Fox Broadcasting Company
10201 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064-2606
he 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. Since its launch on October 9, 1986, FOX has grown from an upstart "netlet" to the highest-rated broadcast network among younger viewers.
The Fox name has been used on other entertainment channels internationally that are affiliated with News Corp., including in Italy, Spain, Portugal, South America, and Australia (FOX8), although these do not necessarily air the same programming as the U.S. network.
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 independent television stations in six major U.S. media markets from John Kluge's company, Metromedia--KTTV in Los Angeles, WFLD in Chicago, KRLD in Dallas (which was renamed KDAF), KRIV in Houston, WNEW in New York (which was renamed WNYW) and WTTG in Washington, D.C. These first six stations, broadcasting to 22 percent of the nation's households, became known as the Fox Television Stations Group. Except for KDAF (which was sold to Tribune in 1995 and joined The WB after Fox affiliated with, then later bought VHF station KDFW), all of these stations are still part of Fox today. Clarke Ingram, who maintains a memorial website to the failed DuMont Television Network, has suggested that Fox is a revival of DuMont, since Metromedia was a successor to the DuMont corporation and the Metromedia TV stations formed the nucleus of the Fox network. Indeed, WNYW (then known as WABD) and WTTG were the key stations in the DuMont network.
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", with WNYW in New York as the flagship station, 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 former 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 prime time programming one night at a time.
Rivers would be gone from the show in 1987, with various guest hosts taking over for a few years afterwards; one notable face was Arsenio Hall, who would later front his own late-night talk show to great success - albeit not on FOX.
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 2006 is still in production. Another early success was 21 Jump Street (1987–1991), an hour long police drama. The original Sunday lineup also included sitcoms Duet and It's Garry Shandling's Show.
Fox debuted its Saturday night programming over four weeks beginning July 11, 1987, with several shows now long forgotten. Those shows were Mr. President, Women in Prison, The New Adventures of Beans Baxter and Second Chance.
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 would expand to seven nights a week of programming by 1993.
Differences Between Fox and DuMont
Fox survived where DuMont and other previous attempts to start a fourth network failed in part because it programmed just under the number of hours to be legally considered a network by the FCC. This allowed Fox to make money in ways forbidden to the established networks, since during its first years it was considered to be merely a large group of stations. By comparison, DuMont was hampered by numerous regulatory roadblocks, most notably a ban on acquiring more stations since its minority owner, Paramount Pictures owned two television stations. Combined with DuMont's three television stations, this put DuMont at the legal limit at the time. Also, Murdoch was more than willing to open his wallet to get and keep programming and talent. DuMont, in contrast, operated on a shoestring budget and was unable to keep the programs and stars it had.
Despite a few successful shows, the network did not have a significant market share until the mid 1990s when News Corp. bought more TV station groups-the first was New World Communications, who had signed an affiliation deal with Fox in 1994. Later, in 2000, Fox bought several stations owned by Chris-Craft Industries and its subsidiaries BHC Communications and United Television (most of these were UPN affiliates, although one later converted to Fox). This made Fox one of the largest owners 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).
The early and mid-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, and would be FOX's first series to crack Nielsen's year-end Top 25.
The sketch-comedy series In Living Color (1990–94) created many memorable characters (and launched the careers of future movie superstars Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx and "Fly Girl" dancer Jennifer Lopez). Another sketch-comedy series, MADtv (1995–) became a solid competitor to NBC's Saturday Night Live.
Notable shows which debuted in the late 1990s include the quirky dramedy Ally McBeal (1997–2002) and the sitcom That '70s Show (1998–2006).
Building around its flagship The Simpsons (1989–)., Fox has been relatively successful with animated shows including Futurama (1999–2003) and King of the Hill (1997–). Family Guy (1999–2002) was cancelled in 2002, but the network commissioned new episodes in 2005 due to strong DVD sales and highly-rated cable reruns. Less successful efforts included The Critic (1994–95), which originally aired on ABC, and The PJ's (1999–2001), which later aired on The WB.
Fox also began airing its first game show, Greed hosted by established veteran game show host Chuck Woolery (1999-2000).
Around 1996, Fox was exploring plans to merge with The WB. A former Fox chairman during the time noted in a Broadcasting and Cable interview after the CW merger was announced: "Well, we tried to merge with The WB, too, but we couldn't because, at that time, UPN was [half] owned by Chris-Craft and there was no way. We even talked about, 'You get one market, we get another,' but we just couldn't work it out."
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, 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, peaking at up to 30 million viewers on certain episodes and finishing the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons as the nation's highest-rated program. House, airing after Idol on Tuesday nights, has also positioned itself as a top ten hit as of 2005-06.
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 sci-fi/fantasy television. This displeasure stems from the supposed premature cancellation of some series, most notably Firefly, Dark Angel, Tru Calling, and Wonderfalls. The cancellations of animated series Family Guy and Futurama were also criticized; in the former's case, the program was picked up again in 2005, while the latter series is being revived for 2008 on cable's Comedy Central.
The network's justification for cancelling 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 the last episode aired, and other episodes were aired out of order).
In 1997, FOX-owned station WTVT in Tampa fired two reporters, Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, who had refused instructions from superiors to revise a story on bovine growth hormone in ways that the reporters saw as being in conflict with the facts, and had threatened to report FOX to the FCC. The reporters sued under a Florida whistleblower law. A jury ruled that FOX had indeed ordered the reporters to distort the facts. FOX successfully appealed against judgement on the grounds that their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and press protected them from such litigation, and that the FCC's policy against distortion of news was not a sufficiently significant rule for its breach to invoke the whistleblower law.
The Parents Television Council named Fox "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). For the majority of the years that Fox has aired baseball, the network started the season for The Simpsons and other shows in November. 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. Fox Sports has also received criticism from sports fans of bias towards teams in certain conferences especially during the Super Bowl and the World Series, usually the NFC in football (due to the fact that they own the rights to NFC games) and the AL, especially the New York Yankees, in baseball.
Among baseball enthusiasts, Fox's coverage of Major League Baseball is not thought of highly. Most cite "whooshing" sound effects to accompany on-screen graphics, the use of "Scooter" (a talking baseball created with the intent of teaching the younger audience the difference between pitches), and even analyst Tim McCarver as reasons for their disdain (even though Tim McCarver used to be an analyst at CBS and ABC before he worked at Fox).
FOX's hockey coverage drew the ire of some hockey fans due to a computer-generated "glowing" effect around the puck, which was intended to help casual fans keep up with the action. Ostensibly, it didn't work, as the network chose not to re-sign with the NHL after the initial four-year contract.