|Launched||April 18, 1983|
|Owned by||Disney Channels Worldwide
(Disney–ABC Television Group)
(Disney Media Networks)
(The Walt Disney Company)
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)
|Headquarters||Burbank, California, U.S.|
|Formerly called||The Disney Channel (1983–1997)|
|Timeshift service||Disney Channel East
Disney Channel West
|DirecTV||290 (east; HD/SD)
291 (west; SD only)
|Dish Network||172 (east; HD/SD)
173 (west; SD only)
|C-Band||Galaxy 14 – Channel 107 (H2H 4DTV)
Galaxy 15 – Channel 7 (4DTV Digital)
|Available on most other U.S. cable systems||Consult your local cable provider or program listings source for channel availability|
|Time Warner Cable||102 (SD)
|Verizon FiOS||780 (HD)
|AT&T U-verse||1303 (HD)
302 (east; SD)
303 (west; SD only)
|Google Fiber||427 (SD/HD)|
|Sling TV||Internet protocol television|
Disney Channel (originally called The Disney Channel from 1983 to 1997 and commonly shortened to Disney from 1997 to 2002) is an American basic cable and satellite television network that serves as the flagship property of owner Disney Channels Television Group, itself a unit of the Disney Media Networks division of The Walt Disney Company.
The channel's programming consists of original first-run television series, theatrically-released and original made-for-cable movies and select other third-party programming. Disney Channel – which formerly operated as a premium service – originally marketed its programs towards families, and then at younger children by the late 1990s. Most of its original programming is aimed at kids ages 8-16, while its Disney Junior programs are targeted at younger children under 8 years of age.
As of February 2015, Disney Channel is available to approximately 96.2 million pay television households (82.7% of households with at least one television set) in the United States.
- 1 History
- 1.1 1977–83: Origins
- 1.2 1983–90: As a premium channel and early years
- 1.3 1990–97: As a hybrid premium/basic channel
- 1.4 1997–2002: Relaunch and popularity beginnings
- 1.5 2002–07: Peak
- 1.6 2007–13: Focus on original series and big ratings
- 1.7 2014–15: Lack of animated series and ratings decline
- 1.8 2016–present: Return to animation, single-camera programming, and Acquired Series
- 2 Programming
- 3 Related services
- 4 Other services
- 5 Criticism and controversies
- 6 Video games
- 7 International
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 External links
In early 1977, Walt Disney Productions executive Jim Jimirro brought forth the idea of a cable television network that would feature television and film material from the studio. Since the company was focusing on the development of the Epcot Center at Walt Disney World, Disney chairman Card Walker turned down the proposal. Disney revived the idea in 1982, entering into a partnership with the satellite unit of Group W (which had sold its 50% ownership stake in one of The Disney Channel's early rivals, Showtime, to Viacom around the same time); however, Group W would ultimately drop out of the intended joint venture that September, due to disagreements over the channel's creative control and financial obligations that would have required Group W to pay a 50% share of the channel's start-up costs.
Despite losing Group W as a partner, The Disney Channel continued on with its development – now solely under the oversight of Walt Disney Productions, and under the leadership of the channel's first president Alan Wagner; Walt Disney Productions formally announced the launch of its family-oriented cable channel in early 1983. Disney later invested US$11 million to acquiring space on two transponders of the Hughes Communications satellite Galaxy 1, and spent US$20 million on purchasing and developing programming. The concept of a premium service aimed at a family audience – which Walt Disney Productions would choose to develop The Disney Channel as – had first been attempted by HBO, which launched Take 2 in 1979 (the service, which was HBO's first attempt at a spin-off niche service (predating Cinemax's launch in August 1980), would shut down after only a few months on the air), and was followed by the 1981 launch of the Group W-owned Home Theater Network (which was the only premium channel that strictly competed with The Disney Channel for that demographic for much of the 1980s, until the 1987 launch of Festival).
1983–90: As a premium channel and early years
The Disney Channel launched nationally as a premium channel on April 18, 1983 at 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time. The first program ever aired on the channel was also its first original series, Good Morning, Mickey!, which showcased classic Disney animated shorts. At the time of its launch, The Disney Channel's programming aired for 16 hours each day, from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time (comparatively, its competitors HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, The Movie Channel and Spotlight all had been operating on 24-hour programming schedules for a few years at the time). By the fall of 1983, the channel was available to more than 532,000 subscribers in the United States; this total would increase to 611,000 subscribers in December of that year.
For its subscribers, the channel provided a monthly (and later bi-monthly) program guide/magazine called The Disney Channel Magazine, which in addition to carrying listings for the channel's programming, had also carried feature stories on upcoming programs (the magazine also lent its name to a series of interstitials seen during promotional breaks on the channel that provided behind-the-scenes looks at The Disney Channel's programming). The Disney Channel Magazine ceased publication in early 1997 and was replaced by Behind the Ears (a print magazine which also shared its name with another series of behind-the-scenes interstitials that aired on the channel from 1997 to 2000) as the channel began primarily operating as a commercial-free basic channel.
As a premium channel, The Disney Channel often ran free previews of five days to one week in length four times annually, as well as two periodic weekend-only previews (with ads targeted to cable and satellite customers who were not subscribers to the channel); this resulted in The Disney Channel offering more preview events each calendar year during its tenure as a pay service than HBO, Cinemax and Showtime had run during that timeframe. In April 1984, the channel extended its daily programming to 18 hours (from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time), with the addition of two hours onto its late night schedule. On December 1, 1986, The Disney Channel began broadcasting 24 hours a day.
By September 1983, The Disney Channel was available on cable providers in all 50 U.S. states. In October 1983, the channel debuted its first made-for-cable movie, Tiger Town, which earned the channel a CableACE Award. The first classic Disney animated film to be broadcast on the channel, Alice in Wonderland, premiered on the network in January 1984. By January 1985, the channel's programming reached 1.75 million subscribers, at which time the channel had reached profitability.
In August 1989, the channel launched a series of interstitial segments called The Disney Channel Salutes The American Teacher; the channel subsequently began telecasting the American Teacher Awards in November 1991. By January 1990, The Disney Channel had about five million subscribers nationwide. In May of that year, The Disney Channel won its first Daytime Emmy Awards for the original made-for-cable film Looking for Miracles, the documentary Calgary '88: 16 Days of Glory, and the special A Conversation with... George Burns, as well as its first Peabody Award for the television film Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme.
1990–97: As a hybrid premium/basic channel
On September 1, 1990, TCI's Montgomery, Alabama system became the first cable provider to carry the channel as a basic cable service. In 1991, eight additional cable providers volunteered to move the channel to their expanded basic cable tiers, with the first to make the transition (as a test run) being Jones Intercable's systems in Fort Myers and Broward County, Florida. Other cable providers eventually began moving the channel to their basic tiers, either experimentally or on a full-time basis. Even as major providers such as Cox Communications and Marcus Cable began offering The Disney Channel on their basic tiers, executives for The Walt Disney Company denied that the channel had plans to convert into an ad-supported basic service, stating that the move from premium to basic cable on some systems was part of a five-year "hybrid" strategy that allowed providers to offer the channel in either form.
