The Fox Broadcasting Company (often shortened to Fox and stylized in all caps as FOX) is an American free-to-air television network that is a flagship property of the Fox Corporation. The network is headquartered at 1211 Avenue of the Americas in New York City, with additional offices at the Fox Broadcasting Center (Also in New York) and at the Fox Television Center in Los Angeles.
Launched on October 9, 1986, as a competitor to the Big Three television networks (ABC, CBS and NBC), Fox went on to become the most successful attempt at a fourth television network. It was the highest-rated free-to-air network in the 18–49 demographic from 2004 to 2012, and earned the position as the most-watched American television network in total viewership during the 2007–08 season.
Fox and its affiliated companies operate many entertainment channels in international markets, although these do not necessarily air the same programming as the U.S. network. Most viewers in Canada have access to at least one U.S.-based Fox affiliate, either free-to-air or through a pay television provider, although Fox's National Football League broadcasts and most of its prime time programming are subject to simultaneous substitution regulations for pay television providers imposed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to protect rights held by domestically based networks.
The network is named after 20th Century Fox, Fox's original parent company (and still its major supplier of programming, despite its acquisition by The Walt Disney Company), and indirectly for producer William Fox, who founded one of the movie studio's predecessors, Fox Film. Fox is a member of the North American Broadcasters Association and the National Association of Broadcasters.
20th Century Fox had been involved in television production as early as the 1950s, producing several syndicated programs. Following the demise of the DuMont Television Network in August 1956 after it became mired in severe financial problems, the NTA Film Network was launched as a new "fourth network". 20th Century Fox would also produce original content for the NTA network. The film network effort would fail after a few years, but 20th Century Fox continued to dabble in television through its production arm, TCF Television Productions, producing series (such as Perry Mason) for the three major broadcast television networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS).
The Fox network's foundations were laid in March 1985 through News Corporation's $255 million purchase of a 50% interest in TCF Holdings, the parent company of the 20th Century Fox film studio. In May 1985, News Corporation, a media company owned by Australian publishing magnate Rupert Murdoch that had mainly served as a newspaper publisher at the time of the TCF Holdings deal, agreed to pay $2.55 billion to acquire independent television stations in six major U.S. cities from the John Kluge-run broadcasting company Metromedia: WNEW-TV in New York City, WTTG in Washington, D.C., KTTV in Los Angeles, KRIV-TV in Houston, WFLD-TV in Chicago, and KRLD-TV in Dallas. A seventh station, ABC affiliate WCVB-TV in Boston, was part of the original transaction but was spun off to the Hearst Broadcasting subsidiary of the Hearst Corporation in a separate, concurrent deal as part of a right of first refusal related to that station's 1982 sale to Metromedia. (Two years later, News Corporation acquired WXNE-TV in that market from the Christian Broadcasting Network and changed its call letters to WFXT.)
Because Metromedia (originally known as Metropolitan Broadcasting at its founding) was spun off from the failed DuMont Television Network, radio personality Clarke Ingram has suggested that the Fox network is a revival or at least a linear descendant of DuMont. The former Metromedia stations WNEW (originally known as WABD) and WTTG were two of the three original owned-and-operated stations of the DuMont network, and that the former base of DuMont's operations, the DuMont Tele-Centre in Manhattan, eventually became the present-day Fox Television Center.
In October 1985, 20th Century Fox announced its intentions to form a fourth television network that would compete with ABC, CBS, and NBC. The plans were to use the combination of the Fox studios and the former Metromedia stations to both produce and distribute programming. Organizational plans for the network were held off until the Metromedia acquisitions cleared regulatory hurdles. Then, in December 1985, Rupert Murdoch agreed to pay $325 million to acquire the remaining equity in TCF Holdings from his original partner, Marvin Davis. The purchase of the Metromedia stations was approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in March 1986; the call letters of the New York City and Dallas outlets were subsequently changed respectively to WNYW and KDAF. These first six stations, then broadcasting to a combined reach of 22% of the nation's households, became known as the Fox Television Stations group. With the exception of KDAF (which was sold to Renaissance Broadcasting in 1995, at which time it became a charter affiliate of The WB), all of the original owned-and-operated stations ("O&Os") are still part of the Fox network today. Like the core O&O group, Fox's affiliate body initially consisted of independent stations (a few of which had maintained affiliations with ABC, NBC, CBS or DuMont earlier in their existences). The local charter affiliate was, in most cases, that market's top-rated independent; however, Fox opted to affiliate with a second-tier independent station in markets where a more established independent declined the affiliation (such as Denver, Phoenix and St. Louis). Largely because of both these factors, Fox – in a situation very similar to what DuMont had experienced four decades before – had little choice but to affiliate with UHF stations in all except a few (mainly larger) markets where the network gained clearance.
