV in Chicago launched on September 17, 1948, while WXYZ-TV in Detroit went on the air October 9, 1948. In October 1948, the FCC realized that it had issued too many licenses for TV stations, so it froze applications for new stations. However, KGO-TV in San Francisco, which had received its license prior to the freeze, went on the air May 5, 1949. On May 7, 1949, Billboard revealed that ABC had proposed an investment of $6.25 million, of which it would spend $2.5 million to convert 20 acres (80,937 m2) of land in Hollywood into what would become The Prospect Studios, and construct a transmitter on Mount Wilson, in anticipation of the launch of KECA-TV, which was scheduled to launch August 1, but would not actually go on the air until September 16.
In the fall of 1949, ABC found itself in the position of an outsider, with less coverage than two of its competing networks, CBS and NBC, even though it was on par with them in some of the major cities and had a head start over its third rival at the time, the DuMont Television Network. Before the freeze ended in 1952, there were only 108 existing television stations in the United States; a few major cities such as Boston had only two television stations, many other cities such as Pittsburgh and St. Louis had only one, and still many others, such as Denver and Portland, had no television service at all.
1950s: Merger with United Paramount Theatres
At the end of 1949, the movie theater operator United Paramount Theatres (UPT) was forced by the Supreme Court of the United States to become an independent entity, separating itself from the film studio Paramount Pictures. For its part, ABC was on the verge of bankruptcy, with only five stations and nine full-time affiliates. Its revenues, which were related to advertising and were indexed compared to the number of listeners/viewers, failed to compensate for its heavy investments in buying and building stations. In 1951, a rumor even mentioned that the network would be sold to CBS. In 1951, Noble held a 58% stake in ABC, giving him $5 million with which to prevent ABC from going bankrupt; as banks refused further credit, that amount was obtained through a loan from the Prudential Insurance Company of America.
Leonard Goldenson, the president of UPT (which sought to diversify itself at the time), approached Noble in 1951 and proposed that UPT purchase ABC. Noble received further offers, including one from Bill Paley of CBS, but that would have forced CBS to sell at least its New York and Los Angeles stations. Goldenson and Noble reached a tentative agreement in the late spring of 1951 that ABC would become a subsidiary of UPT, but would remain autonomous in its management. On June 6, 1951, UPT's board of directors validated their tentative agreement. However, the transaction had to be approved by the FCC because of the presence of television networks and the recent separation between Paramount and UPT. Insofar as the Paramount Pictures film studio was already a shareholder of the DuMont Television Network, the FCC conducted a series of hearings to ensure whether Paramount was truly separated from United Paramount Theatres, and whether it was violating antitrust laws.
In 1952, when the FCC ended its freeze on applications for new stations, among the issues to be addressed was the approval of the merger between UPT and ABC. One member of the commission saw the possibility of ABC, funded by UPT, becoming a viable and competitive third television network. On February 9, 1953, the FCC authorized UPT's purchase of ABC in exchange for $25 million in shares, and the company was renamed American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, Inc. The new company was based in Paramount's headquarters at 1501 Broadway in New York, and owned six AM radio stations and many FM ones, as well as five TV stations and 644 cinemas in 300 cities throughout the United States. In consideration of this merger, UPT sold the channel 2 television station WBKB in Chicago to CBS for $6 million (renamed WBBM-TV), but retained the channel 7 station WENR-TV, which it immediately renamed WBKB, which would eventually become WLS-TV. Goldenson began to sell some of the old theaters to finance the new television network.
On May 1, 1953, ABC's flagship stations – WJZ, WJZ-FM and WJZ-TV in New York – adopted the callsigns of WABC, WABC-FM and WABC-TV, respectively, and moved to 7 West 66th Street, one block from Central Park. The WABC call letters were abandoned by the flagship station for CBS Radio in 1946. The name WJZ would later be assigned to the then-ABC affiliate in Baltimore owned by Westinghouse in 1959, in an historical tie to the fact that WJZ was originally established by Westinghouse.
However, a problem emerged regarding the directions taken by ABC and UPT. In 1950, Noble appointed Robert Kintner to be ABC's president while he himself served as its CEO, a position he would hold until his death in 1958. Despite the promise of non-interference between ABC and UPT, Goldenson had to intervene in ABC's decisions because of financial problems and the FCC's long period of indecision. Goldenson added to the confusion when, in October 1954, he proposed a merger between UPT and DuMont Television Network, which was also in financial trouble. As part of this merger, the network would have been renamed ABC-DuMont for five years, and DuMont would have received $5 million in cash and guaranteed advertising time for its receivers. Also, to satisfy the FCC's constraints, it would have been required to sell either WABC-TV or WABD-TV (DuMont's New York station) and two other stations with it. The result would have allowed ABC and DuMont to expand their network and compete with CBS and NBC.
Goldenson sought to develop the ABC network in the U.S. by trying to convince local stations to become affiliated with the ABC network. For this, he contacted local entrepreneurs who owned TV stations themselves, many of whom had previously invested in Paramount cinemas and had worked with him when he undertook the responsibility for restructuring United Paramount Theatres. Goldenson also tried international investing; for example, he acquired a 5% stake in two new Japanese networks, Mainichi Broadcasting System in 1951 and Nihon Educational Television in 1957.
Hollywood begins to produce television series
At the same time that he made his attempts at the network's growth, Goldenson had been trying since mid-1953 to provide content for the network by contacting his old acquaintances in Hollywood, with whom he had worked when UPT was a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures. ABC's merger with UPT led to the creation of relationships with Hollywood's film production studios, breaking a quarantine that had existed at that time between film and television, the latter of which had previously been more connected to radio. ABC's flagship productions at the time were The Lone Ranger (1949–1957), based on the same-titled radio program, and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952–1965).
Goldenson's efforts paid off, and on October 27, 1954, the network was able to launch a "New ABC" campaign with the productions of several studios, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Warner Bros., and 20th Century Fox.
Warner tried with mixed success to adapt some of its most successful films as ABC television series, and showcase such adaptations in a programming block known as Warner Bros. Presents. The wheel series, which aired during the 1955–56 season, showcased television adaptations of the 1942 films Kings Row and Casablanca; Cheyenne, adapted from the 1947 film Wyoming Kid; Sugarfoot, a remake of the 1954 film The Boy from Oklahoma; and Maverick, which helped to attract the network's audiences. However, the most iconic of ABC's relationships with Hollywood producers was its agreement with Walt Disney; after the start of the network's bond with the Disney studio, James Lewis Baughman, who worked in the press at that time, observed that "at ABC's headquarters in New York, the secretaries [were now] wearing hats with Mickey Mouse ears."
First bonds with Disney
Walt Disney and his brother Roy contacted Goldenson at the end of 1953 to allow ABC to finance part of the Disneyland project in exchange for Disney's production of a television broadcast. Walt wanted ABC to invest $500,000 and accrued a guarantee of $4.5 million in additional loans, a third of the budget intended for the park. Around 1954, ABC agreed to finance Disneyland in exchange for the broadcasting of a new Sunday television program, Disneyland, which debuted on the ABC network on October 27, 1954 as the first of many anthology TV programs that Disney would broadcast over the course of the next fifty years.