In 1991, The Disney Channel tested a two-channel multiplex service on two cable systems. HBO, Cinemax and Showtime also launched their own multiplex services that same year, however The Disney Channel would not make its own multiplex service permanent, unlike the others. By 1992, a third of the channel's subscriber base were estimated by Nielsen Media Research to be adults that did not have children; and by 1995, its subscriber base expanded to 15 million cable homes, eight million of which paid an additional monthly fee to receive the channel.
In March 1992, the channel debuted the original children's program Adventures in Wonderland, a contemporary live-action adaption of Alice in Wonderland (which, in turn, was based on the novel Alice Through the Looking Glass). In September 1992, the channel began carrying the Disney's Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra series of specials, which aired annually until 1998. In honor of its 10th anniversary, the channel embarked on a 14-city nationwide bus tour starting in April 1993. By January 1995, The Disney Channel was available to 12.6 million subscribers; the period from 1994 to 1995 saw the largest yearly subscriber increase with 4.87 million households with cable television adding the channel. In March 1995, the first international Disney Channel service was launched in Taiwan. That year, the documentary Anne Frank Remembered premiered on the channel; that film would earn an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1996.
In 1996, veteran cable executive Anne Sweeney was appointed to oversee The Disney Channel as its president; that September as the launch of Disney Channel service in Southeast Asia, the channel began offering a film in primetime each night starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time, with the expansion of the Sunday Magical World of Disney film block to Monday through Saturday nights; the new primetime schedule launched in September with the pay cable premiere of The Lion King.
1997–2002: Relaunch and popularity beginnings
On April 6, 1997, The Disney Channel underwent a significant rebranding, shortening its name to just "Disney Channel" – though the channel was typically referred to simply as "Disney" in on-air promotions and network identifications until September 2002 – and introducing a new logo designed by Lee Hunt Associates (a black Mickey ear-shaped TV set, though with the introduction of a new graphics package for on-air promotions and IDs during the channel's daytime and evening lineup in 2000, the TV's patterning often varied; early versions of the logo featured people and animated characters appearing within the TV set element of the logo such as a 1930s-era Mickey Mouse). The debut of its new on-air look coincided with the cable television premiere of Pocahontas.
The channel continued to transition from a premium service into a basic cable channel around this time, albeit with a similar programming format to the one it carried as a full-fledged pay service. However, the channel began shifting its target audience more toward kids (but continued to cater to family audiences at night), as it decreased the amount of classic films it aired, and its music programming shifted focus towards the pre-teen and teenage demographic, incorporating music videos and revamping its concert specials to feature younger musicians popular with that demographic.
Disney Channel initially continued to offer free preview events for pay television providers that continued to carry it as a premium service, but discontinued them altogether within three years of the rebrand. Although many providers still required subscribers to pay an additional monthly fee to view the channel at the time of its decision to incorporate them, Disney Channel also began to air break interruptions within shows, featuring promotions for the channel's programs as well as for feature film and home video releases from Disney. By March 1998, the channel was available to 35 million cable subscribers.
The channel's programming would eventually be split into three distinct blocks: Playhouse Disney, Vault Disney, and Zoog Disney. Playhouse Disney debuted in May 1997, and comprised shows aimed at preschoolers. Its first series to reach wide popularity, Bear in the Big Blue House, made its debut in October 1997 and was named by TV Guide as one of the "top 10 new shows for kids". Vault Disney debuted as a Sunday-only nighttime block in September 1997 and featured classic Disney programs such as Zorro, The Mickey Mouse Club and the Walt Disney anthology television series, as well as older television specials and feature films).
Zoog Disney was introduced in August 1998, and was the most distinct of the three blocks, compromising Disney Channel Original Series aimed at preteens and teens. The afternoon-to-late evening lineup was hosted by anthropomorphic robot/alien hybrid characters called the "Zoogs" (who were originally two-dimensional figures, but were redesigned as cel shaded anime-esque figures and given mature voices in 2001) and was designed to encourage viewer interactivity between television and the Internet. The Zoog Disney brand would later expand, with most of the channel's weekend schedule (outside of Vault Disney and Playhouse Disney) becoming part of the "Zoog Weekendz" umbrella block from June 2000 to August 2002.
Original programming on Disney Channel began to ramp up during this period starting with the sitcom Flash Forward, and would increase in the following years with shows like The Famous Jett Jackson in 1998 and So Weird in 1999, and into the early 2000s with Lizzie McGuire – whose star Hilary Duff became the first lead actor or actress in one of the channel's original series to cross over into music through a record deal with co-owned music label Hollywood Records – and Even Stevens – which helped launch the career of its star Shia LaBeouf.
In 1999, Disney Channel placed a mandate to cable operators that continued to carry it as a premium service to move the channel to a basic cable tier or stop carrying it altogether, stipulating that it would not renew carriage agreements with providers (such as Time Warner Cable and Comcast, the last major cable providers to carry the channel as a pay service) that chose to continue offering the network as a premium channel. With the shift towards children as its target audience, some of the off-network programs acquired by the channel during the early-mid 2000s (such as Boy Meets World and later Sister, Sister) began to be edited for content such as profanity and sexual references that were deemed inappropriate for younger audiences.
By 2001, Disney Channel was available to approximately 70 million cable and satellite subscribers, largely consisting of those who had already received the channel through basic cable, as well as the remnants of its pay subscriber base. The music videos and concert specials that the channel had been airing since the 1997 rebrand were dropped by this time, citing the inability to obtain revenue from the artists' CD sales and lack of exclusivity for the videos; soon after, the channel began featuring music videos from artists signed to Disney's in-house record labels Hollywood Records and Walt Disney Records, and songs featured in Disney-produced feature films. In 2001, the channel debuted its first original animated series, The Proud Family; the following year, Disney Channel achieved its first major animated series hit with the premiere of Kim Possible.
By 2002, Disney Channel was available in 80 million cable homes nationwide. In early September of that year, Disney Channel began a gradual rebranding, beginning with the discontinuance of the "Zoog" brand from on-air use (though Zoog Disney would continue to exist as a separate website until 2003, when the site's content was consolidated onto Disney Channel's primary website, DisneyChannel.com).
