|Type||Broadcast, cable and satellite television network|
|Slogan||Positively Entertaining (primary)
Watch It Unfold. (secondary; promotional campaign)
|Headquarters||West Palm Beach, Florida|
|Owner||Ion Media Networks|
|R. Brandon Burgess
(chairman and chief executive officer of Ion Media Networks)
|August 31, 1998
(as Pax TV)
July 1, 2005
(as i: Independent Television)
January 29, 2007
(as Ion Television)
|Pax TV (1998–2005)
i: Independent Television (2005–2007)
Ion Television is an American broadcast, cable and satellite television network that is owned by Ion Media Networks. The network first began broadcasting on August 31, 1998 as Pax TV, a name it used until its rebranding as i: Independent Television on July 1, 2005; the network adopted its current identity as Ion Television on January 29, 2007.
As of 2013[update], Ion Television is receiveable to approximately 101,373,000 television households in the United States through its group of 60+ stations, as well as through distribution on cable and satellite providers (which serve as the network's sole method of distribution in markets where Ion does not have an owned-and-operated station or affiliate). The network's stations cover all of the top 20 U.S. markets and 37 of the top 50 markets.
- 1 History
- 2 Programming
- 3 Affiliates
- 4 Differences between Ion and other broadcast networks
- 5 Network slogans
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Pax TV (1998–2005)
The network was originally founded by Lowell "Bud" Paxson, co-founder of the Home Shopping Network and chairman of the network's parent company Paxson Communications (the forerunner to the current Ion Media Networks). Most of the network's initial affiliates were Paxson Communications-owned affiliate stations of the Infomail TV Network (or inTV), a broadcast television network that launched in 1995 by Paxson, whose programming schedule relied solely on infomercials. Paxson, who felt that television programs aired by other broadcast networks were too raunchy and not family-friendly enough, had decided to create a network that he perceived as an alternative. The network was originally to be named Pax Net, but was renamed Pax TV not long before its launch.
Pax TV launched on August 31, 1998, with the network's initial schedule being much larger in scope than it would be in later years. It consisted of general entertainment programs from 12:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time weekdays and 4:00 to 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on weekends, with paid programming airing from 12:00 to 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific (and initially, on Saturdays from 5:00 to 6:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.), and all afternoon on Saturdays and Sundays; in addition to its family-friendly entertainment programs and infomercials, the network also aired religious programming from The Worship Network during the late night hours and programming from contemporary Christian television network Praise TV on Friday and Saturday nights from midnight to 3:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific; the Praise TV block was dropped in 2000.
Initial programming on the network consisted of first-run shows, such as It's a Miracle, the game show The Reel to Reel Picture Show, and talk shows Woman's Day and Great Day America; along with reruns of older programming, including Highway to Heaven, Here's Lucy, The Hogan Family, Dave's World and Touched by an Angel; and new episodes and older reruns of Candid Camera. The network also created some original dramas such as Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye, Doc, Mysterious Ways (which originated on NBC), Hope Island and Twice in a Lifetime. Pax TV also initially ran a children's programming block on weekend mornings that was produced by DIC Entertainment, originally titled Freddy's Firehouse. Pax also aired many game shows including first-run revivals of established cable games such as Supermarket Sweep and Shop 'til You Drop, along with some original shows like On the Cover, Balderdash, a 2002 revival of Beat the Clock, Hollywood Showdown (in conjunction with Game Show Network, which also aired the show) and Born Lucky. The network would later carry reruns of Family Feud and (due to its alliance with NBC) The Weakest Link as well as the 2000 revival of Twenty One.
In lieu of a national news program, Pax contracted WeatherVision (which produces weather forecast inserts for stations in some U.S. cities that do not maintain news departments or at least carry outsourced local newscasts) to produce a five-minute national forecast segment called Tomorrow's Weather Tonight, which debuted in 2000 and typically ended the network's entertainment schedule each weeknight. In addition, starting in 2001, many Pax stations entered into news share agreements with major network affiliates in their markets (primarily those affiliated with NBC, though some stations ran newscasts from ABC- and CBS-affiliated stations) to air tape-delayed broadcasts of those stations' late evening and/or morning newscasts (in a few cases, a station produced live newscasts for the Pax station; one such station, Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC-TV produced evening newscasts for WVPX-TV, that focused primarily on that station's city of license, nearby Akron). In some cities, a major network affiliate also provided some engineering and other back office services for the Pax station.
