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Disney Channel (originally "The Disney Channel" from 1983 to 1997) is an American basic cable and satellite television channel that is owned by the Disney-ABC Television Group, a unit of the Disney Media Networks division of The Walt Disney Company. Aimed mainly at pre-teens and teenagers 9–14 years of age and its preschooler-targeted shows aimed at children 2–6, its programming consists of original first-run television series, theatrically-released and original made-for-cable movies and select other third-party programming. The channel – which formerly operated as a premium service – originally marketed its programs towards families, and then at younger children by the late 1990s, although its viewing audience has diversified since the mid-2000s to include older teenagers and adults.
The U.S. channel is also the flagship property of Disney Channels Worldwide (currently run by President and Chief Creative Officer Gary Marsh), a group of more than 90 entertainment channels aimed at children and families that is available in over 160 countries and 30 languages (platform brands that are part of the unit, in addition to Disney Channel, include Disney XD, Disney Junior, Disney Cinemagic, Hungama TV and Radio Disney). As of August 2013, Disney Channel is available to approximately 98,142,000 television households (85.94% of cable, satellite and telco customers) in the United States.
In early 1977, Walt Disney Productions executive Jim Jimirro brought forth the idea of a cable television network that would feature television and film material from the studio. Since the company was focusing on the development of Walt Disney World's Epcot Center, Disney chairman Card Walker turned down the proposal. Disney tried again in 1982, entering into a partnership with the satellite unit of Group W (which had sold its 50% ownership stake in one of The Disney Channel's early rivals, Showtime, to Viacom around the same time); however, Group W would ultimately drop out of the intended joint venture in September of that year, due to disagreements over the channel's creative control and financial obligations that would have required Group W to pay a 50% share of the channel's start-up costs. Despite losing Group W as a partner, The Disney Channel continued on with its development – now solely under the oversight of Walt Disney Productions, and under the leadership of the channel's first president Alan Wagner; Walt Disney Productions formally announced the launch of its family-oriented cable channel in early 1983. Disney later invested US$11 million to acquiring space on two transponders of the Hughes Communications satellite Galaxy 1, and spent US$20 million on purchasing and developing programming. Launch and early years as a premium channel (1983–1997) The Disney Channel launched nationally as a premium channel on April 18, 1983 at 7 a.m. ET; the first program ever aired on the channel was also its first original series Good Morning, Mickey!, which showcased classic Disney animated shorts. At the time of its launch, The Disney Channel's programming aired for 16 hours each day, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET/PT. During its first full year, the channel was available to more than 532,000 subscribers in the U.S. Its programming during the channel's run as a premium service – carrying through to its transition to a basic cable channel – had targeted children and teenagers during the daytime, families during primetime and adults at night. The Disney Channel differed from other premium services in that not only it acquired broadcast rights to theatrically feature films, but, in addition to producing its own original programs, the channel aired several television series that were acquired through corporate sister Buena Vista Television and other program distributors. In its first years, The Disney Channel's programming included original programs Welcome to Pooh Corner and You and Me Kid, along with several foreign-imported animated series and movies including Asterix, The Raccoons, Paddington Bear and the Australian western Five Mile Creek; the original late night schedule also featured reruns of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