The budget for the construction of the park, upon its completion in July 1955, totaled $17 million, while ABC owned 35% of Disneyland, Inc., the company that had been created to build and manage the park. When the park opened on July 17, 1955, a special live broadcast, Dateline: Disneyland, was aired on ABC. Shortly thereafter, on October 3, 1955, a second regular program produced by Disney was launched: The Mickey Mouse Club, designed as a weekday children's program aired Monday through Friday, which starred the "Mouseketeers," a group of 24 children.
Syndication division and phonographic labels
By 1954, all U.S. networks had regained control of their programming, with higher advertising revenues: ABC's increased by 67% with $26 million, NBC's went up by 30% with $100 million, and CBS's rose by 44% with $117 million. On March 27, 1954, ABC created a subsidiary named ABC Films Syndication Division, which specialized in syndication and in-house production of broadcasts, and was headed by George Shupert. However, ABC had only 14 affiliates as opposed to CBS's 74 and NBC's 71. According to Goldenson, this meant that an hour of programming on ABC reported five times less than its competitors; however, the network's intake of money at the time would allow it to accelerate its production of content.
In 1955, ABC founded a record company, the AmPar Record Corporation, which launched the record label ABC-Paramount Records. Several other labels would be established or purchased by ABC in the following years. DuMont Television Network ceased broadcasting on September 15, 1955, and went bankrupt the next year. ABC then found itself as the third U.S. television network, but still continued to look for successful programming. That same year, Kintner was forced to resign because of disagreements between Noble and Goldenson, a consequence of Goldenson's many interventions in ABC's management. In 1959, ABC International created a company called WorldVision Enterprises for overseas syndication.
Counterprogramming: successful, but criticized
It was not until the late 1950s that the ABC network became a serious contender for NBC and CBS, and this was thanks to its diverse range of programming meeting the expectations of the public, such as westerns and detective series, but despite an almost 500% increase in advertising revenues between 1953 and 1958, the network remained able to cover only between 10% and 18% of the total U.S. population, due to still having a relatively low number of affiliates compared to NBC and CBS. In 1957, Ollie Treiz discovered that the variety show Bandstand, aired on WFIL-TV in Philadelphia, had very good ratings, and taking that into account, he managed to introduce that show to a national audience, re-titling it American Bandstand; the show quickly became a social phenomenon by presenting new talent and new dances to the American youth. On September 3, 1958, the Disneyland TV series was retitled Walt Disney Presents as it became disassociated with the same-named theme park. The movement in westerns, which ABC is credited for having started, represented a fifth of all primetime series on American television in January 1959, at which point a movement in detective shows was beginning as well. ABC requested yet more productions from Disney. At the end of 1958, Desilu Productions offered its detective series The Untouchables to CBS, but that network rejected the show because of its use of violence; the production company next presented it to ABC, which agreed to approve the show, and began broadcasting it in April 1959. The Untouchables went on to quickly become "immensely popular."
This sort of programming offered ABC an image of the "philosophy of counterprogramming against its competitors," the network offering its viewers a strong lineup of programs contrasting with those of its rival networks, which helped Goldenson give the network a continuum between film and television. ABC's western series opposed and defeated the variety shows that NBC and CBS were airing in the fall of 1957, and its detective shows did the same in the fall of 1959. To captivate the network's audiences, short 66-minute series were scheduled a half-hour before their hour-long competition. In May 1961, Life magazine criticized the public enthusiasm and sponsorship for this type of shows at the expense of news programming and denounced an unofficial law "replacing the good programs with the bad ones."
1960s: Transition to color
During the 1960s, ABC continued on the same path that it began to take in the mid-1950s, consolidating the network to gain loyalty from the public. The network's finances improved and allowed it to invest. In May 1960, ABC bought the WLS radio station in Chicago, which had shared airtime with WENR since the 1920s. This acquisition allowed ABC to consolidate its presence in the market. On May 9, 1960, WLS launched a new lineup of programming related to ABC. In 1960, the Canadian John Bassett, who was trying to establish a television station in Toronto, sought the help of ABC. Goldenson agreed to acquire a 25% stake in CFTO-TV, but Canadian legislation denied this participation, so ABC withdrew from the project before the launch of the channel.
1960–1965: Children's programming and the debut of ABC Sports
On September 30, 1960, ABC began broadcasting The Flintstones, another example of counterprogramming; although that show was filmed in color from the beginning, it was initially broadcast in black-and-white, because ABC technically would not show its programming in color at the time. The Flintstones allowed ABC to present a novelty, that of children's programming, but it also allowed the network to begin replacing the family orientation that had been the flagship of Disney's programming.
The contract allowing ABC to air Walt Disney Presents was due to expire in 1961. In 1959, the Disney company, having regained a better financial situation, had purchased ABC's shares in Disneyland for $7.5 million and initiated discussions to renew the television collaboration. Walt Disney was approached by NBC to produce color broadcasts of his anthology series, which would be renamed Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. Goldenson said ABC could not counter the offer, because the network did not have the technical and financial resources. Thus, ABC and Disney's television collaboration expired in 1961.
However, in 1961 ABC continued with its niche in animated series with Calvin and the Colonel, Matty's Funday Funnies, Top Cat, and The Bugs Bunny Show, the last of which showcased classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts. As for its activity in amusement parks, the network compensated for the sale of Disneyland in October 1962 by purchasing the Silver Springs Nature Theme Park, an amusement and zoological park in Ocala, Florida with a total area of 3,900 acres (1,578 ha).
Always in search of new programs that would help it to compete with NBC and CBS, ABC's management noted that sports was a carrier issue. On April 29, 1961, ABC began broadcasting a sports show called Wide World of Sports created by Edgar Scherick through his company Sports Programs, Inc. and produced by a young Roone Arledge. ABC bought the company in exchange for shares, leading it to become the future core of ABC Sports, with Arledge as the executive producer of that division's shows. Wide World of Sports, in particular, was not merely devoted to a single sport, but rather to generally all sporting events.
Due to pressure from film studios wanting to maximize their production, U.S. networks were beginning to broadcast films on television. In 1962, ABC joined CBS and NBC in broadcasting films on the Sunday night slot, though its Sunday night movie program debuted a year behind its competitors, and was initially broadcast in black and white instead of color. However, ABC remained in third place despite a significant increase, with a 33% audience rate as opposed to the 15% rate from 1953, and revenues of $15.5 million which represented a third of CBS's total revenues. To catch up, ABC followed up The Flintstones with another animated series from Hanna-Barbera, The Jetsons, which debuted on September 23, 1962 as the first TV series to be broadcast in color on the network. On April 1, 1963, ABC debuted its long-running soap opera General Hospital, and on September 17 of the same year, it premiered a drama series titled The Fugitive.
The 1964–1965 season was marked by the debuts of several classic series including Bewitched on September 17 and The Addams Family on September 18. Arledge's success was confirmed in 1964 when he became vice-president of ABC Sports.