The Fox Broadcasting Company officially debuted with a soft launch at 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time on Thursday, October 9, 1986. Its inaugural program was a late-night talk show, The Late Show, which was hosted by comedian Joan Rivers. After a strong start, The Late Show quickly eroded in the ratings; it was never able to overtake NBC stalwart The Tonight Show – whose then-host Johnny Carson, upset over her becoming his late-night competitor, banned Rivers (a frequent Tonight guest and substitute host) from appearing on his show (Rivers would not appear on Tonight again until February 2014, seven months before her death, by which time Jimmy Fallon was its host). By early 1987, Rivers (and her then-husband Edgar Rosenberg, the show's original executive producer) quit The Late Show after disagreements with the network over the show's creative direction; the program then began to be hosted by a succession of guest hosts. After that point, some stations that affiliated with Fox in the weeks before the April 1987 launch of its prime time lineup (such as WCGV-TV in Milwaukee and WDRB-TV in Louisville) signed affiliation agreements with the network on the condition that they would not have to carry The Late Show due to the program's weak ratings.
The network had its "grand opening" when it expanded its programming into prime time on April 5, 1987, inaugurating its Sunday night lineup with the premieres of the sitcom Married... with Children and the sketch comedy series The Tracey Ullman Show. The premieres of both series were rebroadcast twice following their initial airings (at 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. Eastern/Pacific, respectively) that night, which Jamie Kellner, who served as the network's President and Chief Operating Officer until his resignation in January 1993, stated would allow viewers to "sample FBC programming without missing 60 Minutes, Murder, She Wrote or the 8 o'clock movies". Fox added one new show per week over the next several weeks, with the drama 21 Jump Street, and comedies Mr. President and Duet completing its Sunday schedule. On July 11, the network rolled out its Saturday night schedule with the premiere of the supernatural drama series Werewolf, which began with a two-hour pilot movie event. Three other series were added to the Saturday lineup over the next three weeks: comedies The New Adventures of Beans Baxter, Karen's Song and Down and Out in Beverly Hills (the latter being an adaptation of the film of the same name). Both Karen's Song and Down and Out in Beverly Hills were canceled by the start of the 1987–88 television season, the network's first fall launch, and were replaced by the sitcoms Second Chance and Women in Prison.
In regards to its late night lineup, Fox had already decided to cancel The Late Show, and had a replacement series in development, The Wilton North Report, when the former series began a ratings resurgence under its final guest host, comedian Arsenio Hall. Wilton North lasted just a few weeks, however, and the network was unable to reach a deal with Hall to return as host when it hurriedly revived The Late Show in early 1988. The Late Show went back to featuring guest hosts, eventually selecting Ross Shafer as its permanent host, only for it to be canceled for good by October 1988, while Hall signed a deal with Paramount Television to develop his own syndicated late night talk show, The Arsenio Hall Show. Fox aired the 39th Primetime Emmy Awards and would air the next five editions.
Although the network had modest successes in Married... with Children and The Tracy Ullman Show, several affiliates were disappointed with Fox's largely underperforming programming lineup during the network's first three years; KMSP-TV in Minneapolis and KPTV in Portland, Oregon, both owned at the time by Chris-Craft Television, disaffiliated from Fox in 1988 (with KITN, now WFTC) and KPDX respectively replacing those stations as Fox affiliates), citing that the network's weaker program offerings were hampering viewership of their stronger syndicated slate.
At the start of the 1989–90 television season, Fox added a third night of programming, on Mondays. The season heralded the start of a turnaround for Fox. It saw the debut of a midseason replacement series, The Simpsons, an animated series that originated as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show; ranked at a three-way tie for 29th place in the Nielsen ratings, it became a breakout hit and was the first Fox series to break the Top 30. The Simpsons, at 30 years as of 2018, is the longest-running American sitcom, the longest-running American animated program, and in 2009, it surpassed Gunsmoke as the longest-running American scripted primetime television series. That year, Fox also first introduced the documentary series Cops and crime-focused magazine program America's Most Wanted (the latter of which debuted as a half-hour series as part of the network's mainly comedy-based Sunday lineup for its first season, before expanding to an hour and moving to Fridays for the 1990–91 season). These two series, which would become staples on the network for just over two decades, would eventually be paired to form the nucleus of Fox's Saturday night schedule beginning in the 1994–95 season. Meanwhile, Married... with Children – which broke ground from other family sitcoms of the period as it centered on a dysfunctional lower-middle-class family, whose patriarch often openly loathed his failures and being saddled with a wife and two children – saw viewer interest substantially increase beginning in its third season after, in an ironic twist, Michigan homemaker Terry Rakolta lodged a boycott to force Fox to cancel the series after objecting to risque humor and sexual content featured in a 1989 episode. Married...'s newfound success led it to become the network's longest-running live-action sitcom, airing for 11 seasons.
