The History of ABC Television and the Disney Decline

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The American Broadcasting Company, ABC, is a television network created in 1943 from the former NBC Blue radio network. Its first broadcast occurred in 1948 and as one of the Big Three television networks it has greatly contributed to the American culture. The Walt Disney Company is the owner of ABC television since 1996, operating it through the Disney ABC Television Group, a corporate subsidiary. Sometimes the network is called the Alphabet Network because of the letters ABC in its name, the first three letters of the alphabet.

The Walt Disney anthology television series named Disneyland added a broader palette of programs to the consecrated programs made by the Disney studio for television in 1954, such as edited versions of the studio’s theatrical films. Sometimes they even showed full-length films like Treasure Island, although it was divided in two episodes.

Walt Disney’s plan was actually to start color broadcasting, but the cash-strapped network rejected the idea because of the overwhelming costs. That is why in 1961 Disney signed a contract with NBC and moved the show to that network. The NBC was owned by RCA who was positive about color at the time because they aimed to sell their TV sets. After moving, the show was renamed Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. Because they broadcast in color, including the former black and white productions, it became the longest running television series, revived twice in 1986 and 1997 on ABC television.

Disney purchased Capital Cities/ABC in 1996, bringing C/ABC Broadcasting Group, ABC Television Network Group, CC/ABC Publishing Group, CC/ABC Multimedia Group, ABC Cable and International Broadcast Group. Although there was an intense micro-managing coming from the Disney management, the network was slow to turn around. However, with the launch of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in 1999, the ratings started to improve. Because Survivor on CBS became a national phenomenon, the schedulers moved Millionaire’s slot to the Wednesday Time 8:00 slot to prevent Survivor from getting a hold on the ratings. CBS lost by only a few points so ABC television changed the strategy by airing the show four times a week. The ratings fell dramatically due to overexposure, although the network found some success in shows such as The Practice, One and Again and Alias.

By 2000, ABC television still lacked the element that made other networks so popular: reality television. They introduced The Mole, The Bachelor and The Bachellorete, Are you Hot and other shows who proved to be an embarrassment to the television network. By the end of 2003, ABC was on the fourth place, becoming the first of the Big Thee to fall so abruptly.

Success came in 2004 with the anticipated series Lost and Desperate Housewives. The rating immediately skyrocketed to a level that was never reached before because of the high publicity, marketing and appreciation from critics. In 2005 and 2006, the popular Ugly Betty and Grey’s Anatomy became the public’s favorites. The ABC network managed to finally find reality television prosperity in 2003 with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and with Dancing with the Stars in 2005. However, the network continued to place second. By borrowing a Disney formula, the brand name was broaden with the news channel ABC News Now.

In 2007 the ABC television network had a marketing makeover centered around the slogan ABC: Start Here, which symbolizes the new content added and programs accessible through pod-casting, portable media devices and mobile device-specific content.

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