The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) is an American commercial broadcast television network that is a flagship property of Walt Disney Television, a subsidiary of the Disney Media Networks division of The Walt Disney Company. The network is headquartered in Burbank, California on Riverside Drive, directly across the street from Walt Disney Studios and adjacent to the Roy E. Disney Animation Building. The network's secondary offices, and headquarters of its news division, is in New York City, New York, at their broadcast center at 77 West 66th Street in the Upper West Side of Manhattan.|
The television network has eight owned-and-operated and over 232 affiliated television stations throughout the United States and its territories. Some of the ABC-affiliated stations can also be seen in Canada via pay-television providers, and certain other affiliates can also be received over-the-air in areas within the Canada–United States border. ABC News provides news and features content for select radio stations owned by Citadel Broadcasting, which purchased the ABC Radio properties in 2007 (however relaunched in 2014).
In 1934, Mutual filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding its difficulties in establishing new stations, in a radio market that was already being saturated by NBC and CBS. In 1938, the FCC began a series of investigations into the practices of radio networks and published its report on the broadcasting of network radio programs in 1940. The report recommended that RCA give up control of either NBC Red or NBC Blue. At that time, the NBC Red Network was the principal radio network in the United States and, according to the FCC, RCA was using NBC Blue to eliminate any hint of competition. Having no power over the networks themselves, the FCC established a regulation forbidding licenses to be issued for radio stations if they were affiliated with a network which already owned multiple networks that provided content of public interest.
While its radio network was undergoing reconstruction, ABC found it difficult to avoid falling behind on the new medium of television. To ensure a space, in 1947, ABC submitted five applications for television station licenses, one for each market where it owned and operated a radio station (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Detroit). These applications all requested for the stations to broadcast on VHF channel 7, as Frank Marx, then ABC's vice-president of engineering, thought that the low-band VHF frequencies (corresponding to channels 2 through 6) would be requisitioned from broadcasting use and reallocated for the U.S. Army.
At the end of 1949, movie theater operator United Paramount Theatres (UPT) was forced by the U.S. Supreme Court to become an independent entity, separating itself from Paramount Pictures. For its part, ABC was on the verge of bankruptcy, with only five owned-and-operated stations and nine full-time affiliates. Its revenues, which were related to advertising and were indexed compared to the number of listeners/viewers, failed to compensate for its heavy investments in purchasing and building stations. In 1951, a rumor even mentioned that the network would be sold to CBS. In 1951, Noble held a 58% ownership stake in ABC, giving him $5 million with which to prevent ABC from going bankrupt; as banks refused further credit, that amount was obtained through a loan from the Prudential Insurance Company of America.
When Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955, ABC aired a special live broadcast commemorating the park's first day of operation, Dateline: Disneyland. Shortly thereafter, on October 3, 1955, a second regularly scheduled program produced by Disney made its debut, The Mickey Mouse Club, a children's program that aired Monday through Friday afternoons, which starred a group of 24 children known as the "Mouseketeers". The two Disney programs made 1955 the year that the network was first profitable and as a station owner.
On September 3, 1958, the Disneyland anthology series was retitled Walt Disney Presents as it became disassociated with the theme park of the same name. The movement in westerns, which ABC is credited for having started, represented a fifth of all primetime series on American television in January 1959, at which point detective shows were beginning to rise in popularity as well. ABC requested additional productions from Disney. In late 1958, Desilu Productions pitched its detective series The Untouchables Starring Robert Stack to CBS; after that network rejected the show because of its use of violence, Desilu then presented it to ABC, which agreed to pick up the show, and debuted The Untouchables in April 1959. The series went on to quickly become "immensely popular".
Always in search of new programs that would help it compete with NBC and CBS, ABC's management believed that sports could be a major catalyst in improving the network's market share. On April 29, 1961, ABC debuted Wide World of Sports, an anthology series created by Edgar Scherick through his company Sports Programs, Inc. and produced by a young Roone Arledge which featured a different sporting event each broadcast. ABC purchased Sports Programs, Inc. in exchange for shares in the company, leading it to become the future core of ABC Sports, with Arledge as the executive producer of that division's shows. Wide World of Sports, in particular, was not merely devoted to a single sport, but rather to generally all sporting events.
In 1970, the FCC voted to pass the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules, a set of regulations aimed at preventing the major networks from monopolizing the broadcast landscape by barring them from owning any of the prime time programming that they broadcast. In 1972, the new rules resulted in the company's decision to split ABC Films into two separate companies: the existing Worldvision Enterprises, which would produce and distribute programming for U.S. syndication, and ABC Circle Films as a production unit. Worldvision was sold to a consortium of ABC executives for nearly $10 million.
Daniel Burke departed from Capital Cities/ABC in February 1994, with Thomas Murphy taking over as president before ceding control to Robert Iger. September 1993 saw the debut of NYPD Blue, a gritty police procedural from Steven Bochco (who created Doogie Howser, M.D. and the critically pilloried Cop Rock for ABC earlier in the decade); lasting twelve seasons, the drama became known for its boundary pushing of network television standards (particularly its occasional use of graphic language and rear nudity), which led some affiliates to initially refuse to air the show in its first season.
The network began running into some trouble in the ratings by 2010. That year, the sixth and final season of Lost became the drama's lowest-rated season since its debut in 2004. Ratings for the once instant-hit Ugly Betty collapsed dramatically after it was moved to Fridays at the start of its fourth season in the fall of 2009; an attempt to boost ratings by moving the dramedy to Wednesdays failed, with its ultimate cancellation by the network eliciting negative reaction from the public, and particularly the show's fanbase. With the network's two former hit shows now out of the picture, the network's remaining top veteran shows Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, and another hit drama Brothers & Sisters, all ended the 2009–10 season having recorded their lowest ratings ever.