The amount of paid programming content carried on the network's schedule increased over time with reductions in general entertainment programming; by 2005, the network's schedule was dominated by infomercials with entertainment programming hours reduced to 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific on weekdays and 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on weekends. In 2003, Pax scaled back its original programming. It was originally offering five or six new series each season; however, the number of new series airing on Pax dwindled that year to just two: Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye, which was cancelled in 2005, and Doc, which was cancelled in 2004 after Pax's international backer, Canadian broadcast network CTV, pulled out of producing the shows. The network seemingly recovered a year later when seven series made it to Pax's 2004-05 schedule.
i: Independent Television (2005–2007)
On June 28, 2005, Paxson Communications announced it would rebrand Pax as i: Independent Television, in order to reflect a new strategy of "providing an independent broadcast platform for producers and syndicators who desire to reach a national audience." After the transition was complete, Pax TV would continue to air programming under its Pax brand on one of its digital subchannels over-the-air and on select cable providers (see below). Some media observers[who?] jocularly postulated that the i name was code for "infomercial", due to the overabundance of infomercials on the network's daytime and late night lineup.
With the rebranding, also came several changes to its programming lineup: infomercials replaced overnight programming from The Worship Network, which began to carry its full 24-hour schedule on a fourth digital subchannel of local i owned-and-operated stations and affiliates until the network was dropped in 2010; in addition, Tomorrow's Weather Tonight and rebroadcasts of network affiliate newscasts were discontinued the day before the rebrand on June 30, 2005. The network shifted its format almost entirely to reruns of television series from the 1960s to the 1990s and feature films, although it also included reruns of former Pax TV series (such as Doc) and first-run episodes (and later reruns) of Pax holdover series America's Most Talented Kids. During the 2005–06 season, the network launched only one new series, the teen drama Palmetto Pointe, which only lasted six episodes, and for the 2006–07 season, the network went entirely to a lineup of reruns (except for Health Report and Ion Life specials).
In November 2005, NBC Universal was granted a transferrable option to purchase a controlling stake in Paxson Communications. Had this option been exercised, NBC would have acquired approximately 63 i owned-and-operated stations (though this would have caused ownership conflicts in some markets as NBC had already acquired Spanish language network Telemundo and its O&Os in 2003; Federal Communications Commission rules prohibit same-market ownership of more than two stations unless either the market has 20 full-power stations or one of the stations is a satellite). As part of the agreement, Lowell Paxson left the network and its parent company. In April 2006, i reportedly owed more than US$250 million to creditors. Standard & Poor's reported a much higher debt in March 2008, owing $867 million to creditors and having a bond rating of CCC+/Outlook Negative.
According to a statement on its website, DirecTV planned to terminate its carriage agreement with i in February 2006, effectively the network's owned-and-operated stations from the satellite provider in the process. DirecTV cited that "most of [i Network's] programming consists of infomercials and other promotional shows", despite an earlier promise by network executives that it "would consist of general, family-oriented entertainment". To appease DirecTV officials, the network decided to drop some infomercials and shopping programs, and replace them with older public domain programs and cancelled Pax TV original series. The network and its stations were expected to be removed from the service by February 28, 2006. However, DirecTV and Ion Media Networks reached a new carriage agreement that May.
Ion Television (2007–present)
On January 29, 2007, the network changed its name again to Ion Television (its parent company was concurrently renamed Ion Media Networks). Days after the rebrand, California-based entertainment group Positive Ions, Inc. filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Ion Media Networks, claiming that the network stole the "Ion" branding. Positive Ions had registered trademarks on the word "Ion" and had used the mark commercially since 1999. On May 14, 2007, Positive Ions filed for an injunction that, if granted, would have required Ion Media Networks to change its name once again; this injunction was never granted in court.