1966–1969: New regulations and the radio network's recovery
It was not until the 1965–1966 season that color became dominant over black and white for the three television networks. ABC remained in third place among the three networks and still needed money to grow. However, ABC's issues with color became secondary compared to the network's financial problems, because in 1964 the network found itself, as Goldenson later wrote, "in the middle of a war [where] the battlefield was Wall Street". Many companies sought to take control of ABC, including Norton Simon, General Electric, International Telephone and Telegraph, and Litton Industries.
In this context, the company was renamed from American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres to American Broadcasting Company in 1965, while its cinema division became ABC Theatres, and its recording division was renamed ABC Records in 1966. After the death of David O. Selznick on June 22, 1965, his assigns sold the catalog of the films he produced after 1935 to ABC Films, with few exceptions. As far as programming was concerned, ABC launched The Dating Game in December 1965, and followed that show up with The Newlywed Game in July 1966. Due to the saturation of its premises at 7 West 66th Street in New York, Goldenson found a new headquarters for ABC in a four-story building located at 1330 Avenue of the Americas at the corner of 54th Street (now occupied by The Financial Times's New York office). This operation allowed for the conversion of the premises at 66th Street into television and radio studios.
On December 7, 1965, Goldenson proposed to ABC management a merger with ITT, to which the two companies agreed on April 27, 1966. The FCC approved the merger on December 21, 1966, but the previous day, Donald F. Turner, head antitrust regulator for the United States Department of Justice, expressed doubts related to such things as the emerging market for cable broadcasting. Another doubt concerned the journalistic integrity of ABC and how it could be influenced by the overseas ownership of ITT. The ITT management promised that their company would allow ABC to retain autonomy in the publishing business. The merger was suspended, and a complaint was filed by the Department of Justice in July 1967. After a trial that began in October 1967 and ended on January 1, 1968, the merger was canceled.
On January 12, 1966, ABC began broadcasting the highly successful series Batman, starring Adam West. In 1967, Ralph Beaudin, CEO of WLS, was appointed as the head of ABC Radio. Under his leadership, ABC Radio was divided into four "networks", each one devoted to one of four different types of programming: newscasts, informative series, pop music, and talk shows. Two other networks were later created for rock and traffic news.
In 1968, ABC took advantage of new regulations to buy the radio stations KXYZ-AM and KXYZ-FM in Houston for $1 million in shares and $1.5 million in bonds, reaching its limit of seven owned-and-operated stations. Roone Arledge was named president of ABC Sports, and the company also founded its own film studio, ABC Pictures (renamed ABC Motion Pictures between 1979 and 1985), whose first production was Charly, a 1968 film directed by Ralph Nelson. In July 1968, ABC continued its acquisitions in the amusement parks sector by opening ABC Marine World in Redwood City, California; that park was sold in 1972 and demolished in 1986, and its area later became home to the headquarters of Oracle Corporation.
In July 1968, ABC Radio launched a special programming project for its FM stations, entrusted to Allen Shaw, a former program manager at WCFL (AM) in Chicago. Shaw was commissioned by Harold L. Neal, president of ABC Radio, to compete with the new progressive rock and DJ stations. The new program called LOVE Radio, with selected music, was launched on the seven FM stations owned by ABC in late November 1968; it replaced nearly all of the programming for these stations, but several affiliates retained the majority of their programming, such as KXYZ in Houston. From August 1970, Shaw confirmed that ABC FM's music choice policy should be reviewed to allow listeners access to many styles of music.
As far as television is concerned, since the early 1960s, the American broadcasting industry regularly offered made-for-TV movies; to satisfy its fans, in September 1969 ABC launched its Movie of the Week program, a weekly program with dramas produced on an average budget of $400,000–$450,000 by talented filmmakers. It featured productions by such directors as Aaron Spelling, David Wolper, and Steven Spielberg (the last of whom gained early success for his 1971 film Duel, which was shown on the program).
1970s: Success in television
In the early 1970s, ABC completed its transition to color broadcasting and began to pass CBS and NBC in terms of audience. It also began to use behavioral and demographic data for better placement of advertising spaces. In 1970, ABC debuted the sports program Monday Night Football (which moved to ESPN in 2006), and several soap operas such as All My Children. According to Goldenson, broadcasting Monday Night Football allowed ABC regular audience ratings of 15%–16%, with a budget managed by ABC Sports for Monday nights to reallocate the weekly budget for ABC Primetime to just six days, as opposed to seven on competing networks.
In 1970, the FCC imposed its Financial Interest and Syndication Rules, a set of regulations that aimed to prevent the Big Three networks from monopolizing the broadcast landscape, by preventing them from owning any of the programming that they aired in the primetime. This decision caused ABC Films to split in 1972 into two separate companies: WorldVision for syndication, and ABC Circle Films for production. WorldVision, which had existed since 1959, was sold to ABC officials for nearly $10 million.
In April 1970, Congress passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act which banned cigarette advertising from all television and radio networks, including ABC, when it took effect on January 2, 1971. In 1974, due to the low profitability of its cinemas, the Central West division of ABC Theatres, named ABC Great States, was sold to Henry Plitt. On January 17, 1972, Elton Rule was named President and COO of ABC a few months after Goldenson suffered from a heart attack.
In the early 1970s, Michael Eisner, who joined ABC in 1966, became the network's program development manager. He offered many ideas for series including Happy Days, which debuted in January 1974, and several soap operas as well, but his main credit at ABC was for developing youth-oriented programming. He was responsible for moving Bugs Bunny and company back to ABC after their cartoon shorts had spent several years on CBS; developing the cartoon The Jackson 5ive and a series about the Osmonds; and approving Super Friends, a show centered around the Justice League of America. Eisner left ABC in 1976 to become president of Paramount Pictures.
In the spring of 1975, Fred Pierce, the newly named president of ABC Television, convinced Fred Silverman to become the first president of an independent television production subsidiary named ABC Entertainment, created from the namesake division responsible for the network's programming. In 1974, ABC started broadcasting the detective series S.W.A.T. The same year, the network made the decision to compete with NBC's morning news program Today. Its first attempt at such competition was a program called AM America, but that show's success was not straightforward. Before the end of 1975, ABC discovered that another news program, The Morning Exchange, produced for the local Cleveland market through its affiliate WEWS-TV, seemed to appeal to its viewers; in November 1975, that show's concept was adopted for the network's national morning newscast, which was renamed Good Morning America. Meanwhile, ABC News sought to become a global leader in television newscasts.
In 1977, the southern division of ABC Theatres, known as ABC Southern, was sold to Henry Plitt, who at the time was associated with Thomas Klutznick, a real estate entrepreneur in Chicago. With this sale, ABC was stripped of control over its theaters because of changes in the theater operation sector, mainly the fact that the population was investing in the suburbs and moving away from old cinemas in the larger cities. In 1987, Plitt Theatres was bought by Cineplex Odeon Corporation.
For its part, the television network produced many programs, and in 1977 several series were launched: January saw the debut of Roots, a miniseries based on an Alex Haley novel that was published the previous year; and September saw the premiere of The Love Boat. Roots went on to become one of the highest-rated programs in all of American television, with unprecedented Nielsen ratings for its finale. The success of Roots, Happy Days, and The Love Boat allowed the network to become first in the ratings among U.S. networks for the first time in the 1976–1977 season. On the international level, however, many governments wanted to increase their independence and strengthen their legislation, so ABC was forced to sell all of its interests in international networks, mainly in Japan and Latin America.
