ABC Family Worldwide
|Owner||News Corporation (1997-2001)|
Saban Entertainment (1997-2001)
The Walt Disney Company (2001-present)
|Parent||Walt Disney Television|
(Disney General Entertainment Content)
|Footnotes / references|
ABC Family Worldwide is a subsidiary of Walt Disney Television that is responsible for the operations of the U.S. cable network Freeform and the Canadian cable network ABC Spark. The company was originally formed as International Family Entertainment, a spin-off of the Christian Broadcasting Network's cable network The Family Channel.
In 1993, IFE acquired the assets of defunct British ITV broadcaster Television South, whose holdings included the library of U.S. studio MTM Enterprises. In 1996, IFE was acquired by News Corporation; the MTM library was melded into 20th Century Fox Television's library, while the remainder was melded into Fox Kids Worldwide (a merger of its Fox Kids unit with Saban Entertainment), to form Fox Family Worldwide. Fox and Saban planned to leverage the popular Fox Kids lineup to turn The Family Channel—which was re-branded as the Fox Family Channel following the purchase—into a competitor to other children's-oriented cable channels such as Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, and Cartoon Network. The subsidiary also established international Fox Kids networks in Europe and Latin America.
After facing struggling ratings and a failed attempt by Saban to buy out News Corp's stake in the venture, Fox Family Worldwide was later sold to its current owner, The Walt Disney Company, in 2001 for $5.3 billion. The purchase gave Disney ownership of the Fox Family channel (which was subsequently rebranded as ABC Family), the international Fox Kids channels (which were later re-branded as Jetix, and then Disney XD), and rights to the Saban Entertainment library. The subsidiary has since been amalgamated into the Walt Disney Television group. Saban Brands, Saban Entertainment's successor, would acquire the rights to some of the properties held by its predecessor; these assets have since been acquired by Hasbro.
International Family Entertainment
The company has its origins in Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network; the religious broadcaster had re-positioned its CBN Satellite Service, which primarily carried televangelism, as the CBN Cable Network, which carried a mixture of secular programming and religious programs. Owing to its new scope, the service was later renamed the CBN Family Channel.
By the 1990s, the network had become too profitable to remain under the ownership of the non-profit CBN without legal repercussions. In January 1990, a decision was made to spin-off the CBN Family Channel into a new, for-profit company known as International Family Entertainment, via a sale at a price of $250 million in convertible notes. The majority of IFE was owned by the network's management, with a 15% minority interest held by TCI Development Corporation, a subsidiary of cable provider Tele-Communications Inc. Special voting shares were issued to Pat Robertson and Timothy Robertson that give them control of the company. IFE continued to use CBN's facilities under a rental agreement. As a stipulation of the spin-off, The Family Channel was required to maintain daily airings of CBN's flagship television program The 700 Club a condition that has remained in effect to this day.
CBN sold $23 million in notes to another cable company. An additional $127 million of convertible notes were converted into stock prior to an IPO in April 1992, in which CBN would sell them for $93 million to $106 million worth. More shares would be sold directly by IFE in the amount of $47 million to $53 million in a total of about $150 million. IFE's proceeds would be used for programming, marketing and possible acquisitions or investments. Plans were in the works for a home video distribution deal with Pacific Arts by the end of 1992, a South Korea cable network with Hyundai Electronics Industries Co. (now SK Hynix), and a joint venture to bid for a Czechoslovakian TV station. Additional plans called for Family Channels in Britain and the rest of Europe, and additional cable channels. In consideration by IFE for the cable channel's genres were game shows, westerns, country music and sports as well as Spanish-language simulcasting. On April 28, 1992, IFE began public trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker FAM.
In May 1992, IFE announced plans to launch Game Channel, a joint venture with Game Technologies, which is a channel that would air original and classic game shows. The co-owners planned to allow viewers to interact with its programming over a 1-900 line; revenue was to be shared with providers that carried the channel, who could also integrate their own interactive content into the service. Upon its announcement, Game Channel already faced competition from Sony Pictures Television's upcoming Game Show Network, as well as other new cable networks launching at the same period. On June 7, 1993, The Family Channel launched a game show block with interactive segments built around its new original production Trivial Pursuit, in preparation for the planned launch of Game Channel.
In February 1993, IFE acquired the assets of Television South, a former ITV franchisee in Southern England, for $68.5 million. The deal gave IFE ownership of the library of Mary Tyler Moore's studio MTM Enterprises; IFE planned to leverage the MTM programs as part of a new syndication division, and the sale would also bolster an impending British version of The Family Channel. In June 1993, prior to its launch, IFE sold a 39% stake in The Family Channel UK to local company Flextech. The channel officially launched on September 1. Flextech would later buy out IFE's share in The Family Channel UK, which then became the game show-oriented channel Challenge.