Ion Television's programming was, for the most part, unchanged upon the rebrand; the network continued to feature programming from the content deals it signed while under the i brand (such as Who's the Boss?, Mama's Family, Growing Pains and The Wonder Years). The network also aired a late afternoon sitcom block called "Laugh Attack", which featured reruns of comedy series targeted at African American audiences (such as Hangin' with Mr. Cooper and The Wayans Bros.). In January 2008, Ion and Comcast reached a carriage agreement to continue to carry Ion, as well as add Qubo and Ion Life to the cable provider's channel lineups.
On May 1, 2008, Ion Television held an upfront presentation announcing its programming for the 2008–09 season at the New York Public Library in New York City. In addition to the announcement of its programming acquisitions, the network unveiled a new logo (a wordmark that incorporated a positive ion symbol as a pseudo-period next to the "ion" typeface) and slogan for the network, "Positively Entertaining". With the September 2008 rebrand, the network also retooled its focus, emphasizing the 18–49 demographic and airing more recent acquired programming aiming to attract a younger audience (such as Boston Legal, NCIS and Criminal Minds).
By this point, the network shifted its programming to feature extended blocks of its acquired series (which consist mostly of drama series, with sitcoms gradually being decreased from the schedule); it also gradually expanded the amount of hours devoted to entertainment shows, starting with the addition of two hours of programming in the late afternoon in 2008, and expanding further into daytime and to some extent, late night hours over a five-year span (however, this led to the network increasing its reliance on regularly scheduled marathon-style blocks of a select number of programs in lieu of acquiring a much larger number of series to fill out the schedule). More recent theatrically released feature films were also added to the schedule, alongside older movie releases from the 1980s and 1990s. In April 2009, it was announced that Ion was one again facing balance sheet problems. The company disclosed that it was in discussions with lenders on "a comprehensive recapitalization" of its balance sheet, translating to an effort to restructure its considerable debt, which according to The Wall Street Journal, stood at $2.7 billion as of April 2009.
On May 19, 2009, Ion Media Networks filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, putting the Ion network under bankruptcy for the second time; it had reached an agreement with holders of 60% of its first lien secured debt that would extinguish all of its $2.7 billion in legacy debt and preferred stock, and recapitalize the company with a $150 million new funding commitment. On July 15, 2009, RHI Entertainment entered into a settlement agreement to resolve a dispute with Ion Media Networks which resulted in the termination of a programming distribution agreement between RHI and Ion.
In 2010, Ion Television also began airing its first made-for-TV movies, Christmas-themed films that air between the weekend after Thanksgiving (beginning the weekend before that holiday starting in 2013) and Christmas Day (most of which are produced by independent film and television studios Hybrid, LLC and Vancouver-based Marvista Entertainment), with up to five films premiering each year on the network. On August 24, 2011, Ion Television and Penske Media Corporation, announced the launch of Entertainment News Television (ENTV), an original multi-platform breaking news service, which consists of content mainly from the resources of the Hollywood Life and Deadline.com entertainment news sites; Ion Television also broadcasts entertainment news inserts from ENTV that air in-between certain evening programs.
Ion Television operates on a 112-hour network programming schedule, which it adopted in October 2013. It provides general entertainment programming to affiliated stations daily from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time. An E/I-compliant children's programming block known as qubo airs for three hours each Friday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific. All other time periods are filled with religious programming or infomercials. Limited local programming by local affiliates to fulfill public affairs guidelines airs during weekdays mornings; these programs range from entirely local productions to Ion Life-sourced programs where commercial slots instead are devoted to local physicians or experts giving locality-specific health advice or advertising their services.
The network's current method of running predominately syndicated programming is very similar to the international model of broadcasting which mixes imported and syndicated shows with original programming that is used in Europe, Canada, Latin America, Asia and Australia, but not the United States (as most other commercial broadcast networks, not counting digital multicast networks that have become more prominent since the late 2000s that specialize in acquired shows and some alternate language and smaller English language entertainment-based networks, within the country usually carry first-run programs produced for the network – while typically leaving their owned-and-operated stations and affiliates to acquire shows from the syndication market to fill time not allotted to locally produced and network programs).