In 1977, Arledge was named president of the new ABC News division in addition to being president of ABC Sports. Also in 1977, ABC launched an expansion program for its offices in New York. On the corner of Columbus Avenue and West 66th Street, it demolished an abandoned warehouse and built in its place a 10-floor building which is nicknamed 7 Lincoln Square, but is actually located at 149 Columbus Avenue. Meanwhile, the former parking lot, located at 30 West 67th Street, was transformed into an impressive 15-story building. Both buildings were completed in June 1979. WABC-TV moved its offices from 77 West 66th Street to 149 Columbus Avenue, freeing up space for the ABC network itself.
On January 20, 1978, the series Fantasy Island debuted on ABC. In June 1978, Arledge created the news magazine 20/20. In February 1979, ABC sold its recording division to MCA Inc. (MCA standing for the company's former name, Music Corporation of America) for $20 million; by March 5 of that same year, the label had disappeared and all of its 300 employees had been laid off. The rights to the works of ABC Records and all of MCA's other labels have since been acquired by Universal Music Group.
For ABC, the 1970s were highlighted by several successful series including Kung Fu (an action-adventure western drama starring David Carradine, which ran from 1972 to 1975), The Six Million Dollar Man (1974–1978), Happy Days (1974–1984), Wonder Woman (1975–1979), Charlie's Angels (1976–1981), The Bionic Woman (1976–1978), Three's Company (1977-1984), Fantasy Island (1978–1984), and Battlestar Galactica (1978–1979). Many of these series were approved by Fred Silverman, who was appointed in 1975 as the network's director of programming via its ABC Entertainment division, but left his post in 1978 to become CEO of NBC.
1980s: Merger with Capital Cities, purchase of ESPN, reprogramming Friday Nights
ABC dominated the American television landscape during the 1970s and early 1980s. Several flagship series debuted on ABC during this time; for example, Dynasty premiered on January 12, 1981, five months before the 1970s hit Charlie's Angels ended its run. Also in 1981, ABC launched the Alpha Repertory Television Service (ARTS), a cable television service that offered cultural programming such as ballet and opera.
On August 9, 1982, ABC purchased a 10% stake in the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (later known by its abbreviated name, "ESPN") for the sum of $20 million, and in return, ESPN gained the U.S. broadcast rights to the British Open, which ABC had not been able to broadcast completely. This purchase provided ABC the opportunity to purchase additional shares of up to 49% under certain conditions. One of them was the purchase of at least 10% of the shares of Getty Oil before January 2, 1984.
In 1983, ABC sold KXYZ to Infinity Broadcasting Corporation. On January 4, 1984, The New York Times reported that ABC, through its subsidiary ABC Video Enterprises, had exercised its option to purchase shares of Getty Oil in ESPN up to 15%, or between $25 million and $30 million, which would allow it to increase its shares later. In June 1984, ABC's executive committee approved the purchase of ESPN, and ABC arranged with Getty Oil to obtain 80% of the company, while the remaining 20% was sold to Nabisco. In 1984, in consideration of the arrangements for ESPN, ARTS merged with RCA's Entertainment Channel project while the Hearst Corporation added its participation, in a new cable channel called Arts & Entertainment Television (A&E). Meanwhile, ABC withdrew from the theme park business for good when it sold Silver Springs Nature Theme Park in Florida.
In January 1985, the FCC published an amendment to its regulations which was to increase the maximum number of stations that could be owned by a single television network from seven to twelve. Thomas S. Murphy, CEO of Capital Cities Communications, contacted Goldenson in December 1984 to propose a merger of their respective companies. On March 16, 1985, the ABC executive committee accepted the purchase offer from Capital Cities.
On March 18, 1985, Capital Cities officially launched its bid on ABC for $3.5 billion. The offer consisted of $118 for each of ABC's shares plus a guarantee of 10%, or $3, for a total of $121 per share. To finance this purchase, Capital Cities borrowed $2.1 billion to a consortium of banks, which sold more of those assets that violated FCC rules for $900 million and separated several interests in cable, which were sold to The Washington Post Company. The remaining $500 million was provided by Warren Buffett, who promised that his company Berkshire Hathaway would purchase $3,000,000 in shares, at $172.50 apiece.
On September 5, 1985, ABC merged with Capital Cities and was renamed Capital Cities/ABC. ABC acquired more television stations (such as KFSN-TV, KTRK-TV, and WJRT-TV), the media group Fairchild Publications, and four newspapers such as The Kansas City Star and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In return, ABC sold WXYZ-TV to the E. W. Scripps Company. In 1985, as far as programming is concerned, The Love Boat ended its run just one year after Happy Days and Three's Company had ended theirs. Meanwhile, Jim Duffy left the network's presidency for the management of ABC Communications, a subsidiary that specialized in community service programming, such as shows related to literary education. At that time, NBC regained the lead in the ratings among the Big Three. To counteract NBC, ABC decided to focus on comedy and family series with titles such as Mr. Belvedere, Roseanne, Who's the Boss?, Just the Ten of Us, The Wonder Years, Full House, Home Improvement, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, Step by Step, Boy Meets World, and Perfect Strangers (the last of which spawned a successful follow-up, Family Matters). Following the initial success of these series, ABC reprogrammed Friday nights for this type of programming in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, on a programming block known as "TGIF" ("Thank God It's Funny").
The ABC/Capital Cities merger went into effect on January 3, 1986, and several changes occurred in the management at that time: Frederick S. Pierce became president of ABC's broadcasting division, Michael P. Millardi became vice president of ABC Broadcasting and president of ABC Owned Stations and ABC Video Enterprises, John B. Sias became president of the ABC Television Network, Brandon Stoddard became president of ABC Entertainment (a position to which he had been appointed in November 1985), and Roone Arledge became president of ABC News and ABC Sports. In February 1986, Thomas S. Murphy, who had been CEO of Capital Cites since 1964, was appointed chairman and CEO emeritus of ABC. In 1988, a new headquarters was built for ABC, just off the WABC-TV studios on West 66 Street. The television network's restructuring program, launched in 1974, helped with the purchases and exchanges of nearly 70 stations in the late 1980s, adding more than 2 million viewers.
1990s: Acquisition by Disney
In 1990, Thomas S. Murphy delegated his position as president to Daniel B. Burke while remaining ABC's chairman and CEO. Capital Cities/ABC reported revenues of $465 million. In 1993, the FCC changed its rules to remove the ban on networks holding interests in television production studios. That same year, ABC bought DIC Entertainment (DIC being an acronym for Diffusion, Information and Communication), an animation studio of French origin, and signed a contract with Time Warner Cable to allow its television stations to be broadcast on TWC's cable network. In February 1994, with the departure of Daniel Burke, Thomas Murphy took the position of president before ceding control to Robert Iger. In order to compete with CNN, ABC launched a channel called ABC Cable News in 1995, but that channel's success was so limited that it was discontinued in 1997; however, ABC would reattempt the idea in July 2004 with ABC News Now, a channel for the Internet and mobile phones.
