Fox Broadcasting Company

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Fox Broadcasting Company
Type Broadcast television network
Country United States
Availability National (available in Canada, Mexico, Europe and Japan via digital cable) .
Owner Subsidiary of News Corporation
Key people Rupert Murdoch, President
Launch March, 1985
Past Names Briefly abbreviated "FBC"

The Fox Broadcasting Company, usually referred to as just Fox (the company itself prefers the capitalized version FOX), is a television network in the United States. It is owned by Fox Entertainment Group, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Fox has produced various shows since its launch on October 9, 1986. Fox is credited with launching the careers of such Hollywood stars as Jim Carrey (through the popular show In Living Color (1990–1994), which was also a discovery point for future Oscar winner, Jamie Foxx, as well as Shawn Wayans, Damon Wayans, and Marlon Wayans), Ben Stiller (through The Ben Stiller Show), Johnny Depp (through 21 Jump Street, (1987–1990)), and Ashton Kutcher (through That '70s Show, (1998–2005)).




The groundwork for the launch of the Fox network began in March 1985 with News Corporation's $250 million purchase of 50% of TCF Holdings, the parent company of the 20th Century Fox movie studio. Six months later, in September, Murdoch agreed to pay $325 million to acquire the rest of the studio.

In May 1985, News Corp agreed to pay $1.55 billion to acquire television stations in six major U.S. media markets from John Kluge's company, Metromedia. These seed Fox stations were KTTV in Los Angeles, WFLD in Chicago, KRLD-TV (now KDFW, KDAF is a WB affliaite) in Dallas, KRIV in Houston, WNEW in New York (now WNYW), and WTTG in Washington, DC. These first six stations, broadcasting to 22 percent of the nation's households, became known as the Fox Television Stations Group. As the FOX network grew, other affiliates would be added to this group of stations.

In October 1985, Murdoch announced his intentions to form an independent television system which would compete with the three major U.S. television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC). He planned to use the combination of the Fox studios and the former Metromedia stations both to produce programming and distribute it. Organizational plans for the network were held off until the Metromedia acquisitions cleared regulatory hurdles in March 1986. In January 1986, Murdoch said of his planned network, "We at Fox at the moment are deeply involved in working to put shape and form on original programs. These will be shows with no outer limits. The only rules that we will enforce on these programs is they must have taste, they must be engaging, they must be entertaining and they must be original."

On May 6, 1986, Murdoch along with newly-hired Fox CEO and chairman Barry Diller and comedian Joan Rivers announced plans for "FBC" or the Fox Broadcasting Company to be launched with a daily late-night talk show program, The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers. When Fox was launched on October 9, 1986, it was broadcast to 96 stations reaching more than 80 percent of the nation's households. Fox had lined up 90 independent stations as affiliates in addition to its original six seed stations. By contrast, ABC, CBS and NBC each had between 210 and 215 affiliates reaching more than 97 percent of the nation's households. Despite broadcasting only one show, the network was busy producing new programs with plans to gradually add primetime programming one night at a time.


From the beginning, Fox established itself as a somewhat edgy, irreverent, youth-oriented network compared to its rivals. Its first primetime shows, which debuted on Sunday nights beginning April 5, 1987, were a comedy about a dysfunctional family (Married... with Children) and a variety show (The Tracey Ullman Show). The former would become a strong hit, airing for 11 seasons, while the latter would spawn the longest-running sitcom and animated series in American television history, The Simpsons, which was spun-off in 1989 and as of 2005 is still in production. Another early success was 21 Jump Street (1987–1991), an hour long police drama.

The next two years saw the introduction of America's Most Wanted (1988), profiling true crimes in hopes of capturing the criminals, and COPS (1989), a reality show documenting the day-to-day activities of police officers. The two shows are among the network's longest running and are credited with bringing reality television to the mainstream. In August 1988, America's Most Wanted was Fox's first show to break into the top 50 shows of the week according to the Nielsen ratings.

Fox debuted its Saturday night programming over four weeks beginning July 11, 1987, with several shows now long forgotten. Those shows were Mr Presidnet, Women in Prison, The New Adventures of Beans Baxter and Second Chance. Fox would expand to seven nights a week of programming by 1993.


Despite a few successful shows, the network did not have a significant market share until the early 1990s when News Corp. bought more TV station groups, such as New World Communications, Chris-Craft Industries, BHC Communications and United Television, making it the largest owner of television stations in the United States.

Though Fox was growing rapidly as a network, and had established itself as a presence, it was still not considered a major competitor to the "big three" broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) Fox management, having seen the critical role that sports programming (specifically soccer programming) had played in the growth of satellite service BSkyB, believed that sports, and specifically professional football, would be the engine that would make FOX a major network the quickest.

To this end, Fox bid aggressively for football from the start. In 1987, after ABC initially hedged on renewing its contract to carry Monday Night Football, Fox offered the NFL to pick up the contract for the same amount ABC had been paying, about $13 million per game at the time. However, the NFL, in part because Fox had not established itself as a major network, chose to renew their contract with ABC.