On September 9, the Vault Disney overnight block was replaced by same-day repeats of the channel's original and acquired programs, primarily to contribute to the network's then-upcoming "hip" image. The block's removal resulted in Disney Channel not featuring programs aimed at adults for the first time in its history – with the channel's primetime feature films becoming the only programs that intentionally targeted a broader family audience. As of 2015[update], Disney Channel is the only major American cable channel aimed at children that does not directly maintain a dual audience of both kids and adults (Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network each feature nighttime programming for families and/or adults). Movies shown during primetime were also reduced from an average of two to three features to only one each night of the week. The channel phased out reality and scripted drama series from its original programming slate, while substantially increasing the channel's reliance on live-action sitcoms and animated series.
One month later on October 7, 2002, Disney Channel introduced a new on-air logo designed by CA Square (using an outline of Mickey Mouse's head as its centerpiece) that would later be adopted by its international sister channels in May 2003, and unveiled a new graphical design to fit the network's new look. Moreover, starting in May 2003, the channel began using a series of bumpers that are still used to this day, primarily featuring actors and animated characters from its original programs (and occasionally from Disney's theatrical releases) drawing the channel's logo using a wand (in actuality, a glowstick). Playhouse Disney became the only program block introduced in 1997 to remain on Disney Channel by this point (it was later relaunched as Disney Junior in February 2011). Around this time, Disney Channel's original series began airing as part of corporate sister ABC's Saturday morning children's program block; most of the shows that began airing on the block in 2005 would remain on the network until September 2011, when it was replaced by the Litton Entertainment-produced block Litton's Weekend Adventure.
Anne Sweeney was appointed president of Disney–ABC Television Group in 2004, ultimately helping to remake Disney Channel into "the major profit driver in the company" by the middle of the decade as the channel made major inroads in increasing its overall viewership, while in turn using a strategy – which proved successful – to discover, nurture and aggressively cross-promote teen music stars whose style and image were carefully targeted to the pre-teen and teenage demographic (a strategy that has been de-emphasized in the 2010s). Around that time – as Disney Channel's intended target audience began ranging from preschoolers to young adolescents – the channel began to add viewers outside this target demographic, creating increased competition with Viacom-owned Nickelodeon.
In 2003, Disney Channel premiered its first ever made-for-cable movie musical, The Cheetah Girls, which received a worldwide audience of 84 million viewers. In 2005, That's So Raven (which debuted in January 2003) became the channel's highest-rated series since its transition to basic cable as well as becoming the first original series to run longer than 65 episodes – breaking a highly controversial rule that was implemented in 1998, aimed at limiting increases in production costs for its original programming (the 65-episode rule is no longer enforced, although most series are now usually discontinued after their fourth season at maximum) – Raven eventually became the channel's longest-running original series at 100 episodes and the first to spawn a spin-off series (Cory in the House). The Suite Life of Zack & Cody made its debut in March 2005, and also became a hit for the channel.
The earlier success of The Cheetah Girls led to the creation of other music-themed original programming: 2006 saw the debut of the hit original movie High School Musical (on January 20) and the series Hannah Montana (on March 24), the latter of which launched the career of its star Miley Cyrus (who starred opposite her father, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, in the series). On July 28 of that year, the channel saw the debut of the its first multiple-series crossover, That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana (which involved That's So Raven, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and Hannah Montana).
2007–13: Focus on original series and big ratings
In 2007, the channel began dropping most of its acquired programs, and also began to incorporate rotating hour-long blocks of its original series and other programs during the daytime hours. It also moved first-run episodes of its original series on weekends from late afternoon/early evening into primetime. In addition, the channel began putting less emphasis on its animated series, moving some of them from primetime to graveyard slots, while substantially increasing its reliance on teen-oriented sitcoms. Despite this, 2007 saw the debut of Phineas and Ferb, the first original animated series (and first long-form original series) to be broadcast in HD.
Two other series premiered that year: the That's So Raven spin-off Cory in the House (which ended after two seasons) and the more successful Wizards of Waverly Place (which surpassed That's So Raven in October 2011 to become Disney Channel's longest-running original series, and ending its run in January 2012 at 106 episodes). High School Musical 2 premiered on August 17 of that year, becoming the highest-rated non-sports program in the history of basic cable and the highest-rated made-for-cable movie premiere on record (as well as the highest-rated television program – broadcast or cable – of Summer 2007) with 17.2 million viewers.
In 2008, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody spin-off The Suite Life on Deck (which became the #1 series among children between ages of 6- and 12-years-old in 2008) premiered, along with two more music-based original made-for-TV movies: Camp Rock and The Cheetah Girls: One World.
Capitalizing on the rising star status of the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato following Camp Rock, two series respectively starring both acts premiered in 2009: JONAS and Sonny with a Chance (Lovato also co-starred in the original movie Princess Protection Program, which premiered in June). The August debut of the original film Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie became the highest-rated cable program of 2009 (excluding sporting events), premiering to 11.4 million viewers and ranking as the second highest-rated original movie premiere in Disney Channel's history, behind High School Musical 2. The July 17 premiere of the Wizards/Suite Life on Deck/Hannah Montana crossover special Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana also beat out its cable and broadcast competition that night with 9.1 million viewers (effectively making the Wizards and On Deck episodes featured in the special the highest-rated episodes of both series at that point).
In 2010, Good Luck Charlie debuted as Disney Channel's first original sitcom targeted at family audiences, while Fish Hooks and Shake It Up also made their debuts. That year also saw the premiere of Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam among the four original movies premiering that year, along with two made-for-TV movies that were co-produced with Canadian specialty channels (Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars, in conjunction with Movie Central and The Movie Network; and 16 Wishes, with Family Channel). On November 19, 2010, Disney Channel began offering an alternate Spanish-language audio feed (carried either as a separate second audio program track or sold by cable and satellite providers in the form of a separate channel that is part of a Spanish-language programming package). Hannah Montana and The Suite Life on Deck both ended in 2011; Sonny with a Chance, meanwhile, was retooled as So Random! – focusing on the show within the show – after Demi Lovato decided not to return to the series to focus on her music career, following her treatment for bulimia and bipolar disorder (the So Random! spin-off series was canceled after one season in May 2012). Four other series (A.N.T. Farm, PrankStars, Jessie and Austin & Ally) also debuted that year, along with six made for-TV movies (most notably The Suite Life Movie, Lemonade Mouth and Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension).
In 2012, Disney Channel ended Nickelodeon's 17-year run as the highest-rated cable channel in the United States, placing its first ever win in total-day viewership among all cable networks as measured by ACNielsen. In June of that year, The Walt Disney Company announced that it would stop advertising or promoting food or beverage products that do not meet strict nutritional guidelines on Disney Channel or its other media properties aimed at children by 2015, purportedly becoming the first media company to take such a stance on stopping the marketing of junk food products to kids (due to its commercial-free format, such advertising appears only in the form of underwriter sponsorships during promotional breaks). Since July 1, 2012, Disney Channel now presents an on-screen mark at the beginning of certain programming on their schedule to refer that the program has audio description for visually-impaired, in order to comply with the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. Certain episodes of Gravity Falls, Austin and Ally, Good Luck Charlie and Phineas and Ferb show the AD))) mark and a 2-tone sound repeated 3 times at the beginning of the episode to notice the audio description track available through the SAP feed. Disney Junior airs the AD)) mark and the intended SAP track on newer episodes of Little Einsteins. ABC airs this mark of the bottom-left corner of the screen and the extra track starting with the season premiere of Modern Family and the series premiere of The Neighbors.
