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ABC has some catching up to do. If this were the Boston, they started in New hampshire. ABC bought its way into the big three, and it still has some work to do. ABC tends to fight itself alot.

Think about this. In the 80’s and 90’s all three major broadcasting companies were bought out. In the cases of NBC and CBS, they were bought out by large appliance and electric corporations. ABC is bought by the Walt Disney Company.

ABC is bought out by a company that had owned its own cable network since 1981. Disney was already in the business of providing entertainment. ABC and Disney had been working together since ABC helped to finance Disneyland in 1953.

ABC had exclusive rights to Walt Disney’s material for a long time, helping them to gain ground in market share. But as had always been the problem for ABC, they didn’t have the moeny to start broadcasting in Color when the first opportunities arose. So Disney took his show to NBC and renamed it ‘Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”.

They have always been a step behind CBS and NBC, and once again they find themselves competing with their own parent company. Its a tough spot for ABC. When ABC succeeds, Disney prospers. When Disney’s operations do well, it could go either way.

The Disney Channel and ABC Family channels both compete for the same target market. When a Disney channel show is popular, it is likely tuning sets away from ABC.

But, the infusions of cash and resources from Disney have been  a life line of sorts for ABC. The merger brought with it touchstone pictures, and they began producing ABC’s original programing. In 2007 Touchstone changed its name to ABC Studios and is now the production company for all of ABC’s biggest primetime hits.

So, what does all of this mean in terms of challenges facing ABC in the road ahead? Their biggest challenge will be overcoming NBC and CBS with programing alone. With the least HD options available, ABC has to find a way to stand out from the crowd, and the best way to do that is by offering the best shows at the best times.

Next they need to get ahead of the curve. They have begun that process already by becoming an early adopter of providing full-length episodes on the web. The ability to access content when and where the user wants it has almost become an assumption in American culture.

Finally, they must figure out a way to get out from the shadow of the Walt Disney Company. Competing with the company that pays your bills is always difficult. Disney has given ABC leaps and bounds, but how far has it set it self back?


When the first true radio networks began to develop in the 1920s, CBS and NBC rose to become giants in broadcasting. NBC Quickly began acquiring radio stations and found itself with two distinct broadcast entities. They labeled them as NBC Red and NBC Blue.

An FCC study discovered that this dual ownership of the two major broadcasting companies was detrimental to the burgeoning industry. So they required NBC to sell one of their two holdings. NBC Red was more successful than Blue, so NBC elected to sell Blue.

Owner of Life Savers candy, Edward Noble, purchased The Blue Network from NBC in the fall of 1943 and one year later renamed the network American Broadcasting Company. Noble purchased shows such as The “Lone Ranger” and “Sky King” to try and build an audience. Several highly rated stars wanted out of their tight schedules with other broadcasters and moved to up-and-coming ABC.

On April 19, 1948, ABC officially became a multi-media organization when the ABC Television Network went on the air in Philadelphia. It struggled to really gain a foothold in the market until it pioneered a few innovations in TV broadcasting.

In 1961 it debuted “Wide World of Sports” and in 1970 ABC became the exclusive home of “Monday Night Football” on television. Roone Alredge would help to found ABC Sports and create the multi-billion-dollar industry that is sports broadcasting..

ABC found success in the 60’s by creating youth-oriented programing like “American Bandstand.” They continue this tradition today with the ABC Family division.

In 1984, ABC acquired majority control of the increasingly popular ESPN. In the late 80’s and early 90’s ABC’s market share began to slip, and tried creating a series of Friday night programing it called TGIF.

In 1996, the Walt Disney Company bought ABC and all of its holdings and incorporated it into its entertainment division. Many believed this would help propel ABC to the number one spot among broadcast networks, but it was slow going at first.

In 1999, ABC saw a temporary boost thanks to the tremendously popular “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”. But a gamble on ABC’s part to move “Millionaire” to the same time slot as CBS’ “Survivor” to kill the show, backfired, and “Millionare” slowly lost viewers due to repeated over-exposure.

The Disney age saw a run of mildly successful dramas and sitcoms, but still nothing carried ABC upwards. In fact, by the end of the 2003-2004 television season, ABC had fallen to fourth – below FOX – becoming the first of the original three to do so.

ABC played their trump cards to start out the 2004-2005 season premiering two dramas. “Desperate Housewives” and “LOST” helped to rejuvenate the struggling network. They followed those up with “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Ugly Betty” in the next two seasons. They found success in the reality market after several failed attempts with “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

ABC was the last of the big three into, radio, television and HDTV, so it is attempting to get back ahead of the curve now. It was the first broadcast network to offer full-length episodes on its website. Several of its most popular shows are now available in HD the day after the episode airs.

I believe that ABC’s HD player is the easiest to use, and it contains more content and more full-length episodes than the other broadcast networks.

May 2018
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