On August 20, 1993, IFE soft-launched the Cable Health Club (later known as FitTV), a service devoted to fitness. In December 1993, IFE opened a bidding war to acquire the Nostalgia Network, competing with a partnership of Florida-based MOR Music TV Inc. and Arizona-based Gen-She Inc., and part-owner Concept Communications (owned by the Unification Church).
In December 1993, IFE purchased three Myrtle Beach, S.C. theaters and Calvin Gilmore Productions for $20 million. The Great American Entertainment Co. was formed as a subsidiary of IFE to control the companies.
In 1994, IFE acquired Dorothy Hamill International, which had bought the ice show franchise Ice Capades out of bankruptcy. However, the company went out of business afterward due to the decreasing popularity of its shows in favor of traditional figure skating competitions and exhibitions. The tour had a lackluster season, which led Hamill to leave the company. IFE then searched for a management company to handle the touring company for an equity stake. Instead, they sold Ice Capades in late 1995 while retaining the option of reacquiring a majority stake in Del Wilber & Associates for 10 years.
By March 1995, IFE formed Family Channel Pictures banner to produce $8 to $12 million theatrical films four per year. Amblin Television president Tony Thomopoulos was hired as MTM Entertainment chief executive officer and would also oversee programing on The Family Channel cable channel and the Family Channel Pictures and creative parts of the Ice Capades and Great American Entertainment Company.
Fox Family Worldwide
In 1997, Fox Kids Worldwide—a company formed in 1996 via the merger of Fox Children's Network and Haim Saban's Saban Entertainment—made a bid to acquire IFE. With the growing shift in children's television from over-the-air programming blocks to cable channels such as Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, Fox and Saban sought to launch a competitor that would carry programming from the popular Fox Kids lineup. Overseeing The Family Channel, News Corp. made an offer to purchase IFE through the joint venture in 1997.
Viacom and Disney made competing offers for IFE; Viacom dropped out of bidding, and News Corp. offered $1.8 billion. News Corp. won with a bid of $1.9 billion. The acquisition closed on June 11, 1997; IFE was folded into Fox Kids Worldwide, which itself was renamed Fox Family Worldwide. The acquisition was similar to IFE's now unrelated company CBN's sale of WXNE-TV to News Corporation a few years before. On August 15, 1998, The Family Channel was renamed Fox Family Channel; Fox continued to be subject to the mandate that The 700 Club be broadcast by the network. Rights to the MTM Enterprises library were folded into 20th Century Fox Television. Of the sale, Robertson stated that he "felt it was time for the Family Channel to join the consolidation that was going on in the industry."
In October 1996, a Fox Kids channel was launched in the United Kingdom. In November 1999, Fox Kids Europe was formed, with 75.7% being held by Fox Family Worldwide, and the remainder listed on the Euronext.
In an attempt at U.S. expansion in October 1999, Fox Family spun off two digital cable channels—the Boyz Channel and the Girlz Channel—which contained programming content targeted at the respective genders. Both networks shut down after one year of operation due to a lack of leverage and demand by cable providers (each only had 100,000 subscribers), and News Corporation's desire to invest more heavily in the parent channel.
The Fox Family channel struggled under their ownership; Saban attempted to force News Corp. to sell it its share in the joint venture, but were unable to agree in a proper valuation. The ensuing conflict resulted in the two companies deciding to sell Fox Family Worldwide to a third-party. At the time, Fox was also preparing to acquire Hughes Electronics, the parent company of television provider DirecTV.
Acquisition by Disney
On October 24, 2001, The Walt Disney Company acquired Fox Family Worldwide for $2.9 billion cash plus $2.3 billion in debt assumption, which gave Disney control of the Fox Family channel (which, owing to its new ownership, was renamed ABC Family, and its parent company renamed ABC Family Worldwide), the Saban Entertainment library, the Fox Kids brand name and its Fox Children's Productions library of shows, including its international networks in Latin America and Europe, as well as additional cable rights to Major League Baseball that were assigned to Fox Family via the Fox Sports division, which included a slate of Thursday-night regular season games, and Division Series games. ESPN assumed the production responsibilities for these games as part of its ESPN Major League Baseball package, although they continued to air on ABC Family for the time being.
The U.S. Fox Kids block broadcast by the Fox network was not included in the sale, and its operations were shifted to the Fox Television Entertainment division. As Fox no longer held the rights to the Saban programming that primarily aired during the block, and no longer had appropriate synergies due to the sale of Fox Family, the company chose to contract the block to a third-party. Following a bidding war with DIC Entertainment, Fox subsequently announced in January 2002 that it would enter into an agreement with 4Kids Entertainment to program a new children's block for the network.
