American Broadcasting Company
The American Broadcasting Company is an American multinational commercial broadcast television network that is a flagship property of Walt Disney Television, a subsidiary of the Disney Media Networks division of The Walt Disney Company. The network is headquartered in Burbank, California, on Riverside Drive, directly across the street from Walt Disney Studios and adjacent to the Roy E. Disney Animation Building. The network's secondary offices, and headquarters of its news division, is in New York City, at its broadcast center at 77 West 66th Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Since 2007, when ABC Radio was sold to Citadel Broadcasting, ABC has reduced its broadcasting operations almost exclusively to television. It is the fifth-oldest major broadcasting network in the world and the youngest of the American Big Three television networks. ABC is nicknamed "The Alphabet Network", as its initialism also represents the first three letters of the English alphabet, in order.
ABC launched as a radio network in 1943, which served as the successor to the NBC Blue Network, which had been purchased by Edward J. Noble. It extended its operations to television in 1948, following in the footsteps of established broadcast networks CBS and NBC. In the mid-1950s, ABC merged with United Paramount Theatres, a chain of movie theaters that formerly operated as a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures. Leonard Goldenson, who had been the head of UPT, made the new television network profitable by helping develop and greenlight many successful series. In the 1980s, after purchasing an 80 percent interest in cable sports channel ESPN, the network's corporate parent, American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., merged with Capital Cities Communications, owner of several print publications, and television and radio stations. In 1996, most of Capital Cities/ABC's assets were purchased by Disney.
ABC has eight owned-and-operated and over 232 affiliated television stations throughout the United States and its territories. Some ABC-affiliated stations can also be seen in Canada via pay-television providers, and certain other affiliates can also be received over-the-air in areas near the Canada–United States border. ABC News provides news and features content for select radio stations owned by Cumulus Media, as these stations are former ABC Radio properties.
Blue Network (1927–1945)In the 1930s, radio in the United States was dominated by three companies: the Columbia Broadcasting System, the Mutual Broadcasting System, and the National Broadcasting Company. The last was owned by electronics manufacturer Radio Corporation of America, which owned two radio networks that each ran different varieties of programming, NBC Blue and NBC Red. The NBC Blue Network was created in 1927 for the primary purpose of testing new programs on markets of lesser importance than those served by NBC Red, which served the major cities, and to test drama series.
In 1934, Mutual filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission regarding its difficulties in establishing new stations in a radio market that was already being saturated by NBC and CBS. In 1938, the FCC began a series of investigations into the practices of radio networks and published its report on the broadcasting of network radio programs in 1940. The report recommended that RCA give up control of either NBC Red or NBC Blue. At that time, the NBC Red Network was the principal radio network in the United States and, according to the FCC, RCA was using NBC Blue to eliminate any hint of competition. Having no power over the networks themselves, the FCC established a regulation forbidding licenses to be issued for radio stations if they were affiliated with a network which already owned multiple networks that provided content of public interest.
, founder of ABC
Once Mutual's appeals against the FCC were rejected, RCA decided to sell NBC Blue in 1941, and gave the mandate to do so to Mark Woods. RCA converted the NBC Blue Network into an independent subsidiary, formally divorcing the operations of NBC Red and NBC Blue on January 8, 1942, with the Blue Network being referred to on-air as either "Blue" or "Blue Network". The newly separated NBC Red and NBC Blue divided their respective corporate assets. Between 1942 and 1943, Woods offered to sell the entire NBC Blue Network, a package that included leases on landlines, three pending television licenses, 60 affiliates, four operations facilities, contracts with actors, and the brand associated with the Blue Network. Investment firm Dillon, Read & Co. offered $7.5 million to purchase the network, but the offer was rejected by Woods and RCA president David Sarnoff.
Edward J. Noble, the owner of Life Savers candy, drugstore chain Rexall, and New York City radio station WMCA, purchased the network for $8 million. According to FCC ownership rules, the transaction, which was to include the purchase of three RCA stations by Noble, would require him to resell WMCA with the FCC's approval. The Commission authorized the transaction on October 12, 1943. Soon afterward, the Blue Network was purchased by the new company Noble founded, the American Broadcasting System. Noble subsequently acquired the rights to the American Broadcasting Company name from George B. Storer in 1944; its parent company adopted the corporate name American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. Woods retained his position as president and CEO of ABC until December 1949, and was subsequently promoted to vice chairman of the board before leaving ABC altogether on June 30, 1951.
Meanwhile, in August 1944, the West Coast division of the Blue Network, which owned San Francisco radio station KGO, bought Los Angeles station KECA from Earle C. Anthony for $800,000. Both stations were then managed by Don Searle, the vice-president of the Blue Network's West Coast division.
Entry into television (1945–1949)The ABC Radio Network created its audience slowly. In 1946 it acquired Detroit radio station WXYZ from KingTrendle Broadcasting for a little less than $3 million.
ABC became an aggressive competitor to NBC and CBS when continuing NBC Blue's traditions of public service. It aired symphony performances conducted by Paul Whiteman, performances from the Metropolitan Opera, and jazz concerts aired as part of its broadcast of The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street announced by Milton Cross. The network also became known for such suspenseful dramas as Sherlock Holmes, Gang Busters and Counterspy, as well as several mid-afternoon youth-oriented programs. However, ABC made a name for itself by utilizing the practice of counterprogramming, with which it often placed shows of its own against the offerings of NBC and CBS, pre-recording its programming with the use of the Magnetophon tape recorder, technology acquired by the United States from post-WWII Germany. With the help of the Magnetophon, ABC was able to provide its stars with greater freedom in terms of time, and also attract several big names, such as Bing Crosby, at a time when NBC and CBS did not allow pre-taped shows.
While its radio network was undergoing reconstruction, ABC found it difficult to avoid falling behind in the new medium of television. To ensure itself a place, ABC submitted five applications for television station licenses in 1947, one for each market where it owned and operated a radio station. These applications all requested for the stations to broadcast on VHF channel 7, as Frank Marx, then ABC's vice-president of engineering, thought that the low-band VHF frequencies would be requisitioned from broadcasting use and reallocated for the U.S. Army.
The ABC television network was launched on April 19, 1948, and picked up its first primary affiliate, WFIL-TV in Philadelphia, which would later become WPVI-TV. The first program ever broadcast on the network was On the Corner, featuring satirist Henry Morgan. Other stations carrying the original broadcast were WMAR-TV in Baltimore, WMAL-TV in Washington, D.C., and WABD, the DuMont station in New York City, since ABC's New York station had yet to sign on.
The network's flagship owned-and-operated station, WJZ-TV in New York City, signed on the air on August 10, 1948, with its first broadcast running for two hours that evening. ABC's other owned-and-operated stations launched over the course of the next 13 months: WENR-TV in Chicago signed on the air on September 17, while WXYZ-TV in Detroit went on the air on October 9, 1948. In October 1948, as a result of an influx of television station license applications that it had issued as well as a study it undertook on the use of the VHF spectrum for broadcasting purposes, the FCC implemented a freeze on new station applications. However, KGO-TV in San Francisco, which had received its license prior to the freeze, made its debut on May 5, 1949. On May 7, 1949, Billboard revealed that ABC had proposed an investment of $6.25 million, of which it would spend $2.5 million to convert of land in Hollywood into what would become The Prospect Studios, and construct a transmitter on Mount Wilson, in anticipation of the launch of KECA-TV, which began operations on September 16.
In the fall of 1949, ABC found itself in the position of an outsider, with less coverage than CBS and NBC, even though it was on par with them in some major cities and had a headstart over its third rival at the time, the DuMont Television Network. On November 3, 1949, The Ruggles starring Charlie Ruggles debuted, becoming the first family sitcom on the ABC network.
Before the freeze ended in 1952, there were only 108 television stations in the United States; a few major cities had only two television stations, many other cities had only one, and still many others did not yet have television service. The result was an uneven transition period where television flourished in certain areas and network radio remained the sole source of broadcast entertainment and news in others.
American Broadcasting-Paramount TheatresAt the end of 1949, movie theater operator United Paramount Theatres was forced by the U.S. Supreme Court to become an independent entity, separating itself from Paramount Pictures. For its part, ABC was on the verge of bankruptcy, with only five owned-and-operated stations and nine full-time affiliates. Its revenues, which were related to advertising and were indexed compared to the number of listeners/viewers, failed to compensate for its heavy investments in purchasing and building stations. In 1951, a rumor spread that the network would be sold to CBS. In 1951, Noble held a 58% ownership stake in ABC, giving him $5 million with which to prevent ABC from going bankrupt; as banks refused further credit, that amount was obtained through a loan from the Prudential Insurance Company of America.
