|Type||Broadcast, cable, satellite and digital television network|
by Lowell 'Bud' Paxson
|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)
|Affiliates||List of Ion affiliates
List of Ion O&Os
Ion Television is an American broadcast, cable, satellite and digital television network that is owned by Ion Media Networks. The network first began broadcasting on August 31, 1998 as Pax TV, focusing primarily on family-oriented entertainment programming; it rebranded as i: Independent Television on June 28, 2005, converting into a general entertainment network featuring mainly recent and older acquired programs; the network adopted its current identity as Ion Television on January 29, 2007.
As of 2013[update], Ion Television is receivable 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 Subchannels
- 5 Differences between Ion and other broadcast networks
- 6 Network slogans
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 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). It was originally to be called Pax Net, but was renamed Pax TV (sometimes referred to as simply "Pax") – a dual reference to its founder/corporate parent, and the Latin word for "peace" – shortly before its launch. 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. Since the new network would focus on programming tailored to family audiences, Pax TV maintained a considerably more conservative programming content policy than the major commercial networks, restricting profanity, violence and sexual content.
Most of the network's initial affiliates were Paxson Communications-owned affiliate stations of the Infomall TV Network (or inTV), a network launched by Paxson in 1995 that relied mainly on infomercials and other brokered programming. During the late spring and summer of 1998, a half-hour preview special hosted by Richard Thomas (of The Waltons fame), featuring interviews with Lowell Paxson about Pax's development and initial programming, aired on inTV stations slated to become charter outlets of the new network.
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. At launch, it aired general entertainment programming on weekdays from 12:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. and weekends from 4:00 to 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, and through an agreement with DIC Entertainment, a children's program block called "Cloud Nine" on Saturdays from 6:00 to 11:00 and Sundays from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific. In addition, Pax aired religious programming through time-lease agreements with The Worship Network (which aired its overnight programming on Pax seven nights a week) and Praise TV (featuring Contemporary Christian music and other faith-based programs aimed at teenagers and young adults, which aired on Fridays and Saturdays from 12:00 to 3:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific until 2000). The remainder of the schedule was filled by paid programming.
Initial programming on Pax TV 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, Touched by an Angel, and new episodes and older reruns of Candid Camera). The network also produced some original drama series such as Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye, Doc, Mysterious Ways (which originated on NBC), Hope Island and Twice in a Lifetime through its programming division Paxson Entertainment. 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 game shows such as 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 the syndicated revival 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, in 2000, Paxson Communications signed an agreement with WeatherVision (a Jackson, Mississippi-based company that produces weather forecast inserts for certain television stations without an in-house news department) to produce Tomorrow's Weather Tonight, a five-minute national forecast segment that aired weeknights at the conclusion of Pax TV's entertainment schedule. Starting in 2001, many Pax stations also entered into news share agreements with a local major network affiliate (mostly involving NBC-affiliated stations, though some involved an affiliate of ABC or CBS) to air tape-delayed broadcasts of evening, and in some markets, morning newscasts from the partner station (in a few cases, the agreement partner 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 the Pax O&O'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 increased gradually, becoming the dominant form of programming during the broadcast day over time, as a result of reductions in general entertainment programming from the network's schedule; by 2005, Pax TV had scaled entertainment programming down to 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. on weekdays and 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time on weekends. Original programming was also affected by the network's programming changes; Pax TV was originally offering five or six new series each season. However in 2003, the number of new series that aired on Pax dwindled 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 that 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, the network 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 paid programming on the network's daytime and late night lineup.