Disney confirmed four original movies for 2012. In January 2012, Disney aired the premiere of the DCOM Frenemies. In February 2012, Disney aired another DCOM - Radio Rebel. In June 2012, Disney aired its third DCOM - Let It Shine along with the premiere of the animated series Gravity Falls. In October 2012, Disney aired the premiere of Dog with a Blog along with the premiere of the DCOM - Girl vs. Monster.
On July 1, 2012, Disney Channel began providing Descriptive Video Service audio in compliance with the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, which required network owned-and-operated stations and affiliates in the 25 largest television markets as well as the five highest-rated cable and satellite channels (including Disney Channel) to offer audio descriptions for the blind.
On July 14, 2012, Disney Channel announced its first television collaboration with Marvel Entertainment (which was acquired by The Walt Disney Company in 2009), in the form of a crossover special that aired on August 16, 2013 called Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel featuring characters from Phineas and Ferb and the Marvel Universe, a new animated series, Wander Over Yonder debuted after that.
In March 2013, Disney Channel aired a one-hour reunion special of Wizards of a Waverly Place entitled Wizards Return: Alex VS Alex.
On July 18, 2013, a DCOM titled Teen Beach Movie premiered along with an animated Mickey Mouse short series and a preview of Liv and Maddie which officially premiered on September 15, 2013. Teen Beach Movie was the only DCOM in 2013.
2014–15: Lack of animated series and ratings decline
In 2014, Disney Channel premiered two new series – I Didn't Do It, Girl Meets World – and three new DCOMs – Cloud 9, Zapped and How to Build a Better Boy. Zapped was the highest rated movie of the year.
On February 15 and 16, 2014, Disney Channel announced the future of the animated series airing on the channel at the time; it announced that Gravity Falls and Wander Over Yonder would move to Disney XD but will still air episodes on Disney Channel as part of "Disney XD on Disney Channel", and that Phineas and Ferb would go on hiatus, with its production having already been suspended.
On May 23, 2014, Disney Channel unveiled a new logo and on-air imaging design; first introduced in January 2014 by the then-new, free-to-air Disney Channel service in Germany, the new logo replaces the boxed design of the previous logo with a more compact wordmark, and incorporates the Mickey Mouse imagery as the dot of the "I" within the Disney script. Designed in collaboration with Disney Channel and the design agencies Royale and BDA, the overall presentation package was designed so that the network could maintain its iconic "wand" IDs (where stars of the network's programs either dotted the "I" with a wand or drew out the ears element), and allow such IDs made for the channel's previous on-air imaging to be adapted for use with the new logo – especially in markets where "new" episodes of older Disney Channel programs that had concluded their U.S. run were still premiering.
Average Viewership went from 3-5 million in 2013 to 2-4 million in 2014 and 2015 to 1-2 million in 2016.
Four new DCOMs were also premiered that year: Bad Hair Day, Teen Beach 2, Descendants, and Invisible Sister. Especially among them, Descendants was viewed by 6.6 million people on its premiere night on July 31, 2015 and 10.5 million viewers in Early DVR Playback. Shortly after the premier air date, ratings showed the film was the fifth most watched original movie in cable history. Right after the film finished airing on Disney Channel, it was announced that a CGI-animated short spinoff entitled Descendants: Wicked World would be released in September 18, 2015. Furthermore, former Phineas and Ferb storyboard artist Aliki Theofilopoulos Grafft announced on Twitter that she was directing the series, with Jenni Cook as producer, and that the original cast would be reprising their roles. On July 13, 2016, it was announced the series was renewed for a second season.
2015 also marks the year that several series aired its last episodes. On June 12, 2015, "Phineas and Ferb" aired its last episode after 4 seasons. On September 25, 2015, Dog with a Blog aired its last episode after three seasons. Less than a month after, I Didn't Do It and Jessie also aired their last episodes after two and four seasons respectively on October 16, 2015.
2016–present: Return to animation, single-camera programming, and Acquired Series
On January 10, 2016, Austin and Ally aired its last two episodes after four seasons. On Janurary 16, 2016, Unstable Fables - Tortoise vs. Hare and The Tortoise vs. Hare Humans premiered on The Disney Channel. Movie premiered in April 23, 2016-present.
On February 14, 2016, during the channel's premiere of the 2013 animated film Frozen, Disney Channel aired a preview of Stuck in the Middle, the first Disney Channel series which all of the main casts are Hispanic. Additional episodes began airing on March 11, 2016. Stuck in the Middle is also the first single-camera Disney Channel series since Jonas:L.A. (2009-2010).
On June 24, 2016, Disney Channel premiered its 100th DCOM, Adventures in Babysitting, followed by the premiere of new series, Bizaardvark. Prior to the premiere, Disney Channel aired the "100th DCOM Celebration" which began Friday, May 27, 2016 with a four-day marathon of the 51 most popular DCOMs followed by encore presentations of these and every other DCOM ever made through June 2016. The movies would be seen on Disney Channel, the Disney Channel app and VOD through summer 2016.
On July 22, 2016, Disney premiered an animated series Elena of Avalor which was a spin-off of the Disney Junior series Sofia the First. It marked the first Disney princess that was Hispanic. This was also the first original animated series on Disney Channel since Wander Over Yonder in 2013.
On August 5, 2016, Variety, announced that a new Disney Channel series "Andi Mack" will start production in Fall 2016, for a 2017 premiere. This single-camera comedy will also be the first Disney Channel series to be geared towards Asian-Americans.
On August 29, 2016, Deadline announced that Disney Channel acquired a new animated show called Polly and the Zhu Zhu Pets that is being produced by Canada's Nelvana Limited. It is set to premiere on September 12, 2016.
A television movie titled Elena and the Secret of Avalor is scheduled to premiere. It will explain how Elena was trapped in the magical amulet for decades before being set free by Princess Sofia. The release date is slated for fall 2016.