Leonard Goldenson, the president of UPT, approached Noble in 1951 on a proposal for UPT to purchase ABC. Noble received other offers, including one from CBS founder William S. Paley; however, a merger with CBS would have forced that network to sell its New York City and Los Angeles stations at the very least. Goldenson and Noble reached a tentative agreement in the late spring of 1951 in which UPT would acquire ABC and turn it into a subsidiary of the company that would retain autonomy in its management. On June 6, 1951, the tentative agreement was approved by UPT's board of directors. However, the transaction had to be approved by the FCC because of the presence of television networks and the recent separation between Paramount and UPT. Insofar as Paramount Pictures was already a shareholder in the DuMont Television Network, the FCC conducted a series of hearings to ensure whether Paramount was truly separated from United Paramount Theatres and whether it was violating antitrust laws.
In 1952, when the release of the FCC's Sixth Report and Order announced the end of its freeze on new station license applications, among the issues the Commission was slated to address was whether to approve the UPT-ABC merger. One FCC Commissioner saw the possibility of ABC, funded by UPT, becoming a viable and competitive third television network. On February 9, 1953, the FCC approved UPT's purchase of ABC in exchange for $25 million in shares. The merged company, renamed American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, Inc. and headquartered in the Paramount Building at 1501 Broadway in Manhattan, owned six AM and several FM radio stations, five television stations and 644 cinemas in 300 U.S. cities. To comply with FCC ownership restrictions in effect at the time that barred common ownership of two television stations in the same market, UPT sold its Chicago television station, WBKB-TV, to CBS for $6 million, while it kept ABC's existing Chicago station, WENR-TV. The merged company acquired the WBKB call letters for channel 7, which would eventually become WLS-TV. Goldenson began to sell some of the older theaters to help finance the new television network.
On March 1, 1953, ABC's New York City flagship stations – WJZ, WJZ-FM and WJZ-TV – changed their respective callsigns to WABC, WABC-FM and WABC-TV, and moved their operations to facilities at 7 West 66th Street, one block away from Central Park. The WABC call letters were previously used by the flagship station of CBS Radio until 1946. The WJZ calls would later be reassigned to the then-ABC affiliate in Baltimore in 1959, in a historical nod to the fact that WJZ was originally established by the Baltimore station's owner at the time, Westinghouse.
However, a problem emerged regarding the directions taken by ABC and UPT. In 1950, Noble appointed Robert Kintner to be ABC's president while he himself served as its CEO, a position he held until his death in 1958. Despite the promise of non-interference between ABC and UPT, Goldenson had to intervene in ABC's decisions because of financial problems and the FCC's long period of indecision. Goldenson added to the confusion when, in October 1954, he proposed a merger between UPT and the DuMont Television Network, which was also mired in financial trouble. As part of this merger, the network would have been renamed "ABC-DuMont" for five years, and DuMont would have received $5 million in cash, room on the schedule for existing DuMont programming, and guaranteed advertising time for DuMont Laboratories receivers. In addition, to comply with FCC ownership restrictions, it would have been required to sell either WABC-TV or DuMont owned-and-operated station WABD in the New York City market, as well as two other stations. The merged ABC-DuMont would have had the resources to compete with CBS and NBC.
Goldenson sought to develop the ABC television network by trying to convince local stations to agree to affiliate with the network. In doing this, he contacted local entrepreneurs who owned television stations themselves, many of whom had previously invested in Paramount cinemas and had worked with him when he undertook the responsibility of restructuring UPT.
Hollywood begins to produce television seriesAt the same time he made attempts to help grow ABC, Goldenson had been trying since mid-1953 to provide content for the network by contacting his old acquaintances in Hollywood, with whom he had worked when UPT was a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures. ABC's merger with UPT thus led to the creation of relationships with Hollywood's film production studios, bridging the gap that had existed at that time between film and television, the latter of which had previously been more connected to radio. ABC's flagship productions at the time were The Lone Ranger, based on the radio program of the same title, and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which held the record for the longest-running prime time comedy in U.S. television until 2003.
Goldenson's efforts paid off, and on October 27, 1954, the network launched a campaign ushering in the "New ABC", with productions from several studios, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Warner Bros., and 20th Century Fox.
Warner tried with mixed success to adapt some of its most successful films as ABC television series, and showcase these adaptations as part of the wheel series Warner Bros. Presents, which aired during the 1955–56 season. It showcased television adaptations of the 1942 films Kings Row and Casablanca; Cheyenne ; Sugarfoot ; and Maverick. However, the most iconic of ABC's relationships with Hollywood producers was its agreement with Walt Disney; after the start of the network's bond with the Disney studio, James Lewis Baughman, who worked as a columnist at that time, observed that "at ABC's headquarters in New York, the secretaries wearing hats with Mickey Mouse ears".
First bonds with DisneyWalt Disney and his brother Roy contacted Goldenson at the end of 1953 for ABC to agree to finance part of the Disneyland project in exchange for producing a television program for the network. Walt wanted ABC to invest $500,000 and accrued a guarantee of $4.5 million in additional loans, a third of the budget intended for the park. Around 1954, ABC agreed to finance Disneyland in exchange for the right to broadcast a new Wednesday night program, Disneyland, which debuted on the network on October 27, 1954 as the first of many anthology television programs that Disney would broadcast on all three networks over the course of the next 50 years.
When Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955, ABC aired a special live broadcast commemorating the park's first day of operation, Dateline: Disneyland. Shortly thereafter, on October 3, 1955, a second regularly scheduled program produced by Disney made its debut, The Mickey Mouse Club, a children's program that aired Monday through Friday afternoons, which starred a group of 24 children known as the "Mouseketeers". The two Disney programs made 1955 the year that ABC was first profitable as a network and station owner.
Affiliate issuesBy 1954, all U.S. networks had regained control of their programming, with higher advertising revenues: ABC's revenue increased by 67%, NBC's went up by 30% and CBS's rose by 44%. However that year, ABC had only 14 primary affiliates compared to the 74 that carried the majority of CBS programs and the 71 that were primarily affiliated with NBC. Most markets outside the largest ones were not large enough to support three full-time network affiliates. In some markets that were large enough for a third full-time affiliate, the only available commercial allocation was on the less-desirable UHF band. Until the All-Channel Receiver Act mandated the inclusion of UHF tuning, most viewers needed to purchase a converter to be able to watch UHF stations and the signal quality was marginal at best. Additionally, during the analog television era, UHF stations were not adequately receivable in markets that either covered large areas or had rugged terrain. These factors made many prospective station owners skittish about investing in a UHF station, especially one that would have had to take on an affiliation with a weaker network.
As a result, with the exception of the largest markets, ABC was relegated to secondary status on one or both of the existing stations, usually via off-hours clearances. According to Goldenson, this meant that an hour of ABC programming reported five times lower viewership than its competitors. The network's intake of money at the time allowed it to accelerate its content production, but ABC's limited reach continued to hobble it for the next two decades. Several smaller markets did grow large enough to support a full-time ABC affiliate until the 1960s, with some very small markets having to wait as late as the 1980s or the advent of digital television in the 2000s.
The DuMont Television Network ceased broadcasting on September 15, 1955, and went bankrupt the next year. ABC then found itself as the third U.S. television network, dubbed the "little third network". That same year, Kintner was forced to resign due to disagreements between Noble and Goldenson, a consequence of Goldenson's many interventions in ABC's management.
CounterprogrammingIn the late 1950s the ABC network became a serious contender to NBC and CBS, in large part due to the diverse range of programming that met the expectations of the public, such as westerns and detective series. Despite an almost 500% increase in advertising revenues between 1953 and 1958, the network only reached between 10% and 18% of the U.S. population. In 1957, ABC Entertainment president Ollie Trez discovered that the locally produced variety show Bandstand had pulled very strong ratings in the Philadelphia market on WFIL-TV; Trez ultimately negotiated a deal to take the show national, under the revised title American Bandstand; the show quickly became a social phenomenon by presenting new musical talent and dances to America's youth and helped make a star out of its host, Dick Clark.
On September 3, 1958, the Disneyland anthology series was retitled Walt Disney Presents as it became disassociated with the theme park of the same name. The popularity of westerns, which ABC is credited for having started, represented a fifth of all primetime series on U.S. television in January 1959, at which point detective shows were beginning to rise in popularity as well. ABC requested additional productions from Disney. ABC picked up the Desilu Productions detective series The Untouchables and debuted it in April 1959. The series quickly become "immensely popular" despite its violent action.
These kinds of programs presented ABC as having a "philosophy of counterprogramming against its competitors", offering a strong lineup of programs that contrasted with those seen on its rival networks, which helped Goldenson create a continuum of programming which bridged film and television. ABC's western series went up against and defeated the variety shows aired by NBC and CBS in the fall of 1957, and its detective shows did the same in the fall of 1959. To captivate audiences, short 66-minute series were scheduled a half-hour before their hour-long competition. In May 1961, Life criticized the public enthusiasm and sponsorship for these types of shows at the expense of news programming and denounced an unofficial policy "replacing the good programs with the bad ones".