The channel's daytime schedule during its existence as a pay service was populated primarily by series aimed at children, interspersed with a limited number of movies (usually a single daytime feature on weekdays, and two or three films on weekends), along with occasional live-action and animated specials for children. The nighttime schedule featured a mix of movies (recent and older family-oriented movies were shown in the early evenings, while classic films usually ran during the late evening and overnight hours) and original specials (primarily in the form of concerts, variety specials and documentaries). The short segment D-TV, featuring popular music interwoven with scenes from Disney's animated shorts and feature films, also periodically aired as filler between shows. Unlike other premium services, it opted not to disclose a film's Motion Picture Association of America rating the prior to the start of the feature. The channel's primary logo (which was used until 1997) featured multiple lines resembling a TV screen that featured a negative space silhouette of Mickey Mouse's head; IDs shown before programs between 1986 and 1997 generally involved Mickey Mouse – whose arms are only shown – involved in various situations (such as having a nightmare in which the "Mickey Mouse TV" logo chases one of Mickey's gloves or Mickey making shadow figures on a flashlight-lit wall) that featured the logo being formed or displayed in various ways. The channel also provided a monthly (and later bi-monthly) program guide/magazine called The Disney Channel Magazine to its subscribers (the magazine also lent its name to a series of interstitials seen on the channel), until it ceased publication as the channel began primarily operating as a commercial-free basic channel. As a premium channel, The Disney Channel often ran free previews of five days to one week in length four times annually, as well as two periodic weekend-only previews (with ads targeted to those who were not subscribers); this resulted in The Disney Channel offering more preview events each calendar year during its tenure as a pay service than HBO, Cinemax and Showtime ran during that timeframe. In April 1984, the channel extended its daily programming to 18 hours (from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. ET/PT), with the addition of two hours onto its late night schedule. On December 1, 1986, Disney Channel began broadcasting 24 hours a day. Early in 1986, the musical sitcom Kids Incorporated premiered on the channel; the series was centered around a pre-teen (and later teen-to-young adult) gang of friends who formed a pop group, mixing their everyday situations with variety show and music video-style performances. It became a hit for The Disney Channel, spawning many future stars in both the music and acting worlds during its nine-year run, including Martika (who went by her real name of Marta Marrero in the show's first season), eventual Party of Five co-stars Scott Wolf and Jennifer Love Hewitt (billed as Love Hewitt), and Stacy Ferguson (later a member of The Black Eyed Peas under the stage name "Fergie").
In 1988, Good Morning, Miss Bliss, a starring vehicle for Hayley Mills of Polyanna and The Parent Trap fame, made its debut. After being cancelled following a 13-episode run due to low ratings, the series was picked up by NBC in 1989, and retooled as Saved by the Bell, with Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Dustin Diamond, Lark Voorhies and Dennis Haskins as the only Miss Bliss actors carried over to the new show; the retooled series became a hit as part of NBC's Saturday morning lineup (producing two spinoffs in the process) and through worldwide syndication. In early 1989, the channel revived one of Disney's early TV staples with The All-New Mickey Mouse Club (later known as simply MMC), becoming an immediate hit that proved Disney's basic variety show formula still worked in the modern era (unlike the short-lived 1970s revival). This version contained many elements seen in the original series from "theme days" to updated mouseketeer jackets, but the scripted and musical segments were more contemporary. MMC served as the launching pad for several future stars such as Christina Aguilera, JC Chasez, Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Keri Russell. By 1989, The Disney Channel had about five million subscribers nationwide. In 1991, eight cable providers volunteered to move the channel to their expanded basic cable packages, with the first to make the transition (as a test run) being Jones Intercable's Fort Myers and Broward County, Florida systems. Other cable providers eventually began moving the channel to their basic tiers, either experimentally or on a full-time basis. Even as major providers such as Cox Communications and Marcus Cable began offering The Disney Channel on their basic tiers, executives for The Walt Disney Company denied plans to convert the channel into an ad-supported basic service, stating that the move from premium to basic cable on some systems was part of a five-year "hybrid" strategy that allowed providers to offer the channel in either form. In 1991, The Disney Channel tested a two-channel multiplex service on two cable systems. By 1992, a third of the channel's subscriber base were estimated by Nielsen Media Research to be adults that did not have children; and by 1995, its subscriber base expanded to 15 million cable homes, eight million of which paid an additional monthly fee to receive the channel. In 1996, Anne Sweeney was appointed to oversee The Disney Channel, and the channel began offering a nightly primetime film.