The rebranding also resulted in 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 prior to the rebrand on June 30, 2005 (though a few stations not owned by the network's parent company retained news share agreements with major network stations after that date, such as WBNA in Louisville, Kentucky, which continues to air newscasts from NBC affiliate WAVE as of January 2015[update]). The network shifted its format almost entirely to reruns of television series from the 1960s to the 1990s (such as Green Acres, Amen and Pax holdover Diagnosis: Murder) and feature films; 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 were also included as part of the schedule. In turn, the network adapted its programming content standards to those similar to other broadcast networks. During the 2005–06 season, the network launched only one new series, the teen drama Palmetto Pointe, which only lasted six episodes; the network went entirely to a lineup of reruns for the 2006–07 season (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 could have resulted in a forced divestiture of either i or Spanish language network Telemundo, which NBCUniversal had acquired in 2003, along with the divested network's O&Os due to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules that prohibit broadcasters from same-market ownership of more than two television stations unless there are either 20 full-power stations in the market 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. The satellite provider 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 Media and Comcast reached a carriage agreement to continue carrying Ion Television, while also adding 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 8, 2008 rebrand, the network also retooled its focus, emphasizing the 18–49 demographic and airing more recent acquired programming aimed at attracting 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 began a gradual expansion of 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 the daytime and late fringe/early graveyard periods 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 lineup, alongside older movie releases from the 1980s and 1990s. In April 2009, it was announced that Ion Media Networks was once 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 November 2010, Ion Television began airing its first made-for-TV movies, in the form of Christmas-themed films that air between the weekend after Thanksgiving (airing the weekend before that holiday in 2013) and Christmas Day, with up to five films premiering each year on the network; although they are advertised as "original movies" in on-air promotions (the 2012 film Anything But Christmas is the only movie that Ion Television had actually held a production interest), most of the films are produced by independent film and television studios such as Hybrid, LLC, The Cartel and Vancouver-based Marvista Entertainment without the network's financial involvement (Ion does not maintain exclusivity to most of the films, which are also distributed via syndicated film packages or carried by other networks such as MundoFox). 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 126-hour network programming schedule, which it adopted in January 2015. It provides general entertainment programming to owned-and-operated and affiliated stations daily from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time (the entertainment programming schedule starts four hours later and ends two hours earlier from Christmas to New Year's Day, with paid programming filling the remaining vacated hours). An E/I-compliant children's programming block known as the Qubo Kids' Corner airs for three hours each Sunday at 9:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time. All other time periods are filled with religious programming or infomercials. Ion owned-and-operated stations and affiliates also provide limited local programming on weekday mornings to fulfill public affairs guidelines, which 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.
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; however, the network also airs a limited amount of comedy or comedy-drama series that are cycled on-and-off the schedule such as Monk, Psych and Married... with Children. As of 2014, the network's format is predominantly devoted to marathon blocks of hour-long drama series, with consecutive episodes of a given series airing between two and 16 hours a day (depending on the day's schedule, with fewer hours in the morning and late fringe). The remainder of its standard broadcast day is filled with a daytime movie on certain days, and occasionally a half-hour sitcom, which due to the erratic scheduling of its late-morning film presentations are used on certain occasions to fill scheduling gaps prior to the film's telecast (usually in the 11:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time half-hour, if the succeeding film runs for at least 2½ hours).
The network broadcasts feature films released between the 1980s and the 2000s under the banner "Ion Television at the Movies," which air on a sporadic basis in the late mornings on Tuesday through Sundays (holiday-themed made-for-TV films are also broadcast under the banner throughout the entertainment programming day on weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day regardless where either holiday falls during the calendar week). Ion Television occasionally airs short hosted segments during its primetime lineup – particularly during film presentations – known as the "Ion Lounge," a lifestyle segment used mainly to advertise a company's product within the featured program's commercial breaks.
The network's current method of running predominately syndicated programming is very similar to the international model of broadcasting used in Europe, Canada, Latin America, Asia and Australia, which mixes imported and syndicated shows with original programming – a model used only in United States broadcast television by digital multicast services (particularly those that specialize in acquired programs such as Me-TV), smaller English language entertainment-based networks (such as America One) and networks broadcasting in languages other than English (such as Univision). The major commercial broadcast networks in the U.S. – ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and The CW – carry first-run programs produced for the network, while leaving their owned-and-operated stations and affiliates with the responsibility of acquiring shows from the syndication market to fill time not allotted to network and, where applicable, locally produced programs (MyNetworkTV, which is somewhat similar to Ion Television in its format, mixes elements of both models as acquired programs are supplied by both during primetime by the service and its stations at all other times).
Recent programming deals
In 2006, Ion Media Networks reached several programming deals; two with major programming suppliers announced within a week of each other and another that among other things would bring original programming to Ion Television. On June 27, 2006, Ion Media 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 George Lopez and Leverage. 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.
On October 4, 2011, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Ion Television had 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.
Prior to Ion Television's original launch as Pax TV in 1998, the network had reached an agreement with DIC Entertainment to produce a five-hour children's programming block called Freddy's Firehouse, to air as part of its Saturday and Sunday morning schedules. The block of animated series was instead launched on September 5, 1999 as "Cloud Nine," featuring a trio of winged teenage angels that hosted the wraparound segments during the block's shows, which were mostly sourced from the DIC library. In the spring of 1999, Pax TV dropped "Cloud Nine" in favor of a new block called "Pax Kids". "Pax Kids" was discontinued in 2001, making Pax TV the first major commercial broadcast network that did not supply children's programming until 2006; the second one was UPN, when it discontinued its Disney's One Too block 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 being rebrodcast on Ion Television on Friday afternoons (making it the last weekday afternoon children's block to be carried by a major commercial broadcast network until 2010). On January 4, 2015, the Qubo block on Ion was relaunched as the "Qubo Kids Corner," concurrent with the block's move to Sunday mornings.