In March 2002, Angela Shapiro was named president of ABC Family Worldwide, after moving from president of Buena Vista Productions. She originally reported to ABC Broadcast Group president Steve Bornstein, who resigned in 2002. The post then reported directly to Disney president Bob Iger. In October 2003, ABC Family Worldwide was amalgamated into the ABC Cable Networks Group, run by Anne Sweeney. Shapiro also left the network that month. Later, programming executive Linda Mancuso died in December 2003. In early 2004, ABC Family's original movie production unit was taken over by Disney Channel's vice president of original programming and production Gary Marsh and vice president of original movies Michael Healy.
In January 2004, Fox Kids Europe, Fox Kids Latin America and the ABC Cable Group launched a new joint brand for their children's television operations, Jetix, which would be used to brand programming blocks which aired on ABC Family and Toon Disney, its television channels in Europe and Latin America, along with its program library and merchandising.
On December 8, 2008, Disney reached an agreement to increase its ownership in Jetix Europe to 96%, and announced an intent to purchase the remainder to give it full ownership. Following its takeover of Jetix Europe, Disney began migrating the Jetix properties in the region to a new brand, Disney XD. In 2009, Switchover Media—a company formed by the management of the Italian Jetix operation, acquired the K2 and GXT networks from Disney, and managed Jetix until its re-branding as Disney XD. Switchover would later be purchased by Discovery Communications.
On May 12, 2010, Saban Capital Group's Saban Brands (a successor to Saban Entertainment) bought the rights to the Power Rangers franchise back from Disney for $43 million. Rights to the then-upcoming season Power Rangers Samurai, as well as previous seasons, were acquired by Nickelodeon in 2011. In September 2012, Saban Brands also re-acquired the international rights to the Digimon franchise, partnering with MarVista Entertainment as distributor. Hasbro subsequently announced a deal to acquire Saban Brands' entertainment assets in May 2018.
- "Business Entity Detail: ABC Family Worldwide, Inc. (Search on Entity C1991622)". California Business Search. California Secretary of State. Archived from the original on 2015-03-15. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
- Susan King (December 30, 1990). "Family Channel Tries To Change Image". Los Angeles Times. Times Mirror Company. Retrieved October 9, 2015 – via Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
- Joseph Pryweller (January 10, 1990). "Sold Family Channel Keeps Lineup". Daily Press. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
- Ress, David (March 29, 1992). "Taking Stock Of Family Value". Daily Press. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
- Pryweller, Joseph (January 11, 1990). "Ahead For Family Channel: More Shows, New Market". Daily Press. Daily Press Media Group: Tribune Publishing. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
- Ress, David (March 5, 1992). "Cbn To Sell $100 Million Network Stake". Daily Press. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
- Ress, David (April 29, 1992). "Family Channel Stock To Begin Trading". Daily Press. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
- "New Cable Channels Seek Room on the Tube : Television: Backers have high hopes for science-fiction, cartoon and game formats, but crowded systems might not have space for them". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
- "Swamped, Aging Cable Firms Cool To Budding Channels". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
- Ress, David (May 4, 1992). "Family Channel Plans All-game Network". Daily Press. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
- Stern, Christopher (May 17, 1993). "Game Channel gears up for launch". Broadcasting & Cable. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
- "UK media group Flextech. (invests in UK Family Channel) (Brief Article)". Broadcasting & Cable. June 7, 1993. Archived from the original on October 26, 2012. Retrieved January 13, 2016 – via Highbeam Research.
- Benson, Jim (Oct 6, 1992). "IFE forms syndie division for family shows". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- Fabrikant, Geraldine (1997-06-12). "Murdoch Set To Buy Family Cable Concern". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-01.
- Brown, Rich (August 23, 1993). "Family plans health channel". Broadcasting & Cable. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
- Lippman, John (December 7, 1993). "Robertson May Open Bidding Battle for Network". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
- Deckard, Linda (June 13, 1994). "Cable TV's IFE buys Ice Capades". Amusement Business. Archived from the original on September 18, 2016. Retrieved September 6, 2016 – via High Beam.
- Curtis, Bryan (March 16, 2005). "The Ice Capades: Requiem for the ice carnival". Slate.com. The Slate Group. Retrieved November 19, 2015.
- Waddell, Ray (September 8, 1997). "Ice Capades is forced to cancel two fall tours". Amusement Business. Archived from the original on September 18, 2016. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
- Mayfield, Dave (August 14, 1995). "International Family Entertainment to Sell Ice Capades". The Virginian-Pilot. Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. Archived from the original on September 18, 2016. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
- Coe, Steve (March 6, 1995). "Thomopoulos to head MTM Entertainment" (PDF). Broadcasting & Cable. p. 26. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
- Schneider, Michael; Grego, Melissa (September 9, 2001). "Fox Kids net adopted by Fox TV Ent". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-13.