Transition to color (1960s)During the 1960s, ABC continued its strategies from the mid-1950s by consolidating the network as part of its effort to gain loyalty from the public. The network's finances improved and allowed it to invest in other properties and programming. In May 1960, ABC purchased Farm Progress, owner of Chicago radio station WLS, which had shared airtime with WENR since the 1920s. This acquisition allowed ABC to consolidate its presence in the market. On May 9, 1960, WLS launched a new lineup consisting of ABC Radio programming. Farm Progress also owned farm newspapers such as Prairie Farmer.
In 1960, Canadian entrepreneur John Bassett, who was trying to establish a television station in Toronto, Ontario, sought aid from ABC. Goldenson agreed to acquire a 25% interest in CFTO-TV; however, legislation by the Canadian Radio-Television Commission prohibited ABC's involvement, resulting in the company withdrawing from the project before the station's launch.
Children's programming and the launch of ABC Sports (1960–1965)ABC programming of the 1960s was marked by the rise of family-oriented series in an attempt to counterprogram against its established competitors. The decade was also marked by the network's gradual transition to color and add sports programming.
In 1959, Walt Disney Productions, having improved its financial situation, purchased ABC's shares in the Disneyland theme park for $7.5 million and initiated discussions to renew ABC's television contract for Walt Disney Presents, which was due to expire in 1961. Walt Disney was approached by NBC to produce color broadcasts of his anthology series. Goldenson said ABC could not counter the offer, because the network did not have the technical and financial resources to carry the program in the format. As a result, ABC and Disney's first television collaboration ended in 1961.
On September 30, 1960, ABC premiered The Flintstones; although the animated series from William Hanna and Joseph Barbera was filmed in color from the beginning, it was initially broadcast in black and white, as ABC had not made the necessary technical upgrades to broadcast its programming in color at the time. The Flintstones allowed ABC to present a novelty – prime-time animated programming – while filling the hole left by the conclusion of the Disney partnership with family-oriented programming from other producers. Other animated series included Calvin and the Colonel, Matty's Funday Funnies, Top Cat and The Bugs Bunny Show, the latter of which showcased classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts.
In search of new programs for a competitive edge, ABC's management believed that sports could be a major catalyst in improving the network's market share. On April 29, 1961, ABC launched Wide World of Sports, an anthology series created by Edgar Scherick through his company Sports Programs, Inc. and produced by a young Roone Arledge. The series featured a different sporting event each broadcast. ABC purchased Sports Programs, Inc. in exchange for shares in the company, leading it to become the future core of ABC Sports, with Arledge as the executive producer of that division's shows.
Due to pressure from film studios which wished to increase their production, the major networks began airing theatrically released films. ABC launched the ABC Sunday Night Movie in 1962, a year behind similar programs on CBS and NBC and initially in black-and-white. Despite an increase in viewership share to 33%, ABC remained in third place by revenues; the company had total revenue of $15.5 million, a third of that pulled in by CBS for the same period. To catch up, ABC ordered another animated series from Hanna-Barbera, The Jetsons, which debuted on September 23, 1962, as the network's first color series. On April 1, 1963, ABC premiered the soap opera General Hospital, which later became the network's longest-running entertainment program. That year also saw the premiere of The Fugitive, a hit drama series starring David Janssen, centering on a man on the run after being falsely accused of murder.
The 1964–65 season was marked by the debuts of several classic series including Bewitched and The Addams Family. Arledge's success with acquiring prime sports content was confirmed in 1964 when he was appointed vice-president of ABC Sports.
New regulations and the radio network's recovery (1966–1969)Color became the dominant format for the Big Three networks in the 1965–66 U.S. network television season. ABC remained in third place and required investment to grow into a major competitor, but faced financing issues. In 1964, the network found itself, as Goldenson later wrote in the 1991 book Beating the Odds: The Untold Story Behind the Rise of ABC, "in the middle of a war the battlefield was Wall Street". Many companies sought to take over ABC, including Norton Simon, General Electric, Gulf and Western Industries, International Telephone and Telegraph, and Litton Industries.
In 1965, the corporate entity, American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, was renamed as the American Broadcasting Companies, while its cinema division became ABC Theatres; its recording division was renamed ABC Records in 1966. In December of that year, the ABC television network premiered The Dating Game, a pioneer series in its genre, which was a reworking of the blind date concept in which a suitor selected one of three contestants sight-unseen based on the answers to selected questions. This was followed in July 1966 by The Newlywed Game, featuring four recently married couples who guessed the responses to their partner's questions. As ABC began to outgrow its facilities at 7 West 66th Street, Goldenson found a new headquarters for ABC in a 44-story building located at 1330 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, at the corner of 54th Street. This operation allowed for the conversion of the premises at 66th Street into production facilities for television and radio programs.
On December 7, 1965, Goldenson announced a merger proposal with ITT to ABC management; the two companies agreed to the deal on April 27, 1966. The FCC approved the merger on December 21, 1966; however, the previous day, Donald F. Turner, head antitrust regulator for the United States Department of Justice, expressed doubts related to such issues as the emerging cable television market, and concerns over the journalistic integrity of ABC and how it could be influenced by the overseas ownership of ITT. ITT management promised that the company would allow ABC to retain autonomy in the publishing business. The merger was suspended, and a complaint was filed by the Department of Justice in July 1967, with ITT going to trial in October; the merger was officially canceled after the trial's conclusion on January 1, 1968.
On January 12, 1966, ABC replaced The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet with Batman, an action series based on the DC Comics series starring Adam West that was known for its kitschy style. In 1967, WLS radio CEO Ralph Beaudin was appointed as the president of ABC Radio. Under his leadership, ABC Radio was divided into four "networks" devoted to different types of programming: news, informative series, pop music, and talk shows. Two other networks were later created to provide rock music and traffic reporting.
In 1968, ABC took advantage of new FCC ownership regulations that allowed broadcasting companies to own a maximum of seven radio stations nationwide in order to purchase Houston radio stations KXYZ and KXYZ-FM for $1 million in shares and $1.5 million in bonds. That year, Roone Arledge was named president of ABC Sports; the company also founded ABC Pictures, a film production company which released its first picture that year, the Ralph Nelson-directed Charly. It was renamed ABC Motion Pictures in 1979; the unit was dissolved in 1985. The studio also operated two subsidiaries, Palomar Pictures International and Selmur Pictures. In July 1968, ABC continued its acquisitions in the amusement parks sector with the opening of ABC Marine World in Redwood City, California; that park was sold in 1972 and demolished in 1986, with the land that occupied the park later becoming home to the headquarters of Oracle Corporation.
In July 1968, ABC Radio launched a special programming project for its FM stations called "LOVE Radio". It was spearheaded by Allen Shaw, a former program manager at WCFL in Chicago, to compete with the emerging progressive rock and DJ-helmed stations. The new concept featured a limited selection of music genres and was launched on ABC's seven owned-and-operated FM stations in late November 1968; It replaced nearly all of the programming provided by these stations; however, several affiliates retained the majority of their content. In August 1970, Shaw announced that ABC FM's music choice policy should be reviewed to allow listeners access to many styles of music.
On the television side, in September 1969, ABC launched the Movie of the Week, a weekly showcase aimed at capitalizing on the growing success of made-for-TV movies since the early 1960s. The Movie of the Week broadcast feature-length dramatic films with directors including Aaron Spelling, David Wolper and Steven Spielberg and produced on an average budget of $400,000–$450,000. Successes of the showcase include Duel, which was popular enough to follow with a theatrical release, and A Matter of Humanities, which became the basis for Marcus Welby, M.D., ABC's first show to reach 1 in the Nielsen ratings. Other hits for the television network during the late 1960s and early 1970s included the comedies The Courtship of Eddie's Father, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, That Girl, Room 222, and The Mod Squad.
Success in television (1971–1980)In the early 1970s, ABC completed its transition to color. The decade as a whole marked a turning point for ABC, which passed CBS and NBC in the ratings to become the first place network. It also began to use behavioral and demographic data to match advertising sponsors with programming, and to develop programming which appealed to specific audiences. ABC's gains in audience share were greatly helped by the fact that several smaller markets had grown large enough to support full-time affiliates from all three networks.
In 1970, ABC debuted Monday Night Football as part of its Monday primetime schedule; the program became a hit for the network and served as the National Football League's premier game of the week until 2006, when Sunday Night Football on NBC took over that position in a broadcast deal which moved MNF to ESPN. According to Goldenson, Monday Night Football helped ABC regularly achieve an audience share of 15%–16%; ABC Sports managed the budget for the Monday night time slot to reallocate the weekly budget for ABC's prime time schedule to just six days, as opposed to seven on competing networks. 1970 also saw the premieres of several soap operas including All My Children, which ran on the network for 41 years.
In 1970, the FCC passed the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules, a set of regulations aimed at preventing the major networks from monopolizing the broadcast landscape by barring them from owning any of the prime time programming that they broadcast. In 1972, the new rules resulted in the company's decision to split ABC Films into two separate companies: the existing Worldvision Enterprises, which would produce and distribute programming for U.S. syndication, and ABC Circle Films as a production unit. Worldvision was sold to a consortium of ABC executives for nearly $10 million.