On July 31, 1995, The Walt Disney Company and Capital Cities/ABC announced their intention to merge for a total of $19 billion. On August 29, 1995, ABC acquired WJRT-TV and WTVG from SJL Broadcast Management and converted them into owned and operated stations. On January 4, 1996, the Disney shareholders approved the merger at a special conference in New York. On February 9, 1996, Disney completed its acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC and renamed its new subsidiary ABC Inc. This acquisition allowed Disney to acquire 10 TV stations (9 VHF and one UHF); 21 radio stations (11 AM and 10 FM); 80% of ESPN, varying percentages of The History Channel, A&E Television Networks, and Lifetime Entertainment; and dozens of magazines and newspapers. In consideration of the redemption, and according to the FCC, Disney sold KCAL-TV in Los Angeles to Young Broadcasting for $387 million. On April 4, Disney sold the four newspapers that ABC had controlled under Capital Cities to Knight Ridder for $1.65 billion. Thomas S. Murphy withdrew from ABC and was replaced as president and CEO by Robert Iger. Around the time of their merger, ABC and Disney produced such shows as Home Improvement and the multiple Emmy Award-winning comedy series Sports Night.
On May 10, 1999, Disney reorganized its publishing division, the Buena Vista Publishing Group, and renamed it Disney Publishing Worldwide; the rechristened division became a subsidiary of Disney Consumer Products while Hyperion Books became affiliated with ABC. On July 8, 1999, Disney consolidated Walt Disney Television Studio, Buena Vista Television Productions, and ABC's primetime division into the ABC Entertainment Television Group. On December 31, 1999, ABC's contract with Time Warner Cable officially ended, but it was renewed on time for the parties to reach an agreement.
During the 1999–2000 season, thanks to the unexpected success of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, which premiered as a special occasional series in August 1999 and became a regular program on January 18, 2000, ABC became the first network to move from third to first place in the ratings for a single season. Based on the same-titled British program, the show was a wild ratings success throughout its first year, but nearly three years after its debut, the U.S. version of Millionaire left the network's primetime lineup and was switched to syndication. In spite of Millionaire's departure from ABC Primetime, The Practice, My Wife and Kids, NYPD Blue and The Wonderful World of Disney managed to help the network stay ahead of the competition in the ratings.
2000s: Separation of the radio network
On April 30, 2000, following a disagreement between ABC and Time Warner Cable, TWC pulled the plug on the WTVD station, which served the cities of Raleigh, Durham, and Fayetteville in North Carolina. As the ABC network reported on May 1, the FCC issued an order (published May 3) requiring TWC to restore the station, which was done in the afternoon of May 2, after 24 hours of service interruption. In June 2000, Disney sold its 33% stake in Eurosport for $155 million.
On July 23, 2001, Disney acquired Fox Family Worldwide and integrated the group into ABC Entertainment under the name ABC Family for $5.3 billion. Upon acquiring Saban Entertainment, Disney gained the rights to the catalog of 8,500 episodes of programming produced by that company. The group's youth-oriented channel was later renamed Jetix and fell under the control of the Disney Channel. The deal was finalized on October 24, 2001.
In 2004, ABC's audience went down by ten points, and the network found itself in the fourth place in terms of market shares. However, during the 2004–2005 season, the network experienced an unexpected success with new series such as Desperate Housewives, Lost, and Grey's Anatomy, which helped ABC rise to the rank of second place in terms of viewership, behind only NBC, while CBS remained in third place. On April 21, 2004, Disney announced a restructuring of its Disney Media Networks division with George Bodenheimer as its co-CEO, and Anne Sweeney as the president of the Disney–ABC Television Group (owner of ABC and Disney Channels Worldwide); Bodenheimer, who had already been president of ESPN, also became president of ABC Sports. On September 27, 2004, ABC announced the launch of ABC1, a channel owned by the ABC Group in the United Kingdom.
Between May and September 2005, rumors circulated about Disney–ABC selling ABC Radio, with Clear Channel Communications and Westwood One (which had bought NBC, CBS, and Mutual's radio divisions) as potential buyers. On October 19, 2005, ABC announced the restructuring of the group into six divisions: Entertainment Communications, Communications Resources, Kids Communications, News Communications, Corporate Communications, and International Communications. On December 7, 2005, ABC Sports and ESPN signed an agreement with NASCAR for eight years of broadcasts of the Nextel Cup, i.e., 17 of the 36 races held each season.
On February 6, 2007, Disney and Citadel Broadcasting announced that the ABC Radio Network would merge with Citadel. The new entity was named Citadel Communications, and its ownership was as follows: 52% owned by Disney, 32% by Forstmann Little, and 16% by former shareholders of Citadel Broadcasting. On October 10, 2006, the Disney–ABC Television Group entered into an agreement to broadcast ABC News Now in India via Dish TV.
In February 2007, Disney announced that it would rename the production studio Touchstone Television as ABC Television Studio. In May 2007, ABC unveiled a new imaging campaign, revolving around the slogan "Start Here", which signifed the multi-platform availability of ABC content. On September 8, 2007, Disney announced that it would discontinue ABC1 in October because of the channel's inability to attain a suitable audience. On September 28, 2007, ABC's Hyperion division moved its offices located in the ABC headquarters (at 77 West 66th Street) to invest two floors of 114 Fifth Avenue, the home of Disney Publishing Worldwide, during the course of a partial move to White Plains, New York.
The writer's strike of 2007–2008 affected the network in the 2008–2009 season, as various shows that premiered in 2007, such as Dirty Sexy Money, Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone, and Samantha Who?, did not live to see a third season on the network; and more series such as Boston Legal and the U.S. version of Life on Mars suffered from low viewership, despite the former being a once-highlighted breakout show. On August 15, 2008, Disney denied rumors started by Caris & Co. that it would be selling ABC's ten owned-and-operated stations.
In early 2009, Disney–ABC Television Group merged ABC Entertainment and ABC Studios into a new division called ABC Entertainment Group, which would be responsible for both production and broadcasting. The group planned to reduce its workforce by 5% during this reorganization. On April 2, 2009, Citadel Communications decided to rename ABC Radio as Citadel Media; however, ABC News continued to provide press service for Citadel. On July 6, 2009, the website Hulu broadcast ABC programming for the first time, following an April 2009 agreement giving Disney a 27% stake in Hulu. On 22 December 2009, Disney–ABC Television Group announced a partnership with Apple Inc. for pay-TV on iTunes, with content from Disney Channel and ABC.
In March 2010, Disney considered spinning ABC off into an independent broadcasting company because "it [did not] add a lot of value to Disney's other divisions". It entered advanced negotiations with two private equity firms to sell ABC; however, the sale was canceled because of an attempted insider trade to the FBI by an ex-employee.