- Hillier, Barry (November 1, 1996). "Fox Kids Worldwide is born". Kidscreen. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
- "Fox Kids Faces Holy Challenge With IFE Deal". Los Angeles Times. June 14, 1997. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- Connie Bruck (May 10, 2010). "The Influencer". The New Yorker.
- "News Corp., Disney Ready to Make Final Offers for IFE". Los Angeles Times. Reuters. June 2, 1997. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
- Robertson, Virginia (December 1, 1997). "Special Report: Family Programming: New relations: Fox keeping mum about plans for The Family Channel". Kidscreen. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
- Peers, Martin; Richmond, Ray; Levin, Gary (June 12, 1997). "Family affair for Fox Kids". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- Hofmeister, Sallie (July 17, 1997). "News Corp. Taps Fox Kids' Exec". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
- Katz, Richard (July 10, 1998). "Fox Family squeezes 'Club' in youthful sked". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-13.
- "NBC To Reboot 'Remington Steele' As Comedy With Ruben Fleischer". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- "2008" (PDF). Annual Reports. Jetix Europe NV. p. 42. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- Paula Bernstein (August 15, 2000). "Fox Family pulls Girlz, Boyz diginets". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
- "Murdoch's DirecTV purchase 'approved'". BBC News. February 9, 2001.
- Jeff Bercovici (July 23, 2001). "Disney buying Fox Family Channel". Media Life Magazine. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
- "Disney buys Fox Family". CNN Money. July 23, 2001. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
- Sandomir, Richard (2002-10-04). "TV SPORTS; ABC Family Offers Familiar ESPN Look". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-01.
- "News Corp. and Haim Saban Reach Agreement to Sell Fox Family Worldwide to Disney for $5.3 Billion". Saban. July 23, 2001. Archived from the original on 21 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-31.
- DiOrio, Carl (Oct 24, 2001). "Fox Family costs Mouse less cheese in final deal". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-13.
- Paula Bernstein (January 18, 2002). "4Kids buys 4 hours from Fox Kids". Variety. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
- Michael Schneider; Melissa Grego (September 9, 2001). "Fox Kids net adopted by Fox TV Ent". Variety. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
- Verrier, Richard (October 27, 2003). "ABC Family's Chief Expected to Step Down". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
- Romano, Allison (October 20, 2003). "Sweeney is family's new parent figure". Broadcasting & Cable. Archived from the original on June 11, 2014. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- Martin, Denise (March 25, 2004). "ABC Family grows into new fields with two pix". Daily Variety. Archived from the original on March 23, 2017. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
- Edmunds, Marlene (January 9, 2004). "Fox Kids, ABC cable jet to int'l Jetix kidvid pact". Variety. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
- Edmunds, Marlene (May 4, 2004). "Fox Kids arm jets new name Jetix". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- Meza, Ed (Apr 28, 2005). "Jetix brand rolls on". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- Derrick, Stuart (March 22, 2004). "Licensing: Fox Kids readies a European shake-up". marketingmagazine.co.uk.
- "Disney moves for Jetix Europe takeover". Media Week UK. December 8, 2008. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
- "French Jetix becomes Disney XD". Broadband TV News. 2009-02-16.
- "Jetix Italy bosses buy GXT and K2 channels". digitaltveurope.net. July 16, 2009. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
- Moody, Annemarie (July 15, 2009). "Jetix Italy Announces Management Buyout". AWN News. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- "Discovery buys Italian broadcaster Switchover". Digital TV Europe. 2013-01-15. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
- "Saban buys back Power Rangers". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2019-02-10.
- Crowe, Deborah (September 25, 2012). "Saban Brands Acquires Digimon Anime Brand". Los Angeles Business Journal. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- "Saban Brands Acquires Digimon Anime Franchise". Anime News Network. September 25, 2012. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- Sarah (September 25, 2012). "Saban Brands Acquires Digimon Brand". BSCKids. Archived from the original on September 28, 2012. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- Hipes, Patrick (2018-05-01). "Hasbro Acquires 'Power Rangers' Brand In $522M Deal". Deadline. Retrieved 2019-02-10.
- Eades, Chris (March 1, 2012). "ABC Family Is Taking Over SOAPnet... For Now!". Soaps in Depth. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
- Giddens, Jamey (February 29, 2012). "BREAKING NEWS: Kate Nelson OUT at SOAPnet; Day-to-Day Operations Now Under ABC Family Until Channel Goes Dark". Daytime Confidential. Confidential Media, Inc. Retrieved January 13, 2016.