Congress passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act which banned cigarette advertising from all television and radio networks, effective January 2, 1971. Citing limited profitability of its cinemas, ABC Great States, the Central West division of ABC Theatres, was sold to Henry G. Plitt in 1974. On January 17, 1972, Elton Rule was named president and Chief Operating Officer of ABC a few months after Goldenson reduced his role in the company after suffering a heart attack.
In the early 1970s, Michael Eisner, who joined ABC in 1966, became the network's program development manager. He helped bring about ideas for many series including Happy Days and several soap operas. Eisner's main credit at ABC was for developing youth-oriented programming. He was responsible for reacquiring the rights to the Looney Tunes-Merrie Melodies library as well as developing The Jackson 5ive animated series and a series about the Osmonds, and greenlighting Super Friends. He also laid ground-work for the development of educational children's programming through interstitials such as Time for Timer, The Bod Squad and Schoolhouse Rock!. Eisner left ABC in 1976 to become president of Paramount Pictures; he later become the president of Disney.
In the spring of 1975, Fred Silverman became the first president and director of programming of ABC Entertainment, the independent television production subsidiary created from the network's namesake programming division. In 1974, ABC premiered the police series S.W.A.T.. That same year, the network decided to compete with NBC's morning news-talk program Today. Its first attempt was AM America; however, that show's success was not straightforward. Boston affiliate WCVB-TV produced morning show Good Day! which was groundbreaking for being entirely produced and broadcast from road locations, while Cleveland affiliate WEWS-TV was producing The Morning Exchange since 1972 and which in summer 1975 was locally pre-empting AM America; this was the first-morning show to utilize a set modeled after a living room and provided news and weather updates at the top and bottom of each hour. Discovering that these formats appealed to viewers, the network adopted them for a new national morning show, Good Morning America, which debuted on November 3, 1975.
The 1970s were highlighted by several successful comedy, fantasy, action and superhero-themed series for the network including Kung Fu, The Six Million Dollar Man, Wonder Woman, Starsky & Hutch, Charlie's Angels, The Bionic Woman, Fantasy Island and Battlestar Galactica. Many of these series were greenlit by Silverman, who left ABC in 1978 to become president of NBC's entertainment division. The rousing success of Happy Days also led to a successful spin-off series, Laverne & Shirley, which debuted during the 1975–76 season. Charlie's Angels and Three's Company were two prime examples of a trend among the major networks during the 1970s known as "jiggle TV", featuring attractive, often buxom, women in main and guest roles.
In 1977, Henry Plitt, who at the time was associated with Chicago real estate entrepreneur Thomas Klutznick, purchased the southern division of ABC Theatres, ABC Southern. The sale stripped ABC of control over its theaters as a result of changes in the theater operation sector, mainly the fact that the population was migrating to the suburbs and moving away from older cinemas in larger cities.
For its part, the television network produced a few new hits during 1977. January saw the premiere of miniseries Roots, one of the highest-rated programs in U.S. television, with unprecedented ratings for its finale. Comedy-drama anthology series The Love Boat, though critically lambasted, became a ratings success and lasted nine seasons. The success of Roots, Happy Days and The Love Boat allowed the network to achieve first place in the ratings for the first time in the 1976–77 season. On September 13, 1977, the network debuted Soap, a controversial soap opera parody which became known for being the first U.S. network television series to feature an openly gay main character ; it last ran on the network on April 20, 1981.
Meanwhile, ABC News, which formed as a separate division, sought to become a global leader in television news. In 1977, Roone Arledge was named president of ABC News in addition to ABC Sports. That same year, ABC launched a major expansion of its office facilities in New York City. The company first constructed a 10-story building on the corner of Columbus Avenue and West 66th Street, nicknamed "7 Lincoln Square". Meanwhile, a 15-story building was constructed at 30 West 67th Street. Both buildings were completed in June 1979. WABC-TV moved its operations from offices at 77 West 66th Street to 149 Columbus Avenue, freeing up space for the ABC network to house some of its operations.
In June 1978, Arledge created the newsmagazine 20/20 which debuted as a summer series. After its first episode received harshly negative reviews, the program was revamped to feature a mix of in-depth stories and interviews, with anchor Hugh Downs later joined by Barbara Walters. A month later, ABC revamped its evening newscasts rebranding them from ABC Evening News to World News Tonight. In February 1979, ABC sold its recording division to MCA Inc. for $20 million; the label was discontinued by March 5 of that year, and all of its 300 employees were laid off.
ABC entered the publishing business in the 1970s and formed ABC Publishing in 1977. Acquisitions included: magazines Modern Photography and High Fidelity in 1974, Word Inc. in 1976, properties of CHC Corporation in 1977, and Chilton in 1979.
Merger with Capital Cities, purchase of ESPN, and reprogramming Friday nights (1981–1990)For much of the 1970s and early 1980s, ABC dominated the American television landscape. Several flagship series premiered on the network during the early 1980s, such as Dynasty. The network was also propelled during the early 1980s by the continued successes of Happy Days, Three's Company, Laverne & Shirley, and Fantasy Island, and gained new hits in Too Close for Comfort, Soap spinoff Benson, and Happy Days spinoff Mork & Mindy. In 1981, ABC launched the Alpha Repertory Television Service, a cable channel operated as a joint venture with the Hearst Corporation offering cultural and arts programming, which aired as a nighttime service over the channel space of Nickelodeon.
On August 9, 1982, ABC purchased a 10% stake in the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, which had launched in September 1979, for $20 million; in exchange for the interest, ESPN gained the U.S. television rights to the British Open, which ABC had not been able to broadcast in its entirety. The purchase provided ABC the option of purchasing additional shares of up to 49% under certain conditions, which included the option to purchase at least 10% of Getty Oil's shares in the channel prior to January 2, 1984.
In 1983, ABC sold KXYZ to the Infinity Broadcasting Corporation. On January 4, 1984, The New York Times reported that ABC, through its subsidiary ABC Video Enterprises, had exercised its option to purchase up to 15% of Getty Oil's shares in ESPN, which would allow it to expand its shares at a later date. In June 1984, ABC's executive committee approved the company's interest acquisition in ESPN, and ABC arranged with Getty Oil to obtain an 80% stake in the channel, while selling the remaining 20% to Nabisco. That year, ABC and Hearst reached an agreement with RCA to merge ARTS and competing arts service, The Entertainment Channel, into a single cable channel called Arts & Entertainment Television ; the new channel subsequently leased a separate satellite transponder, ending its sharing agreement with Nickelodeon to become a 24-hour service. Meanwhile, ABC withdrew from the theme park business when it sold the Silver Springs Nature Theme Park.
In December 1984, Thomas S. Murphy, CEO of Capital Cities Communications, contacted Goldenson about a proposal to merge their respective companies. On March 16, 1985, ABC's executive committee accepted the merger offer, which was formally announced on March 18 with Capital Cities purchasing ABC and its related properties for $3.5 billion and $118 for each of ABC's shares as well as a guarantee of 10% for a total of $121 per share. The merger shocked the entertainment industry, as Capital Cities was some 4 times smaller than ABC was at the time. To finance the purchase, Capital Cities borrowed $2.1 billion from a consortium of banks, which sold certain assets that Capital Cities could not acquire or retain due to FCC ownership rules for a combined $900 million and sold off several cable television systems to The Washington Post Company. The remaining $500 million was loaned by Warren Buffett, who promised that his company Berkshire Hathaway would purchase $3 million in shares, at $172.50. Due to an FCC ban on same-market ownership of television and radio stations by a single company, ABC and Capital Cities respectively decided to sell WXYZ-TV and Tampa independent station WFTS-TV to the E. W. Scripps Company ; New Haven affiliate WTNH was not part of the deal as that station had significant overlap with WABC-TV. The deal was, at the time, the largest non-oil merger in world business history. This records surpassed later that year by the merger of General Electric and RCA.
The merger between ABC and Capital Cities received federal approval on September 5, 1985. After the merger was finalized on January 3, 1986, combined company Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. added four television stations and several radio stations to ABC's broadcasting portfolio, and also included Fairchild Publications and four newspapers. It also initiated several changes in its management: Frederick S. Pierce was named president of ABC's broadcasting division; Michael P. Millardi became vice president of ABC Broadcasting and president of ABC Owned Stations and ABC Video Enterprises; John B. Sias was appointed president of the ABC Television Network; Brandon Stoddard became president of ABC Entertainment' and Roone Arledge became president of ABC News and ABC Sports. In February 1986, Thomas S. Murphy, who had been serving as CEO of Capital Cities since 1964, was appointed chairman and CEO emeritus of ABC. Jim Duffy stepped down as ABC Television president for a management position at ABC Communications, a subsidiary that specialized in community service programming, including shows related to literacy education.