Most programs broadcast by Ion Television are distributed by either 20th Century Fox Television or CBS Television Distribution. Ion Television also has film distribution deals with Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. Series currently broadcast by Ion Television comprise mostly of dramas such as Without a Trace, Cold Case, The Listener, Numb3rs and Law & Order: Criminal Intent; although the network does air a limited amount of comedy or comedy-drama series such as Monk, Psych and Married... with Children. Traditional half-hour sitcoms are typically aired by the network to fill scheduling gaps prior to feature film telecasts that air starting in the late morning hours (usually airing at 11:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time prior to films airing in the succeeding half-hour). The network broadcasts feature films released between the 1980s and the 2000s under the banner "Ion Television at the Movies", which air in the late mornings each Tuesday through Sunday (Christmas-themed made-for-TV films are also broadcast under the banner on Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day).
Recent programming deals
In 2006, Ion Media Networks reached several programming deals, two were with major programming suppliers announced within a week of each other and another among other things, would bring original programming to the Ion network. On June 27, 2006, Ion announced a comprehensive programming deal with Warner Bros. Television Distribution, giving it broadcast rights to movies and television series owned by the company. One week later on July 5, Ion announced a similar deal that resulted in the acquisition of broadcast rights to films and series distributed by Sony Pictures Television. Starting in September of that year, series and feature films from both libraries were incorporated into the network's primetime schedule (including Who's the Boss?, Designing Women, Mama's Family, Growing Pains, Green Acres and The Wonder Years). However, these older series were later dropped when the network shifted towards more recent series. Ion also struck a library content deal with NBCUniversal, which gave it access to shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
In September 2008, Ion Television reached a multi-year film rights agreement with Warner Bros. Television Distribution to broadcast more recent movies from Warner Bros. and its related studios. Meanwhile, three series from CBS Television Distribution were added to the schedule: NCIS joined the lineup in September 2008, and Criminal Minds and Ghost Whisperer were added to the Ion Television lineup in 2009. In January 2009, the network announced that it had acquired the broadcast rights to the Canadian drama series Durham County; the show aired on the network for less than a year.
On January 21, 2011, Ion Television acquired the U.S. television rights to the Canadian drama series Flashpoint, which gave it first-run rights to the fourth season's final 11 episodes – after CBS aired that season's first eight episodes, as well as rights to air reruns of all episodes produced to date and thereafter; Ion (along with the show's originating Canadian broadcaster, CTV) also renewed the series for a fifth, and final, season that aired during the fall of 2012. In July 2011, Ion Television acquired six films from Starz Media as part of its weekend film block (then branded as the "Big Movie Weekend"); the films started airing in November of that year. Ion also acquired syndication rights to the USA Network series Psych and Monk, from NBCUniversal; the two series respectively began airing in late 2011 and early 2012. House M.D., also from NBCUniversal, joined the network in September 2012.
In September 2011, Ion Television acquired the syndication rights to Leverage and George Lopez. George Lopez began airing on September 29, while Leverage debuted in July 2012; the former has since been dropped from the network, while the latter has been cycled on-and-off the schedule (it has aired as part of the regular schedule since January 2014).
On October 4, 2011, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Ion Television acquired rights to the first two seasons of the Canadian drama The Listener for broadcast in 2012, with an option for future seasons; the series would not join Ion's schedule until March 2014. In December 2011, Ion Television acquired the syndication rights to Cold Case, which debuted in 2012. On June 25, 2012, Ion Television entered into a deal with WWE to air a new hour-long series titled WWE Main Event on Wednesday nights; the series debuted on October 3 of that year and ran until April 2, 2014.