Transition to basic cable (1997–2002)
Logo used from April 6, 1997 to October 6, 2002; various patterns were used with this logo during that period, depending on the daypart. The "channel" in the logo was typically omitted from on-air usage except during end credit tags on its original programs. On April 6, 1997, The Disney Channel underwent a significant rebranding, shortening its name to just "Disney Channel" – though on-air promos that ran until September 2002 typically referred to the channel simply as "Disney" – and introducing a new logo (a black Mickey ear-shaped TV, though the TV's patterning often varied, particularly by the early 2000s; early versions of the logo featured people and animated characters appearing within it such as a 1930s-era Mickey Mouse). The channel continued to transition from a premium service into a basic cable channel around this time, albeit with a similar programming format to the one it carried as a full-fledged pay channel; however, the channel began shifting its target audience more toward kids but continued to cater to family audiences at night, the channel decreased the amount of classic films it aired, and its music programming shifted towards the pre-teen and teenage demographic, incorporating music videos and revamping its concert specials to feature younger musicians popular with that target audience. Disney Channel initially continued to offer free preview events for pay television providers that continued to carry it as a premium service but discontinued them altogether within three years of the rebrand (Disney Channel would not complete its transition to a basic cable service until around 2004). Disney Channel also began to air break interruptions within shows, featuring promotions for the channel's programs, and feature film and home video releases from Disney. The channel would eventually split itself into three programming blocks: amongst which were "Playhouse Disney" (comprising shows aimed at preschoolers) and "Vault Disney" (featuring classic Disney programs such as Zorro, The Mickey Mouse Club and the Walt Disney anthology television series, older television specials and feature films). "Zoog Disney" was introduced in August 1998 and became the channel's most distinct program block, the afternoon to late evening lineup was hosted by anthropomorphic robot-like characters called "Zoogs" (which were originally two-dimensional figures, but were given a cel shaded redesign and mature voices in 2001, before being phased out after less than a year) and was designed to encourage viewer interactivity between television and the internet. The Zoog Disney brand would later expand, with all weekend programming (outside of the Vault Disney and Playhouse Disney blocks) becoming part of the "Zoog Weekendz" umbrella block from September 2001 to August 2002. Original programming on Disney Channel began to ramp up during this period starting with the sitcom Flash Forward, and would increase in the following years with shows like The Famous Jett Jackson and So Weird, into the early 2000s with Lizzie McGuire – whose star Hilary Duff became the first lead actor or actress in one of the channel's series to cross over into music through a record deal with co-owned Hollywood Records – and Even Stevens – which helped launch the career of its star Shia LaBeouf. In 1999, Disney Channel began mandating that cable operators who continued to carry it as a premium service must move the channel to a basic cable tier or stop carrying it altogether, stipulating that it would not renew carriage agreements with providers (such as Time Warner Cable and Comcast, the last major cable providers to carry the channel as a pay service) that chose to continue carrying the network as a premium channel. With the shift towards children as its target audience, some off-network programs acquired by the channel during the early 2000s (such as Boy Meets World and later Sister, Sister) began to be edited for content deemed inappropriate like profanity and sexual references. By 2001, Disney Channel was available to approximately 70 million cable and satellite subscribers, largely consisting of those who already received the channel through basic cable, as well as what remained of its pay subscriber base. The music videos and concert specials that the channel ran since the 1997 rebrand were dropped by this time, citing the inability to obtain revenue from the artists' CD sales and lack of exclusivity for the videos; the channel soon after began featuring music videos from artists signed to Disney's in-house record labels Hollywood Records and Walt Disney Records, and songs featured in Disney-produced feature films. The channel debuted The Proud Family as its first original animated