Four of ABC's top shows of the 1970s ended their runs during the mid-1980s: Laverne & Shirley in 1983, Happy Days and Three's Company in 1984, and The Love Boat in 1986. After nearly a decade of ratings trouble, NBC had regained the ratings lead among the Big Three networks in 1984 on the success of series such as The Cosby Show, Cheers, and Miami Vice. In the mid-1980s, to counteract NBC, ABC decided to refocus itself on family-oriented comedies, including: Who's the Boss?, Mr. Belvedere, Growing Pains, Perfect Strangers, Head of the Class, Full House, The Wonder Years, Just the Ten of Us, and Roseanne. The initial successes of these series allowed the network to revamp its Friday night schedule in the late 1980s, revolving around family-friendly comedies, culminating in the point where it launched the "TGIF" block in 1989. Many of the series featured during the run of the block were produced by Miller-Boyett Productions, which briefly programmed the entire Friday lineup during the 1990–91 season. ABC also claimed successes with dramas and action series throughout the mid- and late 1980s, such as Moonlighting, MacGyver, Thirtysomething, and China Beach.
In 1988, ABC constructed a new headquarters building near the studios of WABC-TV on West 66th Street. The television network's restructuring program, launched in 1974, helped with the purchases and exchanges of nearly 70 stations during the late 1980s, and aided in increasing its ratings by more than 2 million viewers.
In 1989, ABC sold High Fidelity and Modern Photography to Diamandis Communications, which merged them with other magazines.
Sale to Disney (1991–2000)In 1990, Daniel B. Burke took over Thomas S. Murphy's position as president, but Murphy remained ABC's chairman and CEO. Capital Cities/ABC reported revenues of $465 million. The network, now at a strong second place, entered the 1990s with more major successes targeted at families, such as America's Funniest Home Videos, Step by Step, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, Boy Meets World, and Perfect Strangers spinoff Family Matters, Doogie Howser, M.D., Life Goes On, cult favorite Twin Peaks, and The Commish. In September 1991, the network premiered sitcom Home Improvement starring stand-up comic Tim Allen, which lasted eight seasons and led ABC to greenlight additional sitcom projects helmed by comedians, including The Drew Carey Show, Grace Under Fire, and Ellen – which became notable for a 1997 episode with the coming out of its star.
In 1992, ABC sold Word Inc. to Thomas Nelson.
In 1993, the FCC repealed the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules, allowing networks to hold interests in television production studios. That same year, Capital Cities/ABC formed a limited partnership with DIC Animation City known as DIC Entertainment LP. It also signed an agreement with Time Warner Cable to carry its owned-and-operated television stations on the provider's systems in those markets. By that year, ABC had a total viewership share of 23.63% of American households, just below the limit of 25% imposed by the FCC.
Daniel Burke departed from Capital Cities/ABC in February 1994, with Thomas Murphy taking over as president before ceding control to Robert Iger. September 1993 saw the premiere of NYPD Blue, a gritty police procedural from Steven Bochco; lasting twelve seasons, the drama became known for its boundary pushing of broadcast standards, which led some affiliates to initially refuse to air the show's first season.
In order to compete with CNN, ABC proposed a 24-hour news channel called ABC Cable News, with plans to launch the network in 1995; however, this plan was shelved by company management. ABC returned to the concept in July 2004 with the launch of ABC News Now, a 24-hour news channel distributed for viewing on the Internet and mobile phones.
On August 29, 1994, ABC purchased Flint, Michigan, affiliate WJRT-TV and WTVG in Toledo, Ohio, from SJL Broadcast Management, with the latter switching to ABC once its contract with NBC expired in early 1995. Both stations were acquired as a contingency plan in the event that CBS reached an affiliation deal with WXYZ-TV in order to allow the network to retain some over-the-air presence in the Detroit market.
On July 31, 1995, The Walt Disney Company announced its intent to acquire ABC parent Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion. Disney shareholders approved the deal at a special conference in New York City on January 4, 1996, with the acquisition being completed on February 9; following the sale, Disney formed Disney Enterprises Inc., and renamed its new subsidiary ABC Inc. In addition to the ABC network, the Disney acquisition integrated into the company: ABC's ten owned-and-operated television and 21 radio stations; its 80% interest in ESPN, ownership interests in The History Channel, A&E Television Networks, and Lifetime Entertainment, DIC Productions L.P.; and Capital Cities/ABC's magazine and newspaper properties. Following the acquisition, Thomas S. Murphy departed from ABC while Robert Iger took his position as president and CEO.
Disney sold several ABC divisions after the merger. To comply with FCC ownership rules, Disney sold Los Angeles independent station KCAL-TV to Young Broadcasting for $387 million. Farm Progress was sold to the Australian company Rural Press. NILS was sold to Wolters Kluwer.
Around the time of the merger, Disney's television production units had already produced series for the network such as Home Improvement and Boy Meets World, while the deal also allowed ABC access to Disney's children's programming library for its Saturday morning block. In 1998, ABC premiered the Aaron Sorkin-created sitcom Sports Night, centering on the travails of the staff of a SportsCenter-style sports news program; despite earning critical praise, the series was cancelled after two seasons.
On May 10, 1999, Disney reorganized its publishing division, the Buena Vista Publishing Group, renaming it as Disney Publishing Worldwide; this became a subsidiary of Disney Consumer Products while Hyperion Books became affiliated with ABC. On July 8, 1999, Disney consolidated Walt Disney Television Studio, Buena Vista Television Productions, and ABC's primetime division into the ABC Entertainment Television Group.
In August 1999, ABC premiered a special series event, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, based on the British game show of the same title. Hosted throughout its ABC tenure by Regis Philbin, the program became a major ratings success and was renewed as a regular series. At its peak, the program aired as frequently as six nights a week. Buoyed by Millionaire, during the 1999–2000 season, ABC became the first network to move from third to first place in the ratings during a single television season. Millionaire ended its run on the network's primetime lineup after three years, and in September 2002 Buena Vista Television relaunched the show as a syndicated program with various hosts, including Meredith Vieira, who became the first woman to win multiple Emmy Awards for hosting a game show. Millionaire ended its original run in 2019 after 20 seasons.
In 2000, Disney sold Los Angeles to Emmis Communications.
New century, new programs; divisional restructuring (2001–2010)In addition to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, the network entered the 2000s with hits held over from the previous decade such as The Practice, NYPD Blue and The Wonderful World of Disney and new series such as My Wife and Kids and According to Jim, which managed to help ABC stay ahead of the competition in the ratings. 2000 saw the end of the original "TGIF", which could not find new hits following the loss of Family Matters and Step by Step to CBS, and the loss of Sabrina the Teenage Witch to The WB Network. Outside of 20/20, Friday nights remained a weak spot for ABC for the next 11 years.
On April 30, 2000, as a result of a carriage dispute with ABC, Time Warner Cable removed ABC owned-and-operated stations from the cable provider's systems in four markets. The network had earlier reached an eleventh-hour deal to renew its agreement with the provider on December 31, 1999. ABC filed an emergency petition to the FCC on May 1 to force TWC to restore the affected stations; the FCC ruled in favor of ABC, ordering TWC to restore the stations, doing so on the afternoon of May 2. ABC ended the 2000–01 season as the most-watched network, ahead of NBC.
Networks affiliates approved a two-year affiliate agreement in 2002. In September 2006, Disney Chairman/CEO Michael Eisner outlined a proposed realignment of the ABC broadcast network with its cable channel counterparts: ABC Saturday mornings with Disney Channels, ABC daytime with Soapnet and ABC prime time with ABC Family. 2002 saw the debut of the network's first hit reality series, The Bachelor, which spawned a number of spinoffs.
In 2004, ABC's average viewership declined by ten ratings points, landing the network in fourth place, behind NBC, CBS and Fox. However, during the 2004–05 season, the network experienced unexpected success with new series such as Desperate Housewives, Lost and Grey's Anatomy as well as reality series Dancing with the Stars. These helped ABC rise to second place behind Fox. On April 21, 2004, Disney announced a restructuring of its Disney Media Networks division with Marvin Jacobs being named president of ABC parent Disney–ABC Television Group, and ESPN president George Bodenheimer becoming co-CEO of the division with Jacobs, as well as president of ABC Sports. On December 7, 2005, ABC Sports and ESPN signed an eight-year broadcast-rights agreement with NASCAR, allowing ABC and ESPN to broadcast 17 NASCAR Cup Series races each season.
Separation of the radio networkBetween May and September 2005, rumors circulated that Disney–ABC was considering a sale of ABC Radio, with Clear Channel Communications and Westwood One as potential buyers. On October 19, 2005, ABC announced the restructuring of the group into six divisions: Entertainment Communications, Communications Resources, Kids Communications, News Communications, Corporate Communications, and International Communications.
On February 6, 2007, The Walt Disney Company announced an agreement with Citadel Broadcasting to merge the ABC Radio Network with Citadel. The new entity, Citadel Communications, was majority owned by Disney, in conjunction with Forstmann Little and former shareholders of Citadel Broadcasting. Citadel eventually merged with Cumulus Media in September 2011.