The network, as Pax TV, aired a five-hour children's programming block called Freddy's Firehouse (which was subsequently renamed Pax Kids the following year) on Saturday and Sunday mornings, with programming from DIC Entertainment. Although it was a weekend-only lineup like those run at the time by ABC, CBS and NBC, the five-hour lineup was spread over both Saturday and Sunday mornings (the first three hours aired on Saturdays and the final two hours aired on Sundays). The block lasted only a year-and-a-half, presumably being cancelled due to low ratings (the last animated show to be cancelled was Archie's Weird Mysteries, which currently airs in reruns on sister network Qubo Channel as of 2013). This left Pax as one of only two major broadcast networks that did not air a children's programming block (the other being UPN, which discontinued its Disney's One Too lineup in 2003).
On September 15, 2006, Ion Television debuted a weekly children's program block called "Qubo on Ion Television", through a partnership between Ion Media Networks, NBC Universal, Corus Entertainment's Nelvana unit, Scholastic Books, Classic Media and its Big Idea Productions. The Qubo block originally debuted on NBC and Telemundo on September 9, 2006, with NBC's Qubo block initially repeating on Ion Television on Fridays from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time (becoming the last weekday afternoon children's program block carried by a major commercial broadcast network), though Ion's Qubo block has changed timeslots several times since that point (currently airing on Fridays from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific as of July 2013) and even having been spread out over three days (from Wednesday through Friday) for a time.
The network has previously broadcast some sporting events including Conference USA college football games (produced by College Sports Television), the Women's United Soccer Association, Real Pro Wrestling (which moreso resembles the amateur form than the theatrically-based ring sport), the Champions Tour of golf, Paralympic Games and BodogFight.
Ion Television aired NFL Films' weekly highlight program, the NFL Films Game of the Week on Saturday evenings on September 16, 2007 to January 5, 2008, with its initial broadcast focusing on the September 9, 2007 game between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. The series was not renewed for the fall 2008 season. Ion also obtained rights to televise games from the American Indoor Football Association, which were slated to begin airing in March 2008. However, the game's producers did not provide a live broadcast and the agreement was terminated.
On December 28, 2010, Ion Television signed a deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship to air the preliminary fights to the January 1 pay-per-view event UFC 125. Ion also aired the preliminary fights for UFC 127 and UFC 140 later in 2011 before the organization signed an exclusive programming agreement with Fox.
Major market absences and station oddities
Ion has no over-the-air stations in several major markets, most notably Baltimore, Maryland; Toledo, Ohio; Austin, Texas; San Diego, California; Tucson, Arizona; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Cincinnati, Ohio. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a deal by Paxson to buy WPCB-TV and trade it for secondary PBS station WQEX was approved by the Federal Communications Commission but rejected by WPCB-TV in a 2000 controversy; it would not be until 2010 that Paxson's successor, Ion, would successfully buy WQEX, which has since converted to a commercial license as WINP-TV. St. Louis at one time received the network by way of a low-power repeater of Mount Vernon, Illinois station WPXS; in December 2013, the United States bankruptcy court approved a plan by creditors of Roberts Broadcasting to transfer East St. Louis-based WRBU and its sister stations, WZRB in Columbia, South Carolina and WAZE-LP in Evansville, Indiana, to a trust with Ion Media Networks (a creditor in Roberts' chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, which it filed for in 2011) as its beneficiary, with Roberts' attorney subsequently stating that Ion would purchase the three stations; WZRB and WRBU switched to Ion in February 2014 (although WZRB retained a secondary affiliation with The CW until MyNetworkTV affiliate WKTC joined the network in March).
In Charlotte, WAXN-TV carried some Pax programming from 1998 to 2000, but was never formally affiliated with the network. Buffalo and Rochester, New York, normally treated as separate markets, share Ion affiliate WPXJ-TV, which is centrally located between the two cities and is licensed to Batavia.