series in 2001, though it achieved its first major animated series hit the following year with the premiere of Kim Possible. Success and changing focus in the 2000s (2002–2007) By 2002, Disney Channel was seen in 80 million cable homes nationwide. In early September of that year, Disney Channel began a gradual rebranding with the "Zoog" brand being discontinued from on-air use (though Zoog Disney would continue to exist as a separate website until 2003, when the site's content was consolidated onto Disney Channel's primary website, disneychannel.com). Then on September 16, the Vault Disney block was replaced by same-day repeats of the channel's original and acquired programs, primarily to contribute to the network's then-upcoming "hip" image; the block's removal resulted in Disney Channel not featuring programs aimed at adults for the first time in its history – with the channel's primetime feature films becoming the only programs that intentionally targets a broader family audience; as of 2013, Disney Channel is the only major American cable channel aimed at children that does not directly maintain a dual audience of both kids and adults (Nickelodeon, The Hub and Cartoon Network each feature nighttime programming for families and/or adults). Movies shown during primetime were also reduced from an average of two to three features to only one each night of the week. Its original programming phased out reality and scripted drama series, substantially increasing the channel's reliance on live-action sitcoms and animated series. One month later on October 7, 2002, Disney Channel introduced a new on-air logo designed by CA Square (using an outline of Mickey Mouse's head as its centerpiece) that would later be adopted by its international sister channels in May 2003, and unveiled a new graphics designed to fit the network's new look; moreover, Disney Channel began using a series of bumpers that are still in use, primarily featuring actors and animated characters from its original programs (and occasionally from Disney's theatrical releases), drawing the Disney Channel logo using a glowstick. Playhouse Disney became the only program block introduced in 1997 to remain by this point (it was later relaunched as Disney Junior in February 2011). Around this time, Disney Channel's original series began airing as part of corporate sister ABC's Saturday morning children's program block. Veteran cable executive Anne Sweeney became president of Disney-ABC Television Group in 2004, ultimately helping to remake Disney Channel into "the major profit driver in the company" by the middle of the decade as the channel made major inroads in increasing its overall viewership, while in turn using a strategy – that proved successful – to discover, nurture and aggressively cross-promote teen music stars whose style and image were carefully targeted to the pre-teen and teenage demographic. Around that time as Disney Channel's intended target audience began ranging from preschoolers to young adolescents, the channel began to quickly gain in popularity, and added viewers outside this target demographic, creating increased competition with Viacom-owned Nickelodeon. In 2003, Disney Channel premiered its first ever made-for-cable movie musical, The Cheetah Girls, which received a worldwide audience of 84 million viewers. In 2005, That's So Raven (which debuted in 2003) became the channel's highest-rated series since its transition to basic cable as well as being the first original series to run longer than 65 episodes – breaking a highly controversial rule that was implemented in 1998, aimed at limiting increases in production costs for its original programming (the 65-episode rule is no longer enforced, although most series are now usually discontinued after their fourth season at maximum) – Raven eventually became the channel's longest-running original series at 100 episodes (until it was surpassed by Wizards of Waverly Place in October 2011) and became the first to spawn a spin-off series (Cory in the House). The Suite Life of Zack & Cody also debuted in 2005, becoming a hit for the channel. The earlier success of The Cheetah Girls led to the creation of other music-themed original programming as 2006 saw the debut of the hit original movie High School Musical and the series Hannah Montana, the latter of which launched the career of its star Miley Cyrus (who starred opposite her father, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, in the series). On July 28 of that year, the channel saw the debut of the its first multiple-series crossover, That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana (which involved That's So Raven, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and Hannah Montana).