In 2010, Lost ended after six seasons, the last of which was its lowest rated since its debut in 2004. The once-instant hit Ugly Betty collapsed dramatically in ratings due to its move to the Friday night death slot. Even after an attempt to boost ratings by moving it to Wednesdays, the show was ultimately canceled, resulting in negative reactions from the public, and particularly from the show's fanbase. With the network's two former hit shows now out of the picture, the network's remaining top two veteran shows Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, and another hit show Brothers & Sisters, then recorded their lowest ratings ever, a trademark that still continued into the network's 2010–2011 schedule. Similarly, ABC's dramas during that season continued to fail, with only Body of Proof being renewed for a second season. The network also struggled to establish new comedies to go with the previous year's debuts, with only late-season premiere Happy Endings earning a second season. Meanwhile, the new lows hit by Brothers & Sisters led to its cancellation, and the previous year's only drama renewal, V, also failed to earn another season after a low-rated mid-season run. Despite this and another noticeable ratings decline, ABC would manage to outrate NBC for third by a larger margin than the previous year.
With the combination of relatively little buzz surrounding its 2010–2011 pilots, compounded by a sexual harassment suit against him, Stephen McPherson resigned as ABC Entertainment Group president on July 27, 2010. His replacement, Paul Lee (previously the president of sister cable channel ABC Family), was announced the same day.
With the cancellation of Supernanny in 2011, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was the only series on the network's schedule to be broadcast in 4:3 standard definition until the program ended its run as a regular series in January 2012. On April 14, 2011, ABC canceled the long-running soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live after a combined 84 years on the air. The talk/lifestyle show that replaced One Life to Live, The Revolution, failed to generate satisfactory ratings and was in turn canceled. The 2011–12 season saw ABC drop to fourth place in the 18-49 demographic despite renewing a handful of new shows for second seasons.
In 2012, Spanish-language network Univision and ABC News announced a partnership to launch an English-language news channel primarily aimed at Hispanic audiences; in February 2013, it was revealed that the new network would be known as Fusion, and would launch later that year.
In May 2013, ABC launched its Watch ABC player apps, which allow viewers to access live streams from a local ABC affiliate from within the app, making ABC the first U.S. broadcast network to offer this ability. Similarly to its sister WatchESPN app, the live streaming capability is only available to authenticated pay television subscribers in certain markets; the service launched with WABC-TV and WPVI-TV in New York City and Philadelphia (with a free preview for non-subscribers running through June), and is expected to launch across the remaining ABC O&Os (including markets such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, and San Francisco) by the start of the 2013–14 television season. Hearst Television also reached a deal to offer the service across its ABC-affiliated stations, which include outlets in Boston, Kansas City and Milwaukee.
Affiliated television stations
Since its inception, ABC has had many affiliated stations, which include the same two affiliated stations that were the first to broadcast ABC's programming. As of 2010, ABC has 235 affiliated stations, owned by eighty different companies, and is present in all U.S. states except New Jersey, which is served by ABC O&O's WABC-TV from New York for North Jersey, and Philadelphia's WPVI-TV providing South Jersey coverage.
Facilities and studios
All of ABC's owned-and-operated stations and affiliates have had their own facilities and studios, but transverse entities have been created to produce national programming. Thus, television series were produced by ABC Circle Films beginning in 1962 and by Touchstone Television beginning in 1985, before ABC Studios was formed in February 2007. Since the 1950s, ABC has had two main production facilities: the ABC Television Center on Prospect Avenue in Hollywood, California, shared with KABC-TV until 1999; and the ABC Television Center, East, a set of studios throughout the city of New York. A new center, Times Square Studios, opened in Times Square in 1999.
ABC owns several facilities in New York grouped mainly on West 66th Street. The main set of facilities is on the corner of Columbus Avenue and West 66th Street. In total, ABC's facilities occupy a combined 9,755 square meters (105,000 sq ft) of the 14,864 square meters (159,990 sq ft) of the blocks they occupy. The aforementioned set includes:
- The official headquarters at 77 West 66th Street, a 2-story building built in 1988 on a plot of 175 feet (53 m) × 200 feet (61 m)
- A pair of buildings at 149–155 Columbus Avenue (with one building comprising 10 stories and the other 7, and both containing glass bays connecting them to each other), constructed on a plot of 100 feet (30 m) × 200 feet (61 m)
- 30–34 West 67th Street, a 15-story building with a facade on the 66th and 67th Street on a plot of 100 feet (30 m) × 100 feet (30 m)
- The former First Battery of New York National Guard, a five-story building located at number 56 on the other side of the street, on a plot of 174 feet (53 m) × 100 feet (30 m)
- ABC also owns 47 West 66th Street, one of three 14-story buildings on a plot of 375 feet (114 m) x 100 feet (30 m). From 1983 to 2013, Disney leased 70,000 square feet (6,500 m2) at 157 Columbus Avenue, just on the other side of 67th Street.
ABC also owns the Times Square Studios at 1500 Broadway on land owned by a development fund for the 42nd Street Project; it is in this studio that Good Morning America is taped. ABC News has premises a little further on West 66 Street, in a 6-story building occupying a plot of 196 feet (60 m) × 379 feet (116 m) at 121–135 West End Avenue. The block of West End Avenue housing the ABC News building was renamed Peter Jennings Way in 2006 in honor of one of ABC News' most well-known newscasters.
ABC's employees, like all employees of Disney and its subsidiaries, are eligible for membership in the ABE Federal Credit Union, a cooperative savings and loan service founded in 1967. With the acquisition by Disney, this union became associated with Disney's Partners Federal Credit Union. The acquisition of Marvel Entertainment allowed Marvel employees to join ABE-FCU.
- Main offices
- New York:
- 190 N. State Street, Chicago, Illinois (at the WLS-TV studios)
- 680 Birch Street, Bristol, Connecticut (at the ESPN headquarters)
- 383 Middle Street, Bristol, Connecticut (at the ESPN North Campus)
- 1717 DeSales St. NW, Washington D.C. (at ABC News' Washington Bureau)
|Since 1996, ABC's financial results are included in those of Disney Media Networks.|
- Following the acquisition of ABC
- 1943–1953: Edward Noble
- 1953–1986: Leonard Goldenson
- 1986–1990: Thomas Murphy (chairman/CEO)
- 1990–1994: Thomas Murphy (chairman), Daniel Burke (CEO)
- 1994–1996: Thomas Murphy (chairman), Bob Iger (CEO)
- 1996–2000: Bob Iger, president
- 2000–2004: Anne Sweeney, president of ABC Cable Networks Group and Disney Channels Worldwide with George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN
- 2004–present: Anne Sweeney and George Bodenheimer, co-CEOs of Disney Media Networks
The ABC Television Network provides a schedule of 86 regular weekly hours of network programming. The network provides 22 hours of prime time programming to affiliated stations: 8–11 p.m. Monday to Saturday (all times ET/PT) and 7–11 p.m. on Sundays.
Daytime programming is also provided from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. weekdays (with a one-hour break at noon ET/PT for local stations to air news or other programming such as syndicated shows) featuring the talk/lifestyle shows The View and The Chew and the soap opera General Hospital. ABC News programming includes Good Morning America from 7–9 a.m. weekdays (along with one-hour weekend editions); nightly editions of ABC World News (whose weekend editions are occasionally subject to abbreviation or preemption due to sports telecasts overrunning into the program's timeslot), the Sunday political talk show This Week, early morning news programs World News Now and America This Morning and the late night newsmagazine Nightline. Late nights feature the weeknight talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
The network's Saturday morning children's programming timeslot, consisting of three hours, is filled by syndicator Litton Entertainment, which produces the Litton's Weekend Adventure block of programming under an arrangement where the programming is syndicated out exclusively to ABC stations, rather than being leased out directly by the network to Litton (the 86 weekly hour of network programming mentioned above does not include the Litton's Weekend Adventure block).
