ABC Family Worldwide
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The company was originally formed as International Family Entertainment, a spin-out of the Christian Broadcasting Network's cable network The Family Channel. In 1993, IFE acquired the assets of defunct British ITV broadcaster Television South, whose holdings included the library of U.S. studio MTM Enterprises.
In 1997, IFE was acquired by News Corporation; the MTM library was melded into 20th Century Fox Television's library, while the remainder was melded into Fox Kids Worldwide (a merger of its Fox Kids unit with Saban Entertainment), to form Fox Family Worldwide (likewise, The Family Channel would be re-named Fox Family Channel). The division was later sold to its current owner, The Walt Disney Company, in 2001 for $5.3 billion.
International Family Entertainment
The company has its origins in Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network; the religious broadcaster had re-positioned its CBN Satellite Service, which primarily carried televangelism, as the CBN Cable Network, which carried a mixture of family entertainment programming and religious programs. Owing to its new scope, the service was later renamed the CBN Family Channel.
By the 1990's, the network had become too profitable to remain under the ownership of the non-profit CBN without legal repercussions; a decision was made to spin-out the CBN Family Channel into a new for-profit company, International Family Entertainment. It would be owned by Pat Robertson's son, Timothy Robertson, and operated as a joint venture between the Robertsons and John C. Malone, owner of Denver-based cable television provider Tele-Communications Inc. and multimedia firm Liberty Media) for $250 million in convertible securities. The Robertsons paid $150,000 to acquire 4.5 million shares and a controlling ownership interest in IFE, with Pat and Tim subsequently purchasing an additional 1.5 million shares. Due to the spin-out, the network was re-named to simply The Family Channel. As a stipulation of the spin-out, The Family Channel was required to maintain daily airings of CBN's flagship television program The 700 Club.
In June 1993, prior to its launch, IFE sold a 39% stake in a British version of The Family Channel to local company Flextech. In October, IFE also acquired the library of Television South, a former ITV franchisee in Southern England, for $68.5 million; its holdings included the library of MTM Enterprises. In March 1996, Flextech bought out IFE's share of the service, giving it full ownership.
In December 1993, IFE opened a bidding war to acquire the Nostalgia Network, against a partnership of Florida-based MOR Music TV Inc. and Arizona-based Gen-She Inc., and part-owner Concept Communications (owned by the Unification Church).
Fox Family Worldwide
In 1996, News Corporation's Fox Children's Productions and Haim Saban's Saban Entertainment merged to form Fox Kids Worldwide. With the growing shift in children's television from over-the-air programming blocks to cable channels such as Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, the two companies sought a cable outlet for programming from the popular Fox Kids lineup. Eying The Family Channel, News Corp. made an offer to purchase IFE through the joint venture in 1997.
Viacom and Disney made competing offers for IFE; Viacom dropped out of bidding, and News Corp. offered $1.8 billion. News Corp. won with a bid of $1.9 billion. The acquisition closed on June 11, 1997; IFE was folded into Fox Kids Worldwide, which itself was re-named Fox Family Worldwide. On August 15, 1998, The Family Channel was renamed Fox Family Channel; Fox continued to be subject to the mandate that The 700 Club be broadcast by the network. Rights to the MTM Enterprises library were folded into 20th Century Fox Television.
In October 1996, a Fox Kids channel was launched in the United Kingdom. In November 1999, Fox Kids Europe was formed, with 75.7% being held by Fox Family Worldwide, and the remainder listed on the Euronext.
ABC Family Worldwide
On October 24, 2001, The Walt Disney Company acquired Fox Family Worldwide for $2.9 billion cash plus $2.3 billion in debt assumption, which gave Disney control of the Saban Entertainment library, as well as the Fox Family channel (which, owing to its new ownership, was re-named ABC Family, and its parent company re-named ABC Family Worldwide). The sale also gave Disney additional cable rights to Major League Baseball that were assigned to Fox Family via the Fox Sports division, which included a slate of Thursday-night regular season games, and Division Series games. ESPN assumed the production responsibilities for these games, although they continued to air on ABC Family for the time being (along with over-the-air television stations in the local markets of the teams involved in the case of playoff games).
The Fox network's Fox Kids programming block was not included in the sale; it would continue to operate under the Fox Television Entertainment division until 2002, when Fox entered into a time-brokerage agreement with 4Kids Entertainment to program a new weekend cartoon block for the network.
In October 2003, ABC Family Worldwide was amalgamated into the ABC Cable Networks Group run by Anne Sweeney. In January 2004, Fox Kids Europe, Fox Kids Latin America and the ABC Cable Group launched a new joint brand for their children's television operations, Jetix, which would be used to brand programming blocks which aired on ABC Family and Toon Disney, its television channels in Europe and Latin America, along with its programm library and merchandising.
On December 8, 2008, Disney reached an agreement to increase its ownership in Jetix Europe to 96%, and announced an intent to purchase the remainder to give it full ownership. Following its takeover of Jetix Europe, Disney began migrating the Jetix properties in the region to a new brand, Disney XD. In 2009, Switchover Media—a company formed by the management of the Italian Jetix operation, acquired the K2 and GXT networks from Disney, and managed the Italian Jetix channel until its re-branding as Disney XD. In August 2010, Saban Capital Group, the successor to Saban Entertainment, bought back the rights to the Power Rangers franchise (which had been acquired by Disney through the purchase of Saban's library via Fox Family Worldwide) from Disney for $43 million.
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