Disney Channel today (2007–present)
This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (November 2011) In 2007, the channel began dropping most of its syndicated programs, and also began to incorporate rotating hour-long blocks of its original series and other programs during the daytime hours. It also moved first-run episodes of its original series on weekends from late afternoon to primetime. Two new series also premiered: the That's So Raven spin-off Cory in the House (which ended after two seasons) and the more successful Wizards of Waverly Place (which by the time it ended its run in January 2012 had beat the record previously held by That's So Raven to become Disney Channel's longest-running original series, with 106 episodes). High School Musical 2 premiered on August 17 of that year, becoming the highest-rated non-sports program in the history of basic cable and the highest-rated made-for-cable movie premiere on record (as well as the highest-rated television program – broadcast or cable – of Summer 2007) with 17.2 million viewers. 2008 saw the debut of Phineas and Ferb, the first original animated series to be broadcast in HD, and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody spin-off, The Suite Life on Deck, along with two more music-based original made-for-TV movies: Camp Rock and The Cheetah Girls: One World. The Suite Life on Deck became the number one series among children between ages of 6- and 12-years-old in 2008. Capitalizing on the rising star status of the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato following Camp Rock, 2009 saw the premieres of two series respectively starring both acts: JONAS and Sonny with a Chance (Lovato also starred in the original movie Princess Protection Program, which premiered that June). The August debut of the original film Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie became the highest-rated cable program of 2009 (excluding sporting events), premiering to 11.4 million viewers and becoming the second highest-rated original movie premiere in Disney Channel's history. The July 17 premiere of the Wizards/Suite Life on Deck/Hannah Montana crossover special Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana also beat out its cable and broadcast competition that night with 9.1 million viewers (effectively making the Wizards and On Deck episodes featured in the special the highest-rated episodes of all three series at that point). In 2010, Good Luck Charlie debuted as Disney Channel's first original sitcom targeted at family audiences, while Fish Hooks and Shake It Up also made their premieres. That year also saw the premiere of Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam among the four original movies premiering that year, along with two made-for-TV movies that were co-produced with Canadian specialty channels (Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars, in conjunction with Movie Central and The Movie Network; and 16 Wishes, with Family Channel). On November 19, 2010, Disney Channel began offering an alternate Spanish-language audio feed (carried either as a separate second audio program track or sold by cable and satellite providers in the form of a separate channel that is part of a Spanish-language programming package). Hannah Montana and The Suite Life on Deck both ended in 2011; Sonny with a Chance, meanwhile, was retooled as So Random! – focusing on the show within the show – after Demi Lovato decided not to return to the series to focus on her music career, following her treatment for bulimia and bipolar disorder (the So Random! spin-off series was canceled after one season in May 2012). Four other series (A.N.T. Farm, PrankStars, Jessie and Austin & Ally) also debuted that year, along with six made for-TV movies (including The Suite Life Movie, Lemonade Mouth and Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension). 2012 saw Disney Channel end Nickelodeon's 17-year run as the highest-rated cable channel in the United States, with its first ever win in total day cable network viewership as measured by ACNielsen. In June of that year, The Walt Disney Company announced that it would stop advertising or promoting food or beverage products that do not meet strict nutritional guidelines on Disney Channel or its other media properties aimed at children by 2015, purportedly becoming the first media company to take such a stance on stopping the marketing of junk food products to kids.
On-screen mark seen at the beginning of Disney Channel programs indicator the program features DVS audio. On July 1, 2012, Disney Channel began providing Descriptive Video Service audio as part of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 that required stations in the 25 largest media markets aligned with the major broadcast networks as well as the five highest-rated cable and satellite channels (including Disney Channel) to offer audio descriptions for the blindt. On July 14, 2012, Disney Channel announced its first television collaboration with Marvel Entertainment (which was acquired by The Walt Disney Company in 2009), in the form of a crossover special that aired on August 23, 2013 called Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel featuring characters from Phineas and Ferb and the Marvel Universe.In January 2013, Disney launched the Disney Shows channel on YouTube, featuring free episodes of Disney Channel and Disney XD series past and present, as well as original shorts seen on both channels. On July 19, 2013, the original movie Teen Beach Movie premiered, with no other films preceding it or succeeding it that year, making it the first time that Disney Channel has premiered only one film during a calendar year (although the last time the channel premiered only one made-for-cable film during a calendar year was in 1992, when its original films were branded under the "Disney Channel Premiere Films" banner, with the premiere of Still Not Quite Human).
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