Sports programming is also provided on some weekend afternoons at any time from 3–6 p.m. ET (12–3 p.m. PT) and, during college football season, during prime time on Saturday nights through Saturday Night Football. Due to the erratic and (outside of college football season) inconsistent scheduling of sports programming on weekend afternoons, ABC carries the ESPN Sports Saturday block on Saturdays, and on Sunday either encores of primetime reality series, burned off series which had no room in the primetime schedule, or occasional theatrical films which were acquired in the early to mid-2000s that no longer have a primetime slot to air in, when no sports telecasts are scheduled, usually airing between 4–6 p.m. ET/PT.
ABC holds the broadcast rights to the Academy Awards, American Music Awards, Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade, Tournament of Roses Parade, Country Music Association Awards and the CMA Music Festival. Since 2000, ABC has also owned the television rights to most of the Peanuts television specials. Since 1974, ABC has generally aired Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on New Year's Eve (the only exception being in 1999, when ABC pre-empted the special for its own coverage of the international millennium festivities). ABC has also aired the Miss America pageant from 1954 to 1956, 1997 to 2005, and since 2011. The pageant will return to Atlantic City in 2013 after being held in Las Vegas since 2006, ABC will continue to broadcast the pageant through 2016.
The network's daytime programming block, ABC Daytime, currently airs the soap opera General Hospital, and talk shows The View and The Chew. General Hospital is the longest-running entertainment program in the entire history of the ABC television network, having aired since 1963. ABC also broadcasts the morning news program Good Morning America and has done so since 1975, though that program is not considered to be part of the ABC Daytime block. Notable soap operas seen on the block in the past include All My Children, One Life to Live, Ryan's Hope, Dark Shadows, Loving, The City and Port Charles. ABC also aired the last nine years of the Procter & Gamble-produced The Edge of Night. ABC Daytime has also aired a number of game shows, including The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, Let's Make a Deal, Password, Split Second, The $10,000/$20,000 Pyramid, Family Feud, The Better Sex, Trivia Trap, All-Star Blitz and Hot Streak.
ABC owns nearly all its in-house television and theatrical productions made from the 1970s onward, with the exception of certain co-productions with producers (for example, The Commish is now owned by the estate of its producer, Stephen Cannell). Worldwide video rights are currently owned by various companies, for example, MGM Home Entertainment via 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment owns U.S. video rights to many of ABC's feature films.
When the FCC imposed its fin-syn rules in 1970, ABC proactively created two companies: Worldvision Enterprises for syndication, and ABC Circle Films for production. However, between the publication and implementation of these regulations, the separation of the network's catalog was made in 1973. The broadcast rights to pre-1973 productions were transferred to Worldvision, which became independent in the same year. The company has been sold several times since Paramount Television acquired it in 1999, and has most recently been absorbed into CBS Television Distribution, a unit of CBS Corporation. Nonetheless, Worldvision sold portions of its catalog, including the Ruby-Spears and Hanna-Barbera libraries, to Turner Broadcasting System in 1990. With Disney's 1996 purchase of ABC, ABC Circle Films was absorbed into Touchstone Television, a Disney subsidiary which in turn was renamed ABC Studios in 2007.
Also part of the library is the aforementioned Selznick library, the Cinerama Productions/Palomar theatrical library and the Selmur Productions catalog that 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 television distribution, while Disney–ABC International Television (formerly known as Buena Vista International Television) handles international television distribution.
List of selected programs
Adventure, fantasy, and science fiction series
- The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin (1954–1959)
- The Fugitive (1963–1967)
- Batman (1966–1968)
- Kung Fu (1972–1975)
- The Six Million Dollar Man (1974–1978)
- Wonder Woman (1975–1977; later moved to CBS)
- Charlie's Angels (1976–1981)
- The Bionic Woman (1976–1977; later moved to NBC)
- Fantasy Island (1978–1984)
- Battlestar Galactica (1978–1979)
- The Fall Guy (1981–1986)
- MacGyver (1985–1992)
- Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993–1997)
- Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (1996–2000; later moved to The WB)
- Lost (2004–2010)
- V (2009–2011)
- Once Upon a Time (2011-Present)
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013-Present)
Comedies, dramas, and soap operas
- General Hospital (1963–present)
- Dynasty (1981–1989)
- Loving (1983–1985)
- The Thorn Birds (1983)
- Desperate Housewives (2004–2012)
- Revenge (2011-Present)
- Bewitched (1964–1972)
- That Girl (1966-1971)
- The Odd Couple (1970-1975)
- The Partridge Family (1970-1974)
- Happy Days (1974–1984)
- Barney Miller (1975-1982)
- Welcome Back, Kotter (1975-1979)
- Laverne and Shirley (1976-1983)
- Three's Company (1977–1984)
- Soap (1977-1981)
- Diff'rent Strokes (1978–1985)
- Mork and Mindy (1978-1982)
- Taxi (1978-1983)
- Benson (1979-1986)
- Who's the Boss? (1984–1992)
- Mr. Belvedere (1985-1990)
- Growing Pains (1985-1992)
- Perfect Strangers (1986-1993)
- Head of the Class (1986-1991)
- Full House (1987-1995)
- The Wonder Years (1988-1993)
- Roseanne (1988–1997)
- Family Matters (1989-1998)
- Coach (1989-1997)
- Doogie Howser, M.D. (1989-1993)
- Dinosaurs (1991–1994)
- Step by Step (1991–1998)
- Home Improvement (1991-1999)
- Boy Meets World (1993–2000)
- Grace Under Fire (1993-1998)
- Ellen (1994-1998)
- The Drew Carey Show (1995-2004)
- Spin City (1996-2002)
- Dharma and Greg (1997–2002)
- Two Guys and a Girl (1998-2001)
- Sports Night (1998-2000)
- My Wife and Kids (2001–2005)
- According to Jim (2001-2009)
- 8 Simple Rules (2002–2005)
- George Lopez (2002-2007)
- Samantha Who? (2007-2009)
- The Middle (2009–present)
- Modern Family (2009–present)
Detective, legal, and medical series
- The Untouchables (1959–1963)
- The Streets of San Francisco (1972–1977)
- Starsky & Hutch (1975–1979)
- Hart to Hart (1979–1984)
- Matt Houston (1982–1985)
- Matlock (1992–1995; previously aired on NBC for six years)
- NYPD Blue (1993–2005)
- The Practice (1997-2004)
- Alias (2001–2006)
- Boston Legal (2004–2008)
- Grey's Anatomy (2005–present)
- Private Practice (2007–2013)
- Castle (2009–present)
- Scandal (2012–present)
- Let's Make a Deal (1963–1977; later returned in versions on NBC and on CBS)
- The Dating Game (1965–1973)
- The Newlywed Game (1966–1974; continued in various incarnations until 2013)
- Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (1999–2002; later revived as a syndicated series)
- Monday Night Football (1970–2005; after that, it was moved to ESPN)
- Saturday Night Football (2006–present)
- American Bandstand (1957–1987)
Since its inception, the American Broadcasting Company has evolved with the development of various assets, many of which have been sold. The company originates from a radio network that went on the air in 1927, was forced by law to separate from its parent company, and then became an independent company. The new company diversified rapidly in the emerging medium of television.