Disney Channel's schedule currently consists largely of original series aimed at female pre-teens and young teenagers (including live-action series such as K.C. Undercover, Best Friends Whenever, Liv and Maddie, Stuck in the Middle, Girl Meets World, Bizaardvark, and Bunk'd), and series aimed at preschoolers as part of its Disney Junior block (such as Sofia the First, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Doc McStuffins, Sheriff Callie's Wild West, Miles from Tomorrowland and The Lion Guard). The channel also airs repeats of former Disney Channel original series (such as The Suite Life on Deck, Good Luck Charlie, Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, I Didn't Do It, Dog with a Blog, Jessie, and Austin and Ally), occasional reruns of Disney XD original series part of the "Disney XD on Disney Channel" block (such as Lab Rats: Elite Force, Gamer's Guide to Pretty Much Everything, Kirby Buckets, Walk the Prank, Star vs. the Forces of Evil and Star Wars Rebels), original made-for-TV movies, feature films, short-form programs known as "short shows" (which air more commonly on the Disney Junior block, and are used primarily to fill predetermined five-minute gaps between programs) and music videos from artists signed to sister companies Hollywood Records and Walt Disney Records as well as songs featured in recent and upcoming Disney feature film releases (full versions of these music videos typically air only during the video's premiere and as filler between programs, while shorter versions usually air during promo breaks during the current program).
Disney Channel essentially operates as a commercial-free channel, opting not to feature traditional commercial advertisements during its in-show breaks due to concerns that younger viewers may be unable to separate the difference between programs and advertisements, and in order to pay a lower license fee rate to broadcast feature films distributed by major movie studios than ad-supported channels would pay – in lieu of running commercials, Disney Channel maintains underwriter sponsorships with major companies such as Best Western and Mattel, in addition to in-house promotions for the channel's programs (and occasionally, programs seen on other Disney-owned channels, most commonly Disney XD and Disney Junior) and Disney entertainment products.
Atypical of most U.S. cable channels, since 2006, Disney Channel's scripted programs (including shows featured on the Disney Junior block) feature additional scenes played over the closing credits. It also has an unwritten requirement that its original live-action series have no more than six regular cast members (So Weird was the last series prior to 2003 to have more than six series regulars within its cast, Shake It Up is the only series since that point to exceed the limit as it had seven contract cast members during its second season in 2012–13); Stuck in the Middle would also go over this limit, with nine main cast members from the beginning. The channel's series tend to have smaller writing staffs compared to scripted series seen on other broadcast and cable networks (usually featuring around four and eight credited staff writers, instead of the eight to 11 writers commonly found on most scripted shows). Its live-action multi-camera series also commonly utilize a simulated film look (the FilmLook processing for such shows debuting between 2003 and 2008; the HD-compatible 'filmizing' technique for all newer and returning original series produced after 2009, which reduce the video frame rate to 24 frames per second).
During the 1980s and 1990s, Disney Channel ran classic Disney animated shorts released between the 1930s and 1960s, which were removed from the lineup in 2000; since 2009, repackaged versions of these shorts are seen as part of the short series Re-Micks and Have a Laugh!. The channel later debuted Mickey Mouse, a series of original shorts featuring the classic Disney animated characters including the titular character on June 28, 2013.
Disney Channel often broadcasts a movie most nights during the week and occasionally airs films during the daytime hours, however these are not always necessarily telecasts of a theatrically released film. The channel produces original made-for-cable movies called Disney Channel Original Movies (or DCOMs), which are frequently broadcast during primetime hours. Family-oriented made-for-TV movies began airing on the Disney Channel in October 1983 under the brand Disney Channel Premiere Films with the premiere of Tiger Town; the DCOM slate began with the August 1997 premiere of Northern Lights. After that point, the number of DCOMs that debuted each year began to increase – from two in 1997 to a high of twelve in 2000, when the network premiered a new original movie each month during that year, gradually decreasing to the current rate two to four premieres each year.
Disney Channel previously ran double airings of its original movies on the night of their premiere, until the January 2006 premiere of High School Musical; encore presentations of new original movies were also aired during primetime on the Saturday and Sunday after their initial premiere from 2001 (when the channel moved its original movie premieres from Saturdays to Fridays) to 2009, when these encores were reduced to occasional airings on one of the two days, with few exceptions (Camp Rock was the first film not to be encored in this manner). "Special edition" airings of its higher-profile original movies are also sometimes aired, including sing-along versions of music-based films (featuring on-screen lyrics for viewers to sing along with the film's songs) and "What's What" editions (styled similarly to Pop-Up Video, featuring on-screen pop-up facts about the movie and its stars).
High School Musical 2 is currently the most successful DCOM in terms of popularity and accolades, setting a basic cable record for the single most-watched television program, as its August 2007 debut was watched by 17.2 million viewers (counting sports, this record stood until a December 3, 2007 telecast of a New England Patriots-Baltimore Ravens game on corporate sibling ESPN's Monday Night Football, which was watched by 17.5 million viewers). The Cheetah Girls films were also notably successful in terms of merchiandise, and sales for its concert tour and soundtrack albums. The first film in 2003 was the first made-for-TV movie musical in Disney Channel's history, and had a worldwide audience of over 84 million viewers. The second movie was the most successful of the series, bringing in 8.1 million viewers in the U.S. An 86-date concert tour featuring the group was ranked as one of the top 10 concert tours of 2006; the tour broke a record at the Houston Rodeo that was set by Elvis Presley in 1973, selling out with 73,500 tickets sold in three minutes.
In addition to its made-for-cable films, Disney Channel has rights to theatrically released feature films, with some film rights shared with sister network Freeform. Along with films released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (mainly consisting of releases from Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar), the channel also maintains rights to films from other studios including Warner Bros. Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Hanna-Barbera, The Weinstein Company, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Lions Gate Entertainment, Rankin/Bass Productions, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures. Some films released by Bagdasarian Productions (such as The Chipmunk Adventure and Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein) have also aired on Disney Channel, although most of them are not presently owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Films made up roughly half of Disney Channel's daily schedule between 1986 and 1998; the number of movies broadcast on the channel have steadily eroded since then, to the point that films now only air Monday through Thursdays in primetime on an inconsistent basis (with episodes of its original series airing on nights when a film is not scheduled), regularly on weekend late nights and as of December 2013[update], during the daytime hours also on an inconsistent basis.
Cadet Kelly, Camp Rock and Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior are currently the only Disney Channel Original Movies to have aired on a network outside of the Disney Channel brand domestically (the latter two have aired on sister channel ABC Family, while Cadet Kelly and Camp Rock have also been broadcast on ABC as part of The Wonderful World of Disney).
On September 13, 2010, Disney Channel began airing theatrical film releases in a letterboxed 4:3 format on the channel's primary standard definition feed, as a widescreen-style format downconverted from the HD feed; although theatrical movies shot with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 or 2.40:1 are panned and scanned to fit high-definition sets to eliminate screen burn-in on plasma displays. Partly due to the network advertising mainly its own programs in lieu of traditional commercials, films featured on Disney Channel often run short of their allotted time slot with interstitial programming airing to pad out the remainder of the time period (usually an episode of an original series if a film runs approximately 90 to 100 minutes, an 11-minute-long episode of an original animated series for films running 105 minutes or a mix of music videos, network promotions and short segments for films running longer than 105 minutes).