In addition, in several other markets, Ion's predecessor was sold to another television station group to affiliate with a different English or Spanish language network, and through either a lack of channel space or interest in the network. Ion has not reappeared in those markets. These include:
- Albuquerque, New Mexico: KAPX (now UniMás owned-and-operated station KTFQ)
- Baton Rouge, Louisiana: WLFT-CD (now a religious independent station)
- Champaign-Springfield, Illinois: WPXU (now CW affiliate WBUI)
- Charlottesville, Virginia: WADA-LP (now Fox affiliate WAHU-CD)
- Fresno-Visalia, California: KPXF (now UniMás owned-and-operated station KTFF)
- Green Bay, Wisconsin: WPXG (now CW affiliate WCWF)
- Lafayette, Louisiana: KDCG-CD (now a Retro TV affiliate)
- Little Rock, Arkansas: KYPX (now Me-TV affiliate KMYA)
- Madison, Wisconsin: W43BR (now an America One affiliate)
- Montgomery, Alabama: WBMM (first switched to Daystar, now a CW affiliate)
- Reno, Nevada: KREN (now a CW affiliate)
- Shreveport, Louisiana: KPXJ (now a CW affiliate)
- Sioux Falls, South Dakota: KAUN-LP (now a Retro TV affiliate)
- Tucson, Arizona: KUVE (now a Univision owned-and-operated station)
In several markets, the station's city of license is considered outside the main portion of a market's metropolitan area, like Minneapolis–Saint Paul, where that area's Ion owned-and-operated station (KPXM-TV) is licensed to St. Cloud, 60 miles (97 km) northwest of the Twin Cities; Detroit, where O&O WPXD-TV is licensed to Ann Arbor, Michigan, 40 miles (64 km) west of Detroit (though its digital transmitter is located in Southfield, where the bulk of Detroit's television stations have their studios and transmitter facilities); Hartford, where O&O WHPX-TV is licensed to New London 40 miles (64 km) southeast; and Milwaukee, where O&O WPXE-TV is licensed to Kenosha, with its analog transmitter south of Milwaukee in Racine County (although its digital transmitter is located at the traditional Milwaukee tower farm on the north side of the city). In the Cleveland market, Ion airs in Akron (WVPX-TV), which as an ABC affiliate prior to 1998 had formerly targeted an audience in Akron and Canton.
Ion Television's stations have made notable use of "multiplexing", or splitting a digital broadcast television signal into separate subchannels. The network's stations usually carry up to six of these digital subchannels, broadcasting as separate networks.
Qubo Channel is a children's television network that launched on January 8, 2007, and is carried on the second digital subchannel of Ion Television's stations. The launch of the network was announced on May 8, 2006, when Ion Media Networks, NBC Universal, Corus Entertainment's Nelvana unit, Scholastic Books, Classic Media (now DreamWorks Classics) and its Big Idea Productions unit announced plans to create Qubo as a multi-platform children's entertainment endeavor, that would extend to a weekly programming block on the network as well as NBC and Telemundo, and a video-on-demand service for digital cable providers. The network features content from the programming libraries of each of the partners, though there was an early promise of each company producing a new series each year; most of its programs are targeted at children 2- to 11-years-old, though its late night programming block "Qubo Night Owl" (which originally featured a mix of animated series from Qubo's partners and the Filmation library, but since August 2013, features animated and a few live-action series from Qubo's distribution partners) is aimed at older teenagers and adults.
The network debuted on January 8, 2007; programming on Qubo Channel initially featured a daily repeating four-hour block of shows, all featuring programming exclusive to the new channel; by 2010, the channel adopted a more traditional schedule featuring a larger array of programs. As a consequence to the pending launch of Qubo Channel, the i secondary feed was replaced on i O&Os with a repeating promo loop in late September 2006. NBCUniversal dropped out of the venture in 2011, with NBC and sister network Telemundo replacing their Qubo blocks with their own E/I-compliant children's program lineups programmed by PBS Kids Sprout (which is part-owned by NBCUniversal's corporate parent Comcast), relegating Qubo's companion programming block exclusively to Ion Television; Ion Media Networks acquired the remaining partners' stakes in the channel in 2013, with all of the network's original co-owners becoming merely distribution partners.
Ion Life (originally named "iHealth" prior to its launch) launched on February 19, 2007, and is carried on the third digital subchannel of Ion Television's stations. The network features health and lifestyle programs; it also carries some extreme sports programming on weekend evenings, and feature films on Sunday mornings (films also aired on Monday through Friday evenings until May 2014). Much of Ion Life's programming consists of Canadian-imported programs, with some limited programming produced domestically within the United States. The network originally maintained a 24-hour schedule of the aforementioned programs, however a limited number of infomercials were added in mid-morning and midday timeslots in 2013.