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, the Paralympic Games and BodogFight.
Ion Television aired NFL Films' weekly highlight program, the NFL Films Game of the Week on Saturday evenings from 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 Television does not have any over-the-air stations in several major markets, most notably Baltimore, Maryland; Toledo, Ohio; Austin, Texas; San Diego, California; Tucson, Arizona; Charlotte, North Carolina;Richmond,Va; Norfolk,Va; Green Bay,Wi; and Cincinnati, Ohio. Two major factors that have limited the network's national broadcast coverage are that unlike the major commercial broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and The CW), Ion does not seek over-the-air distribution on the digital subchannels of other network-affiliated stations, and has very few stations that contractually carry the network's programming (with limited exceptions in markets such as Louisville, Kentucky and Anchorage, Alaska). As a result, Ion Media Networks owns the vast majority of the stations within Ion Television's affiliate body, as well as those of co-owned multicast services Qubo Channel and Ion Life. Ion Television's programming is available by default via a national feed distributed to cable and satellite providers in markets without a local Ion station (this contrasts with the major networks, which under FCC regulations, allow providers to import an owned-and-operated or affiliate station from a nearby market if no local over-the-air affiliate exists).
In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a deal by Paxson to buy WPCB-TV and trade it for secondary PBS member 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 Media Networks, 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) would serve as its beneficiary. Roberts' attorney subsequently stated 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 programming service in March; WRBU dropped MyNetworkTV upon becoming an Ion O&O (MyNetworkTV would not return to St. Louis until November 2014, when CBS affiliate KMOV launched a third digital subchannel to serve as an affiliate). WAZE-LP was silent at the time of acquisition and remains so as of December 2014.
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. An equivalent case exists for the Grand Rapids and Lansing, Michigan markets, where Battle Creek-licensed WZPX-TV serves both markets; additionally, Ann Arbor-licensed WPXD-TV provides an equivalent over-the-air signal for Lansing.
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)
- Baraboo, Wisconsin: W43BR (now a Family Channel 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 base their studios and transmitter facilities); Hartford, where O&O WHPX-TV is licensed to New London, Connecticut, 40 miles (64 km) southeast; and Milwaukee, where O&O WPXE-TV is licensed to Kenosha, with its digital transmitter located at a tower farm on Milwaukee's north side (its former analog transmitter was located south of the city in Racine County). In the Cleveland market, Ion airs in Akron (WVPX-TV), which had formerly targeted an audience in Akron and Canton as an ABC affiliate prior to 1998.
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 (in contrast with most other full-power stations, which usually carry a maximum of four channels over the same signal), each of which broadcast separate networks. Due to the bandwidth limitations caused by its carriage of multiple subchannels over a single broadcast signal, only the primary Ion network feed is transmitted in high-definition, even though most of its stations transmit two networks that operate HD simulcast feeds through their primary distribution on cable and satellite television.
Qubo 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. Its launch was announced on May 8, 2006, when Ion Media Networks, NBC Universal, Nelvana (a unit of Corus Entertainment), 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 Ion Television as well as NBC and Telemundo, and a video-on-demand service for digital cable providers. Qubo features content from the programming libraries of each of the partners, though there was an early promise of each company producing a new series for the network each year; most of its programs are targeted at children ages 2 to 11, though its late night programming block "Qubo Night Owl" (which originally featured animated series from Qubo's partners and the Filmation library, but since August 2013 features a mix of animated and live-action series sourced solely from the distribution partners) is aimed at older teenagers and adults.
The network debuted on January 8, 2007. Its initial format was composed of a four-hour block of shows that repeated six times a day, 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, 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 lineups programmed by PBS Kids Sprout (now 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 stakes of the remaining partners in the channel, which all retained distribution partnerships with Qubo, in 2013.
Programming on Qubo Channel and its companion Ion Television block account for all educational programming content on Ion's owned-and-operated stations, thus relieving the network from the responsibility of carrying programs compliant with Children's Television Act guidelines on its other subchannel services (especially the HSN and QVC subchannels, which by virtue of their primary cable and satellite distribution, are exempt from the guidelines).
After the success of My Friend Rabbit, Nelvana created Willa's Wild Life, it was along with Pearlie, and on Qubo.
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 mainly features health and lifestyle programs, as well as feature films on Sunday mornings and select weeknights (some extreme sports programming previously aired on weekend evenings until July 2014). Much of Ion Life's programming consists of Canadian-imported programs, with some limited U.S.-produced programming. The network originally maintained a 24-hour entertainment schedule until 2013, when Ion Life added a limited number of infomercials in mid-morning and midday timeslots.