- Disney Junior – "Disney Junior" is a block that features shows targeted at children aged 3–9. which debuted on February 14, 2011; it airs Monday through Fridays from 6:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. (6:00–10:30 a.m. during the summer months, other designated school break periods and on major holidays) and weekends from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time (the block primarily targets preschoolers as Disney Channel's usual target audience of pre-teens and young adolescents are in school during its designated time period on weekdays). Disney Junior carries one of the few programs on Disney Channel that feature classic Disney characters as of 2013[update], Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (the others are the Have a Laugh! and Mickey Mouse shorts that air within and outside of the block). Other programs currently seen in this block include Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Sheriff Callie's Wild West, Sofia the First, Miles from Tomorrowland, The Lion Guard and Doc McStuffins.
- Weekend evening blocks – Disney Channel airs first-run or recent episodes of its original series over the course of three nights, branded as "Disney Channel (day of week) Night", with first-run episodes premiering on Friday and/or Sunday evenings. Friday nights feature a combination of either Bunk'd, Girl Meets World and/or Stuck in the Middle, while Sunday nights feature Liv & Maddie, Best Friends Whenever, Bizaardvark and/or K.C. Undercover. Since October 2010, programming on both night's schedules has been somewhat fluid as while all series have a permanent place on the Friday and Sunday primetime schedules, episode premieres of all Disney Channel original series are subject to rotational scheduling depending on the lineup for that given week; depending on the night, these episode premieres usually air Fridays from 8:00–10:30 p.m., Saturdays from 8:00-11:00 p.m., and Sundays from 7:30–9:00 (or 9:30) p.m. Eastern/Pacific. Saturday nights feature repeats of recent episodes of the channel's original series or an occasional film telecast (the channel made two previous attempts at launching a Saturday night block of first-run programs to compete against Nickelodeon's higher-rated lineup on that night, first from 2007 to 2008 and again briefly during the spring of 2009; the channel would later air new episodes of its Sunday evening series to Saturday night for one week on June 8, 2013, supposedly to compete against the premiere of the Nickelodeon series Sam & Cat). Encores of the respective night's programs typically air between 11:00 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. Eastern/Pacific each night during that weekend.
- Disney XD on Disney Channel – "Disney XD on Disney Channel" is the branding of two blocks airing on Friday and Saturday nights; an animated block airing Fridays from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., showing series from Disney Television Animation, such as Star vs. the Forces of Evil, and a live-action block airing Saturdays from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., airing series such as Lab Rats: Elite Force, Gamer's Guide to Pretty Much Everything, Kirby Buckets, and Walk the Prank.
- January/JaNEWary – Disney Channel typically runs new episodes of its original programming each Friday and Sunday evening throughout the month of January; these may occasionally include a premiere of a Disney Channel Original Movie. The block has not been active since 2014.
- Disney Channel Summer – The network runs programming blocks annually during the summer with differing themes. Since 2011, Disney Channel has branded its summer programming lineup as "Disney Channel Summer". Generally most of the network's series run new episodes through the summer and original movies premiere during these months to take advantage of the largest possible children's audience, as do most children's networks.
- October/Halloween – In October, Disney Channel airs Halloween-themed programming in an annual event, titled "Monstober", a brand used each year since 2011. Halloween films such as the Halloweentown series have premiered during this month, along with films such as Twitches (and its sequel Twitches Too), The Scream Team, Mostly Ghostly, Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie, Avalon High, Girl vs. Monster, and Invisible Sister; Halloween episodes of the network's original series also air during the month.
- December/Christmas/FA-la-la-la-Days – The network's December schedule usually focuses on Christmas programming, with the title of the branding changing every year. Since 2011, Disney Channel has branded its holiday season programming lineup as "Fa-la-la-lidays". Christmas films such as the The Christmas Visitor, The Ultimate Christmas Present, 'Twas the Night, Beethoven's Christmas Adventure and Good Luck Charlie, It's Christmas! have premiered during this month, along with Christmas episodes of the network's original series such as Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation. A Christmas in July week with encores of Christmas-themed programming is featured during that summer month.
- New Year's Eve – A New Year's Eve tradition dating back to the Zoog Disney days in 2000, the network airs a marathon from the early evening of December 31 into the early morning of New Year's Day featuring programs, films and moments selected by viewer vote on disneychannel.com, followed by an original series or movie marathon on New Year's Day (no such event occurred in 2011, due to New Year's Eve falling on a Saturday that year), along with heavy promotion of the JaNEWary premieres to come through the first month of the new year.
- Out of This World Weekend (Summer of 2014) – a weekend of shows having space themed episodes.
- Whodunit? Weekend (April 2012 and Summer 2015) – a weekend of shows having mystery themed episodes. This was the first special weekend.
- Flash Forward Weekend (Summer 2013) – a weekend of shows related to time travel.
- Freaky Freakend (April 2013) – a weekend of show featuring paranormal themed episodes.
- April Fuel Week (April 2015) – a week of shows (Mon-Thurs) featuring special episodes.
- What the What?!? Weekend (April 2014 and April 2015) – a weekend of shows featuring guest stars from other Disney Channel shows; occurs mostly in April.
- Disney Nighttime – As a premium channel from April 18, 1983 to April 5, 1997, The Disney Channel featured programming aimed at adult audiences during the evening and overnight hours under the banner title "Disney Nighttime". Unlike the nighttime content aired on the channel's then-competitors (such as HBO and Showtime) at the time of its launch, the "adult" programming featured on The Disney Channel was largely devoid of any overt sexual and violent content. Programming seen during Disney Nighttime included older feature films (similar to those seen at the time on American Movie Classics, and eventually Turner Classic Movies, with both Disney film titles and movies from other film studios mixed in), along with original concert specials (featuring artists ranging from Rick Springfield to Jon Secada to Elton John), variety specials and documentaries.
- Disney Channel Discovery – aired on certain Saturday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time from 1988 to 1993, showcased family-oriented feature films not previously seen on television or in wide theatrical release
- Mystery Night – ran each Tuesday evening starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from 1988 to 1993, focused on mystery films from the 1930s to the 1960s
- The Best of Hollywood – ran each Monday evening starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from January 4, 1988 to March 30, 1997, showcased feature film classics from the 1930s to the 1960s
- Sunday Night Showcase – ran each Sunday evening starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from 1988 to 1996, featured various music, variety, comedy and documentary specials
- The Magical World of Disney – used as a Sunday night umbrella for movies and specials on The Disney Channel starting on September 23, 1990, originally airing exclusively on Sunday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. From December 1996 to 1999, The Magical World of Disney served as the overall branding for Disney Channel's nightly evening lineup of films starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific.