The Worship Network
The Worship Network was originally founded in 1992 to "create an atmosphere in the home to inspire and encourage a quiet time to worship God." When Ion Television launched as Pax TV in August 1998, the network provided programming from The Worship Network during the overnight hours. In 2005, Pax and The Worship Network struck a carriage deal in which Worship would be carried on a digital subchannel of Pax 24 hours a day. The Worship Network was carried on digital subchannels of Ion owned-and-operated stations (originally as a third digital subchannel, then moved to a fourth subchannel upon the launch of Ion Life) and in some cases, was used as an alternative to the main Ion network feed. On January 31, 2010, Ion dropped The Worship Network from its stations. However, it remains available worldwide through 250 broadcast affiliates.
Ion launched a new service known as Ion Shop (originally "iShop" prior to November 2012, and "ShopTV" thereafter, both are names used only by the PSIP identifiers on digital television tuners and converter boxes; there is no branding used by the channel itself) in April 2012, although some Ion owned-and-operated stations did not begin carrying the network until as late as that November. Carried as a fourth digital subchannel on Ion Television's owned-and-operated stations, it primarily carries informercials; until June 2013, Ion Shop also aired blocks of programming from Ion Life in some morning and late night timeslots.
QVC Over the Air
On August 5, 2013, as part of a partnership between cable and satellite home shopping network QVC and Ion Media Networks to expand the channel's broadcast television coverage, Ion Television began carrying QVC on the fifth digital subchannel on most of the network's owned-and-operated stations. Although QVC maintains a high-definition simulcast feed, due to technical limitations caused by the number of subchannels Ion requires its stations to carry and to preserve bandwidth to allow the primary Ion network feed to transmit in HD, QVC is transmitted in standard definition with the normally letterboxed SD feed squeezed to full-screen in order to fit 4:3 television sets. QVC is also broadcast on digital subchannels of low-powered television stations (mainly those not owned by Ion Media Networks) in selected areas, including in some areas where an Ion station also carries it. The channel's broadcast service is branded as "QVC Over the Air", with an accompanying on-screen bug appearing on the lower right corner of the screen during the network's programming. Some affiliate stations decline this programming, and some O&O's are unable to carry QVC OTA due to the network having made arrangements with other broadcasters to carry QVC OTA before the Ion deal went into effect
Home Shopping Network
On November 18, 2013, as part of a partnership between the Home Shopping Network and Ion Media Networks (both once controlled by Lowell "Bud" Paxson) to expand the channel's broadcast coverage, Ion Television began carrying HSN on the sixth digital subchannel on most of the network's owned-and-operated stations. As with QVC, even though HSN maintains a high-definition simulcast feed, the network is transmitted in standard definition instead due to technical limitations resulting from the amount of subchannels that Ion's stations carry. HSN has been widely available over-the-air throughout the United States since its inception – through stations that the network owned prior to the 1998 reorganization of its Silver King Broadcasting group into USA Broadcasting (some of which were converted into general entertainment independent outlets, and were later sold to Univision Communications to form the charter stations of the present-day UniMás network), and had been mainly available on low-power television stations immediately prior to Ion's addition of HSN; HSN is carried on low-power stations in some areas where it is also carried by an Ion station, though in situations such as Atlanta (where WPXA-TV carries Telemundo affiliate WKTB-CD1 under a time-leasing arrangement, and W45DX-D carries HSN), HSN does not air over the local Ion station
Separate national feeds have been made available to Dish Network, DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Charter Communications, and Ion Television stations not owned by Ion Media Networks, featuring programming from Ion Life in place of paid programming that airs on the main network. Prior to the launch of Ion Life, the Ion Plus feeds carried reruns of cancelled Pax original programs (such as Miracle Pets and Beat the Clock), as well as public domain movies and sitcom episodes (such as I Married Joan and The Beverly Hillbillies). The feeds used the Pax name and bug after Pax had changed its name to i, until about September 2005.
