The Fox Broadcasting Company 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 many successful shows (and many more unsuccessful) since its launch on October 9, 1986. Fox is credited with launching the careers of such Hollywood stars as Jim Carrey, Ben Stiller and Ashton Kutcher.
The groundwork for the launch of the Fox network began in March 1985 with News Corp'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 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 more edgy, irreverent, youth-oriented network. 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. 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. 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, e.g. New World Communications , Chris-Craft Industries, BHC Communications and United Television , making it the largest owner of television stations in the United States. Fox became a major competitor to the "big three" broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) in 1994 after it outbid longtime rights owner CBS to broadcast National Conference games of the National Football League. The rights gave Fox many new viewers (and affiliates) and a platform for advertising its other shows. Fox later acquired rights to broadcast games of the National Hockey League (in 1995), Major League Baseball (in 1996), and NASCAR auto races (in 2000).
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). 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. Less successful was The Critic (1994-95).
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 Chases 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 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 US 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 and House.
Last updated: 08-12-2005 14:44:30