Entertainment reorganization and WGA strike (2007–2009)In February 2007, Disney announced that it would rename its Touchstone Television production unit as the ABC Television Studio, as part of its groupwide initiative to drop secondary production brands such as Buena Vista. In May 2007, ABC unveiled a new image campaign, revolving around the slogan "Start Here", which highlighted the multi-platform availability of ABC's program content.
The Writers Guild of America strike halted production of network programs for much of the 2007–08 season and affected network programming into 2009, as various ABC shows that premiered in 2007, such as Dirty Sexy Money, Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone and Samantha Who?, did not continue to a third season; other series such as Boston Legal and the U.S. version of Life on Mars suffered from low viewership. One of the network's strike-replacement programs during that time was the game show Duel, which premiered in December 2007, was a minor success in its initial six-episode run, but failed to recapture its audience as a regular series in April 2008. On August 15, 2008, Disney denied rumors that it would be selling the ten ABC owned-and-operated stations.
In early 2009, Disney–ABC Television Group merged ABC Entertainment and ABC Studios into a new division, ABC Entertainment Group, to oversee both production and broadcasting operations. During this reorganization, the group announced that it would cut 5% of its workforce. On April 2, 2009, Citadel Communications announced that it would rebrand ABC Radio as Citadel Media; however, ABC News continued to provide news content for Citadel. On December 22, Disney–ABC Television Group announced a partnership with Apple Inc. to make individual episodes of ABC and Disney Channel programs available for purchase on iTunes.
Current stateIn March 2010, reports suggested that The Walt Disney Company was considering spinning off ABC into an independent company because "it add a lot of value to Disney's other divisions". The company entered advanced negotiations with two private equity firms to sell ABC; however, the planned sale was cancelled as a result of an FBI investigation into allegations of attempted insider trading by an ex-employee which they later denied.
The network had declining ratings by 2010. That year, the final season of Lost became the drama's lowest-rated season since its debut in 2004. Ratings for the once-hit Ugly Betty collapsed dramatically after it was moved to Fridays in the fall of 2009; an attempt to recapture ratings by moving the dramedy to Wednesdays failed, with its ultimate cancellation by the network eliciting negative reaction from the public and the show's fanbase. The network's remaining top veteran shows Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, and former hit drama Brothers & Sisters, all ended the 2009–10 season having recorded their lowest ratings.
Among the few bright spots during this season were the midseason crime dramedy Castle and two family sitcoms that anchored the network's revamped Wednesday comedy lineup, The Middle and Modern Family, the latter of which was both a critical and commercial success. Shark Tank became a midseason sleeper hit in the spring of 2010; the following season, it became the tentpole of the network's Friday night schedule, paired with 20/20 and the later addition of sitcom Last Man Standing to gradually help make ABC a strong competitor against CBS's Friday drama-reality lineup.
The network's troubles with sustaining existing series and gaining new hits spilled over into its 2010–11 schedule: ABC's dramas during that season continued to fail, with the midseason forensic investigation drama Body of Proof being the only new drama renewed for a second season. The network also struggled to establish new comedies to support the previous year's debuts, with only late-season premiere Happy Endings earning a second season. Meanwhile, the new lows hit by Brothers & Sisters led to its cancellation, and the previous year's only drama renewal, V, also failed to earn another season after a low-rated midseason run. Despite this and another noticeable ratings declines, ABC increased its third-place ratings lead over NBC from the previous year.
With relatively little buzz surrounding its 2010–11 pilots, compounded by a sexual harassment lawsuit against him, Stephen McPherson resigned as ABC Entertainment Group president in July 2010. Paul Lee was announced as his replacement.
On April 14, 2011, ABC canceled the long-running soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live after 41 and 43 years on the air, respectively. The talk-lifestyle show that replaced One Life to Live, The Revolution, failed to generate satisfactory ratings and was canceled after seven months. The 2011–12 season saw ABC drop to fourth place in the 18–49 demographic despite renewing a handful of new shows, including dramas Scandal, Revenge and Once Upon a Time.
In 2012, ABC News and Univision Communications announced a partnership to launch an English-language cable news channel primarily aimed at younger English-speaking Hispanics; the new network, Fusion, launched on October 28, 2013. The 2012–13 season failed to live up to the previous year, with only one drama, Nashville, and one comedy, The Neighbors, earning a second season renewal.
The 2013–14 season was a slight improvement for ABC with three new hits in The Goldbergs, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Resurrection. NBC, which had lagged behind ABC for eight years, finished the season in first place in the 18–49 demographic for the first time since 2004, and in second place in total viewership behind long-dominant CBS. ABC finished the season in third place while Fox fell to fourth in both demographics.
The 2014–15 season saw moderate hits in Black-ish and major successes in How to Get Away with Murder – which, alongside Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, comprised a new Thursday drama lineup executive produced by Shonda Rhimes. Other notable new shows were comedy Fresh Off the Boat, drama Secrets and Lies and low-rated but critically acclaimed American Crime, all of which were renewed.
The 2015–16 season saw breakout hits such as Quantico, The Real O'Neals, The Catch, and Dr. Ken. After eight seasons, Castle was cancelled following an announcement that one of its stars would not return. With the success of Celebrity Family Feud as a summer series in 2015, ABC started a summer game show block on Sundays, ABC Fun and Games, consisting of Family Feud, $100,000 Pyramid and Match Game.
The 2016–17 season saw a successful expansion of the network's Tuesday night comedy line-up by an extra hour, with long-time Wednesday staple The Middle leading the night, along with the returning Fresh Off the Boat and The Real O'Neals, and new series American Housewife, Imaginary Mary, and Downward Dog. Wednesday's comedy block, led by The Goldbergs, introduced Speechless. Both American Housewife and Speechless were renewed for second seasons. This season also saw the cancellation of long-running sitcom Last Man Standing and Dr. Ken. The former cancellation stirred controversy due to allegations that it was due to the show and star's right-leaning viewpoints. ABC also saw the success of freshman series Designated Survivor, while ratings declined for the previous season's breakout hit Quantico.
The 2017–18 season saw ABC acquire a breakout hit with The Good Doctor. ABC revived former Fox series American Idol for the mid-season. As a result, veteran dramas Once Upon a Time and Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. were displaced to Friday nights, while Shark Tank was moved to Sunday nights. This season also saw veteran series The Middle, Once Upon a Time, and Scandal conclude their runs. ABC revived Roseanne for a successful tenth season. However, the series' eleventh season was abruptly cancelled due to a scandal involving its star Roseanne Barr, and was retooled without her character as The Conners.
Leadership reshuffleA major reshuffle in executive leadership also occurred after Disney announced its acquisition of 21st Century Fox. On November 16, 2018, Freeform President Karey Burke succeeded Channing Dungey as head of ABC Entertainment. It was also announced that former head of 20th Century Fox Television Dana Walden had been appointed to take over as head of ABC, Freeform, and all other Disney television-studio operations. Former Fox executive Peter Rice was assigned to manage non-sports television programming for ABC and other Disney networks.
ProgrammingThe ABC television network provides 89 hours of regularly scheduled network programming each week. The network provides 22 hours of prime time programming to affiliated stations from 8:00–11:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7:00–11:00 p.m. on Sundays.
Daytime programming is also provided from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. weekdays featuring the talk-lifestyle shows The View and Strahan, Sara and Keke, and the soap opera General Hospital. ABC News programming includes Good Morning America from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. weekdays ; nightly editions of ABC World News Tonight, the Sunday political talk show This Week, early morning news programs World News Now and America This Morning and the late night newsmagazine Nightline. Late nights feature the weeknight talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
The network's three-hour Saturday morning children's programming timeslot is programmed by syndication distributor Litton Entertainment, which produces Litton's Weekend Adventure under an arrangement in which the programming block is syndicated exclusively to ABC owned-and-operated and affiliated stations, rather than being leased out directly by the network to Litton.
DaytimeABC's daytime schedule currently features the talk shows The View and Strahan, Sara and Keke, and the soap opera General Hospital. Originally premiering in 1963, General Hospital is ABC's longest-running entertainment program.
In addition to the long-running All My Children and One Life to Live, notable past soap operas seen on the daytime lineup include Ryan's Hope, Dark Shadows, Loving, The City and Port Charles. ABC also aired the last nine years of the Procter & Gamble-produced soap The Edge of Night, following its cancellation by CBS in 1975. ABC Daytime has also aired a number of game shows, including The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, Let's Make a Deal, Password, Split Second, The $10,000/$20,000 Pyramid, Family Feud, The Better Sex, Trivia Trap, All-Star Blitz and Hot Streak.
SportsSports programming is provided on occasion, primarily on weekend afternoons. Since 2006, the ABC Sports division has been defunct, with all sports telecasts on ABC being produced in association with sister cable network ESPN under the branding ESPN on ABC. While ABC has, in the past, aired notable sporting events such as the NFL's Monday Night Football, and various college football bowl games, general industry trends and changes in rights have prompted reductions in sports on broadcast television, with Disney preferring to schedule the majority of its sports rights on the networks of ESPN.