Thanks to two mergers, one with United Paramount Theatres in 1950 and the other with Capital Cities in the 1980s, the company diversified again. Under UPT, ABC was sister company to a large theater chain, while under Capital Cities, it was sister company to various publications. However, ABC was separated from its theaters by the time of the Capital Cities merger, and from its sister newspapers during Disney's purchase of the network in the 1990s.
The 1993 annual report indicates that 70% of the Capital Cities/ABC media group's revenue came from the sale of advertising space, and for the rest, the two main positions were subscriptions to pay-TV channels and direct sales of books and journals.
The ABC logo has evolved many times since the network's creation in the mid-1940s. The first ABC logo, introduced in 1946, was a television screen containing the letters T and V, with a vertical ABC microphone in the center, referencing the network's roots in radio. When the ABC-UPT merger was finalized in 1953, the network introduced a new logo based on the FCC seal, with the letters "ABC" enclosed in a circular shield surmounted by the American eagle. In 1957, just before the network began its first broadcasts in color, the ABC logo featured a tiny abc in the center of a large lowercase letter a, which was called the "ABC Circle A".
In 1962, graphic designer Paul Rand redesigned the ABC logo into its best-known form, with the letters "abc" enclosed in a single black circle. The letters are strongly reminiscent of the Bauhaus typeface designed by Herbert Bayer in the 1920s, but also share similarities with several other fonts, such as ITC Avant Garde and Horatio. The logo's simplicity made it easier to redesign and duplicate, which conferred a benefit for ABC (mostly before the advent of computer graphics).
The 1970s and 1980s saw the emergence of many versions of the logo based mainly on special lighting effects then under development: white, blue, pink, or rainbow neon; glittering dotted lines; etc. Among the "ABC Circle" logo's many variants was a 1977 version that featured a bubble on a black background representing the circle with glossy gold letters, and as such, was the first ABC identification card to have a three-dimensional appearance.
In 1983, for the fortieth anniversary of the network's founding, the logo appeared in a gold CGI version on a blue background, accompanied by the script slogan "That Special Feeling". Ten years later, with ABC's acquisition by Disney only a few years away, the "ABC Circle" logo returned to its classic white-on-black color scheme, but with gloss effects on both the circle and the letters, and a bronze border surrounding the circle.
In 1998, the network began using a minimalist identification card featuring a small black-and-white ABC Circle logo on a yellow background, with the words "We Love TV." underneath. A new four-note theme tune was introduced alongside the package, creating a sound signature on par with the NBC chimes, CBS's three-note sound mark, and the Fox Fanfare was introduced at the same time, and has been updated with every television season thereafter (though variants of the four-note signature used since the 1998-99 season remain in use during the production company cards that follow the closing credits of most programs).
In 2000, ABC launched a web-based promotional campaign focused around its circle logo, also called "the dot", where comic book character Little Dot prompted visitors to "download the dot", a program which would cause the ABC logo to fly around the screen and settle in the bottom-right corner. The network hired the Troika Design Group to design and produce its 2001–02 identity, which continued using the black-and-yellow coloring of the logo and featured dots and stripes in various promotional and identification spots.
On July 4, 2007, ABC began to phase in a new imaging campaign for the upcoming season, "Start Here". Also developed by Troika, the on-air design was intended to emphasize the availability of ABC content across multiple platforms (in particular, using a system of icons representing different devices, such as television, computers, and mobile devices), and "simplify and bring a lot more consistency and continuity to the visual representation of ABC." The ABC logo was also significantly redesigned as part of the transition, featuring a glassier appearance; on-air, the logo was accompanied by animated water effects and ribbon effects. Red ribbons were used to represent the entertainment division, while blue ribbons were used for ABC News.
In May 2013, a new ABC logo was introduced for promotions for the 2013–14 season during the network's upfront presentation on May 14, 2013, and officially introduced on-air on May 30, 2013 (although some affiliates implemented the new design prior to then), as part of an overhaul of ABC's identity by the design agency LoyalKaspar. The new logo carries a simpler gloss design than the previous logo, and contains lettering closer resembling Paul Rand's original version of the circle logo. The logo is used in gold, steel blue, dark gray, and red color schemes on-air. The gold version is primarily used on entertainment-oriented outlets (such as ABC.com, Watch ABC, and by ABC Studios) and the on-screen bug; blue and dark grey versions are used primarily by ABC News; the red version is used for ESPN on ABC, while all four colors are used selectively in advertising and by affiliates. A new custom typeface, "ABC Modern", was also created for use in advertising and other promotional materials.
Place in American media
ABC has always been part of the "Big Three television networks" of the United States, alongside CBS and NBC. At the beginning of the television network's existence, there was a fourth network, DuMont, but that disappeared ten years into ABC's history, after which ABC became the "little third network".
In terms of programming, ABC found itself in the position of an outsider in the 1950s, counter-programming against its competitors, and managed to launch a number of detective shows and westerns. The 1960s were marked by family-oriented series in the vein of this counter-programming, but a slow transition to color.
In 1980, 90% of viewers watched the prime-time shows on the three major networks. In 1993, ABC represented 23.63% of American households, just below the limit of 25% imposed by the FCC. In 2005, on the same slot, the Big Three's season-ending average audience share represented only 32% of American households, in competition with public television, satellite, and cable.
The first attempts to internationalize the ABC Television Network date from the 1950s, after Leonard Goldenson, following the United Paramount Theatres model, tried to use on ABC the same strategies he had made in expanding UPT's theater operation to the international market. Goldenson said that ABC's first international activity was broadcasting the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953; CBS and NBC were unable to cover the coronation live due to technical problems and flight delays, respectively. NBC's plane landed in Latin America, leading ABC to learn of subsidiaries in that region. ABC then invested in Latin America, reaching 51% of a network covering Central America. Goldenson also cited interest in Japan in the early 1950s and in Beirut in the mid-1960s.
The idea was to create a network of wholly and partially owned channels, and affiliates to rebroadcast the network's programs. In 1959, this rerun activity was completed with program syndication, with ABC Films selling programs to networks not owned by ABC. The arrival of satellite television ended the need for ABC to hold interests in other countries; thus, all the network's international interests were sold in the 1970s.
A second period of international expansion is linked to that of the ESPN network in the 1990s, and policies enacted in the 2000s by Disney Media Networks. In contrast to Disney's other channels, ABC is broadcast in the United States, although the network's programming is syndicated in many countries. The policy regarding wholly owned international networks was revived in 2004 with the creation of ABC1 in the UK, but due to poor viewership, the attempt to develop ABC International was discontinued in 2007.
- ABC Daytime
- ESPN on ABC
- Disney–ABC Television Group
- ABC Owned Television Stations
- Litton's Weekend Adventure
- List of United States over-the-air television networks
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