The Worship Network
The Worship Network is a religious television network that 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, Worship reached a time brokerage agreement with Paxson Communications to carry its overnight programming on the network. In 2005, Paxson and The Worship Network struck an affiliation deal in which Worship's 24-hour programming feed would be carried on a digital subchannel of Pax TV's stations. 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 i/Ion network feed. On January 31, 2010, Ion Media Networks dropped The Worship Network from its stations. However, it remains available worldwide through 250 broadcast affiliates.
In April 2012, Ion Media Networks 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); some Ion owned-and-operated stations, however, 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 QVC and Ion Media Networks to expand the channel's broadcast television coverage, Ion Television began carrying the cable and satellite home shopping network via a fifth digital subchannel on most of its owned-and-operated stations. Although the network maintains a high-definition simulcast feed, QVC is transmitted in standard definition in order to preserve channel bandwidth to allow the primary Ion network feed to transmit in HD, with the normally letterboxed SD feed squeezed to full-screen in order to fit 4:3 television sets (preventing windowboxing of the subchannel on 16:9 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 Ion-affiliated stations decline to carry QVC's programming, and some Ion Media-owned stations are unable to carry that network due to affiliation agreements between QVC and other broadcasters that existed prior to the Ion deal.
Home Shopping Network
On November 18, 2013, Ion Television began carrying the Home Shopping Network via a sixth digital subchannel on most of its owned-and-operated stations, as part of a partnership with Ion Media Networks (both once controlled by Lowell "Bud" Paxson) to expand the channel's broadcast coverage. Although it has a high definition simulcast feed, HSN is transmitted by Ion stations in standard definition, due to the same digital multiplexing limitations that prevent QVC from being carried in 16:9 SD or HD. HSN has been widely available over-the-air throughout the United States since its inception – through stations that the network had 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 its subchannel-leasing agreement with Ion; HSN is carried on low-power stations in some markets where an Ion station also carries the network, though HSN's programming is exclusive to an existing affiliate in a few areas where both networks are present (such as Atlanta, where WPXA-TV simulcasts Telemundo affiliate WKTB-CD on its DT6 subchannel under a time-leasing arrangement, and W45DX-D carries HSN).
Separate national feeds have been made available to pay television providers Dish Network, DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Charter Communications, and Ion Television stations not owned by Ion Media Networks, featuring programming sourced 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 the network's rebrand as i, until about September 2005.
Ion Television HD is a high definition simulcast feed that broadcasts in the 720p resolution format. In early 2009, Ion Media Networks announced plans to launch an HD simulcast of Ion Television and convert the primary feed of its owned-and-operated stations to high definition by February 16. However, on February 19, the company announced in a statement that the network's high definition conversion would be postponed until March 16, in order to avoid confusion with the then-pending digital television transition. Nevertheless, stations began to switch from 480i standard definition to 720p HD in late February, with most programs being pillarboxed by very dark blue bars instead of black ones. Ion Television broadcasts most of its programming in HD, with the exceptions of infomercials (which largely continue to be produced in standard definition by producer preference), certain feature films made before 2000 that the network does not have a 16:9 television cut available and some local programming carried by Ion stations that may be transmitted either in downconverted 4:3 or in a stretched 16:9 to fit widescreen sets.
Differences between Ion and other broadcast networks
Currently Ion follows programming strategy similar to major cable networks, with majority of the schedule filled by acquired broadcast and cable drama series, few originals, holiday movies, other original movies and studio movies. Ion currently airs programs 18 out of the 24 hours in a day. 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 the revenue of local network-affiliated and independent stations. 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 used to make up a relatively sizable portion of Ion's schedule (prior to 2008), 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. Ion Television's reliance on mostly paid programming has decreased since the late 2000s as a result of the network's expansion of entertainment programming to additional daytime and late night timeslots, and in particular, the later creation of the infomercial-dedicated subchannel service Ion Shop. Ion Television stations also lack locally produced programming; most of its stations had aired 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 dual affiliations 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 programming during primetime while the stations were carrying MyNetworkTV programs. This blow came after i lost some affiliates in New Mexico, New York and Illinois completely (although the New York station, WWBI-LP in Plattsburgh, subsequently rejoined the network after a sale that resulted in the affiliation change fell through). In late September 2009, a year after Ion Media Networks purchased WPXX and WEPX/WPXU from Flinn Broadcasting, those stations resumed carrying Ion Television full-time as they disaffiliated from MyNetworkTV 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).
- 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? (2007–2008)
- 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)
- Get Wrapped Up in the Holidays (2012–present; used for holiday-themed programming)
- List of United States cable and satellite television networks
- List of United States over-the-air television networks
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