ABC is the broadcast television rightsholder of the National Basketball Association, with its package traditionally beginning with its Christmas Day games, followed by a series of Saturday night and Sunday afternoon games through the remainder of the season, weekend playoff games, and all games of the NBA Finals. During college football season, ABC typically carries an afternoon doubleheader on Saturdays, along with the primetime Saturday Night Football. ABC also airs coverage of selected bowl games. Beginning in the 2015 NFL season, ESPN agreed to begin simulcasting a wild card playoff game on ABC.
The Saturday afternoon lineup outside of football season typically features airings of ESPN Films documentaries and other studio programs under the banner ESPN Sports Saturday, while Sunday afternoons usually feature either brokered programming, or encore and burn-off airings of ABC programs.
In 2015, ESPN's annual ESPY Awards presentation moved to ABC from ESPN. Bolstered by Caitlyn Jenner accepting the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage Award during the ceremony, the 2015 ESPY Awards' viewership were roughly tripled over the 2014 ceremony on ESPN.
SpecialsABC currently holds the broadcast rights to the Academy Awards, Emmy Awards, American Music Awards, and the Country Music Association Awards. ABC has also aired the Miss America competition from 1954 to 1956, 1997 to 2005, and 2011 to 2018.
Since 2000, ABC has also owned the television rights to most of the Peanuts television specials, having acquired the broadcast rights from CBS, which originated the specials in 1965 with the debut of A Charlie Brown Christmas. ABC also broadcasts the annual Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade special on Christmas morning.
Since 1974, ABC has generally aired Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve – a New Year's Eve special featuring music performances and coverage of festivities in New York's Times Square. ABC is also among the broadcasters of the Tournament of Roses Parade.
Programming libraryABC owns nearly all of its in-house television and theatrical productions made from the 1970s onward, with the exception of certain co-productions. Worldwide video rights are currently owned by various companies; for example, Kino Lorber owns the North American home video rights to the ABC feature film library.
When the FCC imposed its Financial Interest and Syndication Rules rules in 1970, ABC proactively created two companies: Worldvision Enterprises as a syndication distributor, and ABC Circle Films as a production company. However, between the publication and implementation of these regulations, the separation of the network's catalog was made in 1973. The broadcast rights to pre-1973 productions were transferred to Worldvision, which became independent in the same year. The company has been sold several times since Paramount Television acquired it in 1999, and has most recently been absorbed into CBS Television Distribution, a unit of ViacomCBS. Nonetheless, Worldvision sold portions of its catalog, including the Ruby-Spears and Hanna-Barbera libraries, to Turner Broadcasting System in 1991. With Disney's 1996 purchase of ABC, ABC Circle Films was absorbed into Touchstone Television, a Disney subsidiary which in turn was renamed ABC Studios in 2007.
Also part of the library are most films in the David O. Selznick library, the Cinerama Productions/Palomar theatrical library, the Selmur Productions catalog that the network acquired some years back, and the in-house productions it continues to produce. Disney–ABC Domestic Television handles domestic television distribution, while Disney–ABC International Television handles international television distribution.
StationsSince its inception, ABC has had many affiliated television stations, which include WABC-TV and WPVI-TV, the first two stations to carry the network's programming. ABC has eight owned-and-operated stations, and current and pending affiliation agreements with 236 additional television stations encompassing 49 states, the District of Columbia, four U.S. possessions, Bermuda and Saba. This makes ABC the largest U.S. broadcast television network by total number of affiliates. The network has an estimated national reach of 97.72% of all households in the United States.
Currently, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Delaware are the only U.S. states where ABC does not have a locally licensed affiliate. ABC maintains affiliations with low-power stations in a few markets, such as Birmingham, Alabama, Lima, Ohio and South Bend, Indiana. In some markets, including the former two mentioned, these stations also maintain digital simulcasts on a subchannel of a co-owned/co-managed full-power television station.
The network has the unusual distinction of having separately owned-and-operated affiliates which serve the same market in Tampa, Florida, Lincoln, Nebraska, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, with an analogous situation arising in Kansas City, Missouri. KQTV is licensed to St. Joseph, Missouri, which is designated by Nielsen as a separate market from Kansas City despite being located within of one another, while WWSB, KHGI and WOTV serve areas that do not receive an adequate signal from their market's primary ABC affiliate.
The Sinclair Broadcast Group is the largest operator of ABC stations by numerical total, owning or providing services to 28 full, primary ABC affiliates and two subchannel-only affiliates. Sinclair owns the largest ABC subchannel affiliate by market size, WABM-DT2/WDBB-DT2 in the Birmingham market, which serve as repeaters of WBMA-LD. The E. W. Scripps Company is the largest operator of ABC stations in terms of overall market reach, owning 15 ABC-affiliated stations, and through its ownership of Phoenix affiliate KNXV, Las Vegas affiliate KTNV-TV and Tucson affiliate KGUN-TV, it is the only provider of ABC programming for the majority of Arizona and Southern Nevada. Scripps also owns and operates several ABC stations in the Mountain and Pacific time zones, including in Denver, San Diego, Bakersfield, California, and Boise, Idaho, and when combined with the ABC-owned stations in Los Angeles, Fresno, and San Francisco, the affiliations from the News-Press & Gazette Company in Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, Yuma-El Centro, and Colorado Springs-Pueblo, and Sinclair's affiliations in Seattle and Portland, Oregon, these four entities control the access of ABC network programming in most of the Western United States, particularly in terms of audience reach.
Facilities and studiosAll of ABC's owned-and-operated stations and affiliates have had their own facilities and studios, but transverse entities have been created to produce national programming. As a result, television series were produced by ABC Circle Films beginning in 1962 and by Touchstone Television beginning in 1985, before Touchstone was reorganized as ABC Studios in February 2007. Since the 1950s, ABC has had two main production facilities: the ABC Television Center on Prospect Avenue in Hollywood, California, shared with the operations of KABC-TV until 1999; and the ABC Television Center, East, a set of studios located throughout New York City.
In addition to the headquarters building on Riverside Drive, other ABC facilities in Burbank include a building at 3800 West Alameda, known as 'Burbank Center', which is primarily associated with Disney–ABC Television Group and functions as the headquarters and broadcast center for Disney Junior, Disney Channel, Disney XD, FreeForm, and Radio Disney. Additionally, Disney Television Animation has a facility on Empire Avenue near the Hollywood Burbank Airport. In nearby Glendale, Disney/ABC also maintains the Grand Central Creative Campus, which houses other company subsidiaries, including the studios of KABC-TV and the Los Angeles bureau of ABC News.
ABC owns several facilities in New York grouped mainly on West 66th Street, with the main set of facilities on the corner of Columbus Avenue. In total, ABC's facilities occupy a combined of the of the blocks they encompass. This main set of buildings includes:
- 77 West 66th Street, a 22-story building built in 1988 on a plot;
- A pair of buildings at 147–155 Columbus Avenue connected by glass bays, constructed on a plot;
- 30 West 67th Street, a 15-story building with a facade on 67th Street on a plot;
- 55 West 67th Street, the former First Battery of the New York National Guard, a five-story building on a plot.
Disney formerly leased at 157 Columbus Avenue, on the other side of 67th Street.
ABC also owns the Times Square Studios at 1500 Broadway, on land owned by a development fund for the 42nd Street Project. Opened in 1999, Good Morning America is broadcast from this facility. ABC News has premises on West 66th Street, in a six-story building occupying a plot at 121–135 West End Avenue. The block of West 66th street between Central Park West and Columbus Ave which houses the ABC News building was renamed Peter Jennings Way in 2006 in honor of the then-recently deceased news anchor.
On July 9, 2018, the Walt Disney Company announced that it was selling its two West 66th Street campuses to Silverstein Properties and purchasing one square block of property in lower Manhattan to build a new New York-based broadcast center.
Video-on-demand servicesABC maintains several video-on-demand services for delayed viewing of the network's programming, including a traditional VOD service called ABC on Demand, which is carried on most traditional cable and IPTV providers. The Walt Disney Company is also a part-owner of Hulu, and has offered full-length episodes of most of ABC's programming through this streaming service since July 6, 2009.
In May 2013, ABC launched "WatchABC", a revamp of its traditional multi-platform streaming services encompassing the network's existing streaming portal at ABC.com and a mobile app for smartphones and tablet computers. This service provides full-length episodes of ABC programs and live streams of local affiliates in select markets. However, live streams are only available to authenticated subscribers of participating pay television providers. WABC-TV New York and WPVI-TV Philadelphia were the first stations to offer streams of their programming on the service, with the six remaining ABC O&Os offering streams by the start of the 2013–14 season. Hearst Television also reached a deal to offer streams of its ABC affiliates on the service, though as of 2016 these stations are only available for live-streaming for DirecTV subscribers.
In November 2015, it was reported that ABC had been developing a slate of original digital series for the WatchABC service, internally codenamed ABC3. In July 2016, ABC re-launched its streaming platforms, dropping the WatchABC brand, adding a streaming library of 38 classic ABC series, and introducing 7 original short-form series under the blanket branding ABCd.