Six years later, when the football contract was up for renewal again, Fox made what at the time was a bold and aggressive move to acquire the rights. Knowing that they would likely need to bid considerably more than the incumbent networks to acquire a piece of the package, Fox bid $1.58 billion for 4 years of rights to the NFC, considered the more desirable conference due to its presence in most of the largest US markets, such as New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. To the suprise and shock of many, the NFL selected the Fox bid, in the process stripping CBS of football for the first time since 1952.

Fox's acquisition of football was a watershed event not only for the network but for the NFL as well. Not only was it the event that placed Fox on a par with the "big three" broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) but it also ushered in an era of growth for the NFL which continues on largely to this day. More importantly, Fox's acquisition of the NFL rights also quickly led toward Fox reaching a deal with New World Communications to change the affiliation of many of their stations to Fox. Prior to this agreement many of these stations had been CBS affiliates.

The rights gave Fox many new viewers (and affiliates) and a platform for advertising its other shows. With a sports division now established with the arrival of the NFL, Fox would later acquire over-air broadcast rights to the National Hockey League (in 1995), Major League Baseball (in 1996), and NASCAR auto races (beginning with the 2001 season). With the exception of the NHL, they still have the broadcast rights to all of those sports today.

The early 1990s saw the launch of several soap-opera/dramas aimed at younger audiences that became quick hits: Beverly Hills 90210 (1990–2000), Melrose Place (1992–99), and Party of Five (1994–2000). September 1993 saw the heavy promotion and debut of a short-lived Western with science fiction elements, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993-94). However, it was the Friday night show that debuted immediately following it, The X-Files (1993–2002), which would find long-lasting success. Several comedies ran during this period as well, including In Living Color (1990–94) and The Ben Stiller Show (1992–93). Though Ben Stiller's show would not be a ratings success, it was nonetheless a critical success that enhanced the network's reputation. Notable shows which debuted in the late 1990s include the quirky dramedy Ally McBeal (1997–2002) and the sitcom That '70s Show (1998—).

Building around its flagship The Simpsons, Fox has been relatively successful with animated shows including Futurama (1999–2003), King of the Hill, and Family Guy (though Family Guy has been cancelled twice by the network, it has recently been revived). Less successful were The Critic (1994–95), which originally aired on ABC, and The PJ's (2000–02).


Fox arguably hit a few bumps in its programming during 1999 and the early 2000s. Many staple shows of the 1990s had ended or were on the decline. During this time, Fox put much of its efforts into producing "reality" fare with subjects often seen as extravagant, shocking, or distasteful. These included shows such as Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, Temptation Island, Joe Millionaire, and Married by America. During this time, Fox also featured weekly lowbrow shows such as World's Wildest Police Videos and When Animals Attack.

After shedding most of these shows, Fox regained a ratings foothold with acclaimed dramas such as 24, The O.C., and House, M.D., and comedies such as Arrested Development, The Bernie Mac Show and Malcolm in the Middle. By 2005, Fox's most popular show by far was the talent search American Idol, averaging up to 30 million viewers per episode.

It was estimated in 2003 that Fox is viewable by 96.18% of all U.S. households, reaching 102,565,710 houses in the United States. Fox has 180 VHF and UHF owned-and-operated or affiliate stations in the U.S. and U.S. possessions. Fox began broadcasting in HDTV in 720p on September 12, 2004 with a series of NFL football games.

Fox hit a milestone in February 2005 by scoring its first-ever sweeps month victory among all viewers. This was largely due to the broadcast of Super Bowl XXXIX, but also on the strength of American Idol, 24, House, and The O.C. By the end of the 2004-2005 television season, Fox ranked #1 among the 18-49 demographic most appealing to advertisers for the first time in the network's history.


Despite its popularity, Fox has also come under fire from many quarters, especially from fans of genre television. This displeasure stems from the premature cancellation of some series, such as Firefly, Tru Calling, Profit, Futurama, Wonderfalls and The Critic. (The cancellation of Family Guy was also criticized, and in this case the program was picked up again after strong DVD sales.) The network's justification for canceling these programs has generally been poor ratings. Fans of these programs respond by pointing towards critical praise and dedicated core fan followings, and blame the ratings on inconvenient time slots, poor advertising or illogical broadcasting (for example, the first episode of Firefly was never screened, and the subsequent episodes that were shown were played out of order). During American Idol, many fans of that program accused Fox of "rigging the votes". The Parents Television Council named this television network the worst network to watch with your children, describing many of the shows as "100% immoral".

Since the network bought the rights to post-season baseball coverage, Fox has received criticism from non-baseball fans for not airing first-run original programming during October. (Baseball fans point out that there are plenty of other broadcast and cable networks available on every TV package that do show original scripted programming.) Before the 2005 television season, the network started the season for The Simpsons and other shows in November. Starting in 2005, Fox started its season in September, took the month of October off to show the Major League Baseball playoffs, and resumed non-baseball programming in November. Both approaches have drawn criticism.

Books About Fox

Fox's brief history and rapid rise as a television network has been the subject of two books. The first book, Outfoxed, ISBN 0312039042, was originally published in 1990, and details the networks beginning and little else, as the network was only a couple years old at the time. The second book, The Fourth Network, ISBN 1566635721, was published in 2004 by Daniel M. Kimmel, and details the complete history of the network (up to the 2003-04 television season).

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