In early 2009, Ion Media Networks announced plans to launch a high definition simulcast feed, Ion Television HD, and convert its owned-and-operated stations to HD by February 16. However on February 19, Ion released a statement that it would postpone high definition plans until March 16, to avoid confusion with the then-pending digital television transition. Nevertheless, stations began to switch in late February from 480i standard definition to 720p HD, with most programming pillarboxed by very dark blue bars instead of black ones.
Differences between Ion and other broadcast networks
Ion Television, unlike other broadcast networks, does not necessarily allow its owned-and-operated stations and affiliates to air syndicated programming during the daytime and late night hours. In the United States, syndicated programming accounts for a majority of local network affiliate and independent stations revenue. Network programming (on stations that have a network affiliation), newscasts or other locally produced programs (if a station carries any), and infomercials make up the rest.
Since paid programming makes up a relatively sizeable portion of Ion's schedule (though not as much as it did from 2002 to 2009), the benefit is that it provides the main source of revenue. However, this is also a drawback since, in the past, Ion had relied more on infomercials rather than sitcoms and dramas; sponsors of television series often have qualms about their message being lost on stations whose primary content is infomercials and other paid programming. Its reliance on mostly paid programming has decreased since the late 2000s, with the network's expansion of entertainment programming to additional daytime and late night timeslots. Ion Television stations also lack locally produced programming; most of its stations had broadcast newscasts from other local network-affiliated stations until the rebrand as i, and have even produced their own community affairs shows, however local programming has since become virtually non-existent on most of Ion's O&Os and affiliates.
As a result, there are a small number of stations (such as WKFK-LD) that have taken dual affiliation with both Ion and another smaller network, usually either America One or MyNetworkTV. In early 2006, it was announced that the i stations in Memphis, Tennessee (WPXX-TV), Rapid City, South Dakota (KKRA-LP) and Greenville, North Carolina (WEPX-TV, as well as WPXU-TV in Jacksonville, North Carolina) would add programming from MyNetworkTV in September 2006, causing preemptions of i primetime programming while MyNetworkTV programs aired. This blow came after losing some affiliates in New Mexico, New York and Illinois completely (although the New York station, WWBI-LP in Plattsburgh, subsequently rejoined i after a sale that resulted in the affiliation change fell through). In late September 2009, a year after Ion purchased WPXX and WEPX/WPXU from Flinn Broadcasting, those stations resumed carrying Ion full-time as they discontinued their MyNetworkTV affiliations as a result of the network terminating its existing affiliation agreements due to its conversion into a programming service. WITN-TV took over the MyNetworkTV affiliation for the Greenville, North Carolina market on a digital subchannel, with Memphis CW affiliate WLMT picking up only WWE SmackDown in place of WPXX (that station would also add MyNetworkTV on a digital subchannel in a dual affiliation with Me-TV, that lasted until MyNetworkTV programming was dropped in 2013).
- Pax TV: A Friend of the Family (1998–1999)
- Pax TV: Share It With Someone You Love (1999–2000)
- Pax TV: Share The Wonder (2000–2001)
- Pax TV: Feel Good TV (2001–2002)
- Pax TV: Feel The Spirit (2003–2004)
- Pax TV: Oh What a Night! (2004–2005)
- i: Independent Television (2005–2007)
- What's Your Ion? (2006–2007)
- Ion: Your Home for Popular TV Favorites (2007–2008)
- Ion Television: Positively Entertaining (2008–present; a play on the name, ion, which is an atom or molecule with a positive or negative electrical charge)
- List of United States cable and satellite television networks
- List of United States over-the-air television networks
- "Ion Media Networks | Home". Ionmedianetworks.com. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
- Source: Northpine.com (screen shot image)
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- Multichannel News January 28, 2009 Ion To Launch HD Simulcast On Feb 16 - Initial Rollout Phase Will Reach 20 DMAs, 46 Million Households
- Engadget HD February 19, 2009 ION scared off by the DTV transition, postpones debut another month