- The American Legacy – ran on Tuesday evenings at 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from February 1992 to 1996. Originally launched in honor the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the United States, the block featured movies, documentaries and specials about the contributions, history and scenic wonders of the nation.
- Toonin' Tuesday – Running from October 5, 1993 to September 1996, "Toonin' Tuesday" was a weekly program block featuring various animated programs. Each Tuesday from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific, "Toonin' Tuesday" featured primarily animated films and specials (though reruns of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show sometimes aired as part of the block). The block ended in early September 1996 due to changes to the channel's programming schedule.
- Bonus! Thursday – From October 7, 1993 to September 1996, The Disney Channel ran a weekly program block called "Bonus! Thursday" (or "Bonus!" for short), which ran each Thursday from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. The block featured programs aimed at teens, including series such as Kids Incorporated, The All-New Mickey Mouse Club, various Mickey Mouse Club serials (including Teen Angel and Match Point), and Eerie Indiana, followed by movies and specials. The block ended in early September 1996 due to changes to the channel's programming schedule.
- Totally Kids Only ("TKO") – a weekday morning lineup of live-action and animated series, which became the brand for the channel's morning and midday block (from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific) aimed at children ages 2 to 8 that ran from 1993 to April 1997
- Triple Feature Friday – ran each Friday starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from October 8, 1993 to April 1997, featured three different films – sometimes regardless of each film's genre – that were tied to a specific subject
- Disney Drive-In – ran each Saturday starting at 1:30 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from October 8, 1994 to August 31, 1996, featured classic Disney series such as Zorro, Texas John Slaughter and Spin and Marty, followed by classic Disney films and specials The block ended on August 31, 1996 due to changes in the channel's schedule.
- Block Party – From October 2, 1995 to August 28, 1996, four animated series that previously aired in syndication on The Disney Afternoon (Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, DuckTales and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers) were rerun together on The Disney Channel as a two-hour programming block called "Block Party", which aired weekdays from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. The "Block Party" branding was dropped on September 3, 1996, when Darkwing Duck was removed as the block's lead-in and Goof Troop was added to end the lineup. This unnamed block continued to air into 1997.
- Playhouse Disney – a daily morning program block aimed at preschoolers that debuted on May 8, 1997, replacing the mixture of shows targeted at preschoolers and shows aimed at older children that aired as part of Disney Channel's morning lineup. The block was discontinued on February 13, 2011, and replaced the following day by Disney Junior.
- Disney Distractions – the banner name for Disney Channel's afternoon double feature block of family-oriented films, which ran Saturdays and Sundays from 12:30 to (usually) 4:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from 1997 to 2000
- Magical World of Animals – an hour-long block of wildlife series aimed at children that ran from August 1997 to 1999. Promoted as an offshoot of the Magical World of Disney and airing Sunday evenings from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the block consisted of two series: Going Wild with Jeff Corwin and Omba Mokomba.
- Vault Disney – debuted in September 1997, five months after Disney Channel's first major rebrand, replacing the Disney Nighttime lineup. Originally airing only on Sunday nights from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, Vault Disney expanded to seven nights a week in September 1998 (the Monday through Saturday editions of the block at this time aired from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Eastern/Pacific; the start time of the block as a whole was moved uniformally to midnight daily in September 1999). The classic programming featured during the late night schedule changed to feature only Disney-produced television series and specials (such as Zorro, Spin and Marty, The Mickey Mouse Club and the Walt Disney anthology television series), along with older Disney television specials. Older Disney feature films also were part of the lineup from 1997 to 2000, but aired in a reduced capacity. The block also featured The Ink and Paint Club, an anthology series featuring classic Disney animated shorts, which became the only remaining program on the channel to feature these shorts by 1999, upon the removal of Quack Pack from the schedule. The channel discontinued the block in September 2002, in favor of running reruns of its original and acquired series during the late evening and overnight hours (which comparative to the adult-focused Vault Disney, are aired at children and teenagers, an audience that is typically asleep during that time period).
- Zoog Disney – launched in August 1998, a program block that originally aired only on weekend afternoons from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. The hosts for the block were "Zoogs", animated anthropomorphic robot/alien creature-hybrid characters with human voices (some of whom acted like teenagers). The block unified television and the internet, allowing viewer comments and scores from players of ZoogDisney.com's online games to be aired on the channel during regular programming in a ticker format (which the channel continued to use after the block was discontinued, however the ticker has been all but completely dropped from on-air usage as of May 2010[update]). From September 2001 to August 2002, the afternoon and primetime lineups on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays were branded under the umbrella title "Zoog Weekendz". The Zoogs were redesigned with cel shading and given mature voices in 2001, though the remade Zoog characters were discontinued after less than a year; the entire Zoog Disney block was phased out by September 2002.
- Toon Disney Summer Sundays – ran on Sunday evenings from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific during the summers of 1998 and 1999. Hosted by Sage Galesi and Beau Wirick, it was a sneak preview block of animated series (generally featuring defunct Disney animated series from the 1990s that were previously seen in syndication and/or on Disney Channel) carried on Disney Channel's then-recently launched sister digital cable and satellite network, Toon Disney.
- Disney Channel Saturday Mornings – an animation block that debuted on June 18, 2011 as "Toonin' Saturdays," which was rebranded to its final name in 2012. The lineup – which aired most Saturdays from 9:00–10:00 a.m. Eastern/Pacific, and is sometimes pre-empted in favor of other Disney Channel original programs – primarily consists of double-episode airings of Disney Channel original animated series Fish Hooks and Phineas and Ferb. Occasionally, new first-run episodes of either series will be featured in the block, though new episodes may also sometimes air in their original Friday night time slots.
- Disney Replay – "Disney Replay" was a block that debuted on April 17, 2013, featuring episodes of defunct Disney Channel Original Series that premiered between 2000 and 2007 (such as Lizzie McGuire, That's So Raven and Hannah Montana). Airing Wednesday nights/early Thursday mornings (as a nod to the popular social media trend "Throwback Thursday"), originally from 12:00 to 1:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, the block expanded to six hours (running until 6:00 a.m. Eastern/Pacific) on August 14, 2014. Programs featured on Disney Replay were added to the WATCH Disney Channel service on August 16, 2014. The block was discontinued on April 28, 2016 and moved to Freeform with a new name: That's So Throwback.
Current sister channels
Disney XD is a digital cable and satellite television channel in the United States, which is aimed at children aged 7–14. The channel was launched on February 13, 2009, replacing predecessor Toon Disney; it carries action and comedy programming from Disney Channel and the former Jetix block from Toon Disney, along with some first-run original programming and off-network syndicated shows. Like its predecessor Toon Disney, but unlike parent network Disney Channel and its sister channel Disney Junior, Disney XD operates as an advertiser-supported service. The channel carries the same name as an unrelated mini-site and media player on Disney.com, which stood for Disney Xtreme Digital, though it is said that the "XD" in the channel's name does not have an actual meaning.