The most recent episodes of the network's shows are usually made available on the ABC app, Hulu and ABC on Demand the day after their original broadcast. In addition, ABC on Demand disallows fast forwarding of accessed content. Restrictions implemented on January 7, 2014, restrict streaming of the most recent episode of any ABC program on Hulu and the ABC app until eight days after their initial broadcast, in order to encourage live or same-week viewing, with day-after-air streaming on either service limited to subscribers of participating pay television providers using an authenticated internet account.
ABC HDABC's network feeds are transmitted in 720p high definition, the native resolution format for The Walt Disney Company's U.S. television properties. However, most of Hearst Television's 16 ABC-affiliated stations transmit the network's programming in 1080i HD, while 11 other affiliates owned by various companies carry the network feed in 480i standard definition either due to technical considerations for affiliates of other major networks that carry ABC programming on a digital subchannel or because a primary feed ABC affiliate has not yet upgraded their transmission equipment to allow content to be presented in HD.
ABC began its conversion to high definition with the launch of its simulcast feed, ABC HD, on September 16, 2001, at the start of the 2001–02 season, with its scripted prime time series becoming the first shows to upgrade to the format. Both new and returning scripted series were broadcast in high definition. In 2011, was the last program on the network's schedule that was broadcast in standard definition. All of the network's new programming has been presented in HD since January 2012. The affiliate-syndicated Saturday morning educational and informative block Litton's Weekend Adventure was the first children's program block on U.S. network television to feature programs available in HD upon its September 2011 debut.
On September 1, 2016, ABC began to use framing for all of most graphical imaging, requiring its stations and pay television providers to display its programming in a compulsory widescreen format, either in high definition or standard definition. With this change, some programs also began positioning their main on-screen credits outside the 4:3 aspect ratio.
Visual identityThe ABC logo has evolved many times since the network's creation in 1943. The network's first logo, introduced in 1946, consisted of a television screen containing the letters "T" and "V", with a vertical ABC microphone in the center, referencing the network's roots in radio. When the ABC-UPT merger was finalized in 1953, the network introduced a new logo based on the FCC seal, with the letters "ABC" enclosed in a circular shield surmounted by a bald eagle. In 1957, just before the television network began its first color broadcasts, the ABC logo consisted of a tiny lowercase "abc" in the center of a large lowercase letter a, a design known as the ABC Circle A.
In 1962, graphic designer Paul Rand redesigned the ABC logo into its current and best-known form, with the lowercase letters "abc" enclosed in a single black circle. The new logo debuted on-air for ABC's promos at the start of the 1963–64 season. The letters are strongly reminiscent of the Bauhaus typeface designed by Herbert Bayer in the 1920s, but also share similarities with several other fonts, such as ITC Avant Garde and Horatio, and most closely resembling Chalet. The logo's simplicity made it easier to redesign and duplicate, which was beneficial before the advent of computer graphics. A color version of the logo was also developed around 1963, and animated as a brief 10-second intro to be shown before the then-small handful of network programs broadcast in color. The "a" was rendered in red, the "b" in blue, and the "c" in green, against the same single black circle. A variant of this color logo, with the colored letters against a white circle, was also commonly used throughout the 1960s.
The 1970s and 1980s saw the emergence of many graphical imaging packages for the network which based the logo's setting mainly on special lighting effects then under development including white, blue, pink, rainbow neon, and glittering dotted lines. Among the ABC Circle logo's many variants was a 1977 ID sequence that featured a bubble on a black background representing the circle with glossy gold letters, and was the first ABC identification card to simulate a three-dimensional appearance.
In 1983, for the 40th anniversary of the network's founding, ID sequences had the logo appear in a gold CGI design on a blue background, accompanied by the slogan "That Special Feeling" in a script font. Ten years later, in 1993, the "ABC Circle" logo reverted to its classic white-on-black color scheme, but with gloss effects on both the circle and the letters, and a bronze border surrounding the circle. The ABC logo first appeared as an on-screen bug in the 1993–94 season, appearing initially only for 60 seconds at the beginning of an act or segment, then appearing throughout programs beginning in the 1995–96 season; the respective iterations of the translucent logo bug were also incorporated within program promotions until the 2011–12 season.
During the 1997–98 season, the network began using a minimalist graphical identity with a yellow and black motif, designed by Pittard Sullivan, featuring a small black-and-white "ABC Circle" logo on a yellow background. A new four-note theme tune was introduced alongside the package, based around the network's then-new "We Love TV" image campaign from the 1998–99 season, creating an audio signature on par with the NBC chimes, CBS's various three-note soundmarks and the Fox Fanfare. The four-note signature has been updated with every television season thereafter.
In 2000, ABC launched a web-based promotional campaign focused around its circle logo, also called 'the dot', in which comic book character Little Dot prompted visitors to "download the dot", a program which would cause the ABC logo to fly around the screen and settle in the bottom-right corner. The network hired the Troika Design Group to design and produce its 2001–02 identity, which continued using the black-and-yellow coloring of the logo and featured dots and stripes in various promotional and identification spots.
On June 16, 2007, ABC began to phase-in a new imaging campaign for the upcoming 2007–08 season, Start Here. Also developed by Troika, the on-air design was intended to emphasize the availability of ABC content across multiple platforms. It also sought to "simplify and bring a lot more consistency and continuity to the visual representation of ABC". The ABC logo was given a glossy "ball" effect that was specifically designed for HD. On-air, the logo was accompanied by animated water and ribbon effects. Red ribbons were used to represent the entertainment division, while blue ribbons were used for ABC News.
A revised version of the ABC logo was introduced for promotions for the 2013–14 season during the network's upfront presentation on May 14, 2013, and officially introduced on-air on May 30, as part of an overhaul of ABC's identity by design agency LoyalKaspar. The updated logo carries a simpler gloss design than the previous version, and contains lettering more closely resembling Paul Rand's original version of the circle logo. A new custom typeface inspired by the ABC logotype, ABC Modern, was also created for use in advertising and other promotional materials. The logo was used in various color schemes, with a gold version used primarily for ABC's entertainment divisions, a red version used primarily for ESPN on ABC, steel blue and dark grey versions used primarily by ABC News, and all four colors used interchangeably in promotions. As part of a reimaging for the 2018–19 season, the color variants were dropped in favor of the dark grey version.
The Circle 7 logo, designed in 1962, is also commonly associated with ABC affiliates who broadcast on channel 7, including its flagship local stations WABC-TV, KABC-TV, KGO-TV and WLS-TV. This logo was intended to be used somewhat interchangeably by these stations with the main circular network logo and has itself also become an iconic symbol of the ABC network. KGO was the first of the ABC-owned stations to use the Circle 7 logo, starting on August 27, 1962; by the end of the year, the other ABC-owned stations began using the logo, and have continued to do so since.
International developmentThe first attempts to internationalize the ABC television network dates to the 1950s, when Goldenson tried to use the same strategies he had in expanding UPT's theater operation to the international market. Goldenson said that ABC's first international activity was broadcasting the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953; CBS and NBC were delayed in covering the coronation due to flight delays. Goldenson tried international investing, having ABC invest in stations in the Latin American market, acquiring a 51% interest in a network covering Central America and in 1959 established program distributor Worldvision Enterprises. Goldenson also cited interest in Japan in the early 1950s, acquiring a 5% stake in two new domestic networks, the Mainichi Broadcasting System in 1951 and Nihon Educational Television in 1957. Goldenson also invested in broadcasting properties in Beirut in the mid-1960s.
The goal was to create a network of wholly and partially owned channels and affiliates to rebroadcast the network's programs. In 1959, this rerun activity was completed with program syndication, with ABC Films selling programs to networks not owned by ABC. The arrival of satellite television ended the need for ABC to hold interests in other countries; many governments also wanted to increase their independence and strengthen legislation to limit foreign ownership of broadcasting properties. As a result, ABC was forced to sell all of its interests in international networks, mainly in Japan and Latin America, in the 1970s.
The second period of international expansion is linked to that of the ESPN network in the 1990s, and policies enacted in the 2000s by Disney Media Networks. These policies included the expansion of several of the company's U.S.-based cable networks including Disney Channel and its spinoffs Toon Disney, Playhouse Disney and Jetix; although Disney also sold its 33% stake in European sports channel Eurosport for $155 million in June 2000. In contrast to Disney's other channels, ABC broadcasts in the United States with programming syndicated in other countries. The policy regarding wholly owned international networks was revived and on September 27, 2004, ABC announced the launch of ABC1, a free-to-air channel in the United Kingdom owned by the ABC Group. However, ABC1 could not attain sustainable viewership and was shut down in October 2007.
Prior to the ABC1 closure, on October 10, 2006, Disney–ABC Television Group entered into an agreement with satellite provider Dish TV to carry its ABC News Now channel in India. However, this operation was not put into effect.