On May 26, 2010, Disney-ABC Television Group announced the launch of a new digital cable and satellite channel targeted at preschool-aged children called Disney Junior, which debuted on March 23, 2012. The Disney Junior channel – which like Disney Channel (though unlike Disney XD or the channel Disney Junior replaced, Soapnet), is commercial-free – competes with other preschooler-skewing cable channels such as Nick Jr., Qubo and Sprout. The channel features programs from Disney Channel's existing preschool programming library and movies from the Walt Disney Pictures film library. Disney Junior took over the channel space held by Soapnet – a Disney-owned cable channel featuring soap operas – due to that genre's decline in popularity on broadcast television, and the growth of video on demand, online streaming and digital video recorders, negating the need for a linear channel devoted to the soap opera genre. An automated Soapnet feed continued to exist for providers that had not yet made carriage agreements for Disney Junior (such as Dish Network) and those that have kept Soapnet as part of their lineups while adding Disney Junior as an additional channel (such as DirecTV and Cox Communications); After a period during which cable providers unwilling to drop the network immediately retained it to prevent subscriber cancellations, Soapnet ceased full operations on December 31, 2013.
The former Playhouse Disney block on Disney Channel was rebranded as Disney Junior on February 14, 2011; the 22 existing Playhouse Disney-branded cable channels and program blocks outside the United States rebranded under the Disney Junior name over the next two years, concluding with the rebranding of the Russian and Chinese versions in September 2013. Disney-ABC Television Group previously planned to launch a domestic Playhouse Disney Channel in the U.S. (which would have served the same target audience as Disney Junior) in 2001, however this planned network never launched, although dedicated Playhouse Disney Channels did launch outside of the United States.
Former sister channels
Toon Disney launched on April 18, 1998 (coinciding with the 15th anniversary of parent network Disney Channel's launch), and was aimed at children between the ages of 6- and 18 -years-old. The network's main competitors were Turner Broadcasting/Time Warner's Cartoon Network and Boomerang, and Viacom/MTV Networks' Nicktoons. Toon Disney originally operated as a commercial-free service from April 1998 to September 1999, when it became advertiser-supported (unlike Disney Channel). The channel carried a mix of reruns of Walt Disney Television Animation and Disney Channel-produced animated programming, along with some third-party programs from other distributors, animated films and original programming. In 2004, the channel debuted a nighttime program block aimed at children ages 7–14 called Jetix, which featured action-oriented animated and live-action series. During Toon Disney's first year on the air, Disney Channel ran a sampler block of Toon Disney's programming on Sunday nights for interested subscribers. The network ceased operations on February 13, 2009 and was replaced with the Disney XD, a channel aimed to children, which features broader array of programming, with a heavier emphasis on live-action programs.
|Disney Channel HD||Disney Channel HD is a high definition simulcast feed of Disney Channel that broadcasts in the 720p resolution format; the feed first began broadcasting on March 19, 2008. Most of the channel's original programming since 2009 is produced and broadcast in HD, along with feature films, Disney Channel original movies made after 2005 and select episodes, films and series produced before 2009. Disney XD and Disney Junior also offer their own high-definition simulcast feeds.|
|Disney Channel On Demand||Disney Channel On Demand is the channel's video-on-demand service, offering select episodes of the channel's original series and Disney Junior programming, along with select original movies and behind-the-scenes features to digital cable and IPTV providers.|
|Disney Family Movies||Disney Family Movies is a subscription video-on-demand service that launched on December 10, 2008. The service offers a limited selection of movies and short films from the Walt Disney Pictures film catalog for a fee of about $5 to $10 per month, making it similar in structure to Disney Channel's original model as a premium service.|
|Disney Channel App||Formerly known as "WATCH Disney Channel" until a June 2016 rebranding, the mobile app and digital media player apps for Disney Channel offer live and on-demand streaming of Disney Channel content online. These apps require users to authenticate with a login from a participating television service provider for access to live video or the newest episodes of a series, though a limited selection of free episodes also are available without a login.|
Criticism and controversies
Disney Channel has received heavy criticism by some critics and viewers for its programming direction in recent years. When compared to the channel's programming during the 1980s and 1990s, there is now very little, if any, programming featuring classic Disney characters, leading some fans to believe the channel fails to represent its name. Some critics disapprove of the marketing strategy drafted by former Disney–ABC Television Group president Anne Sweeney, which has resulted in the slanting of the target audience of Disney Channel's programs toward teenyboppers, as well as a decrease in animated programming and an increase in live-action shows and made-for-TV movies. In 2008, Sweeney had stated that Disney Channel, resulting from its multi-platform marketing strategy using television and music, would become "the major profit driver for the [Walt Disney] Company."
The channel has also pulled episodes (even once having to reshoot an episode) that have featured subject matter deemed inappropriate due to its humor, the timing of the episode's airing with real-life events, or subject matter considered inappropriate for Disney Channel's target audience. In December 2008, the Hannah Montana episode "No Sugar, Sugar" was pulled before its broadcast after complaints from parents who saw the episode through video on demand services due to misconceptions regarding diabetics and sugar intake (the Mitchel Musso character of Oliver Oken is revealed in the episode to have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes). Portions of that episode were subsequently rewritten and re-filmed to become the season three episode "Uptight (Oliver's Alright)," which aired in September 2009.
In December 2011, Disney Channel pulled episodes of two of its original series from the network's broadcast cycle – the season one Shake It Up episode "Party It Up," and the So Random! episode "Colbie Caillat" – after Demi Lovato (star of So Random! parent series Sonny with a Chance, who was treated for bulimia nervosa in 2010) objected on Twitter to jokes featured in both episodes (the Shake It Up episode, in particular) that made light of eating disorders. On May 17, 2013, the channel pulled "Quitting Cold Koala", a second season episode of Jessie, prior to its scheduled premiere broadcast, due to parental concerns over a scene in which a character's gluten-free diet leads to him being ridiculed.
In 2010, Disney Channel All Star Party was released for the Nintendo Wii. The four-player mascot party game, in which the stages resemble board games, features characters from Disney Channel programs such as Sonny with a Chance, Wizards of Waverly Place and JONAS L.A. Several video games based on the Disney Channel animated series Phineas and Ferb were released by Disney Interactive Studios. The Disney Channel website also features various flash games incorporating characters from the channel's various program franchises.
Disney Channel has established its channels in various countries worldwide including Canada, South Africa, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, India, Australia, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, the Middle East, Scandinavia, the Baltic states, United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, the Caribbean, the Netherlands, Israel and Flanders. Disney Channel also licenses its programming to air on certain other broadcast and cable channels outside the United States (previously like Family Channel in Canada) regardless as to whether an international version of Disney Channel exists in the country.
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