Fox survived where DuMont and other attempts to start a fourth network had failed because it programmed just under the number of hours defined by the FCC to legally be considered a network. This allowed Fox to make revenue in ways forbidden to the established networks (for instance, it did not have to adhere to the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules that were in effect at the time), since during its first years it was considered to be merely a large group of stations. By comparison, DuMont was saddled by numerous regulatory barriers that hampered its potential to grow, most notably a ban on acquiring additional stations – during an era when the FCC had much tighter ownership limits for television stations (limiting broadcasters to a maximum of five stations nationwide) than it did when Fox launched – since its minority owner, Paramount Pictures owned two television stations (one of which had already disaffiliated from the network). Combined with the three television stations owned by network parent DuMont Laboratories, this put DuMont at the legal limit at the time. In addition, 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.
Most of the other startup networks that launched in later years (such as The WB, UPN and The CW) followed Fox's model as well. Furthermore, DuMont operated during a time when the FCC did not require television manufacturers to include UHF capability. In order to see DuMont's UHF stations, most people had to buy an expensive converter. Even then, the picture quality was marginal at best. By the time Fox launched, cable allowed UHF stations to generally be on an equal footing with VHF stations.
Although Fox was growing rapidly as a network and had established itself as a presence, it was still not considered a major competitor to the established "Big Three" broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC. From its launch, Fox had the advantage of offering programs intended to appeal toward a younger demographic – adults between 18 and 49 years of age – and that were edgier in content, whereas some programs that were carried by the "Big Three" networks attracted an older-skewing audience. Until the early 1990s, when Fox expanded its programming to additional nights and outside prime time, most Fox stations were still essentially formatted as independent stations – filling their schedules with mainly first-run and acquired programming, and, during prime time, running either syndicated programs or, more commonly, movies on nights when the network did not provide programming. Few Fox stations carried local newscasts during the network's early years, unlike the owned-and-operated stations and affiliates of its established rivals. Those that did were mostly based in larger markets (including some of the network's O&Os) and retained newscasts that had aired for decades. Even then, these news operations were limited to one newscast per day, following the network's prime time lineup.
On September 6, 1990, Fox reached an agreement with TCI (the nation's largest cable company at the time) in which TCI systems in markets that were not served by an over-the-air Fox affiliate at the time would become charter affiliates of a cable-only national feed of the network known as Foxnet. The cable-only network launched on June 6, 1991, bringing Fox programming to smaller markets that did not carry a default Fox affiliate at the time; it would manage to reach a total of 1.3 million subscribers by 1992.
As Fox gradually headed towards carrying a full week's worth of programming in prime time – through the addition of programming on Thursday and Friday nights at the start of the 1990–91 season – the network's added offerings included the scheduling of The Simpsons opposite veteran NBC sitcom The Cosby Show as part of Fox's initial Thursday night lineup that fall (along with future hit Beverly Hills, 90210, which would become the network's longest-running drama, airing for ten seasons) after only a half-season of success on Sunday nights. The show performed well in its new Thursday slot, spending four seasons there and helping to launch Martin, another Fox comedy that became a hit when it debuted in August 1992. The Simpsons returned to Sunday nights in the fall of 1994, and has remained there ever since.
The sketch comedy series In Living Color, which debuted in April 1990, created many memorable characters and launched the careers of future movie stars Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, Damon Wayans, Keenen Ivory Wayans and Jennifer Lopez (the latter of whom was a member of the show's dance troupe, the "Fly Girls"). The series also gained international prominence after Fox aired a special live episode in January 1992 as an alternative to the halftime show during Super Bowl XXVI, which was broadcast on CBS, marking the start of Fox's rivalry with the "Big Three" networks while popularizing the counterprogramming strategy against the Super Bowl telecast.
The early and mid-1990s saw the debuts of several soap opera-style prime time dramas aimed at younger audiences that became quick hits, which, in addition to Beverly Hills, 90210, included its adult-focused spin-off Melrose Place (which initially had a mediocre ratings performance, before viewership rose significantly midway through its first season following Heather Locklear's addition to the cast) and family drama Party of Five. The early and mid-1990s also saw the network launch several series aimed at a black audience, which, in addition to Martin, included the sitcom Living Single and police procedural New York Undercover.
Despite having a few successful shows like The X-Files, Fox still lacked credibility among viewers. Even those working in television thought of the network as "the one that has that cartoon show" (The Simpsons). More than 85% of affiliates in 1993 were UHF stations. Fox become a viable competitor to the older networks when it won broadcast television rights to the National Football League away from CBS. In December 1993, Fox signed a contract with the NFL to televise games from the National Football Conference—which had been airing its games on CBS since 1956—starting with the 1994 season. The initial four-year contract, which Fox bid $1.58 billion to obtain—while CBS offered $295 million per year to retain the rights—also included the exclusive U.S. television rights to Super Bowl XXXI in 1997. The network also lured Pat Summerall, John Madden, Dick Stockton, Matt Millen, James Brown, Terry Bradshaw, and behind-the-scenes production personnel, from CBS Sports to staff its NFL coverage.
Shortly afterward, News Corporation began striking affiliation deals with, and later purchasing, more television station groups. On May 23, 1994, Fox agreed to purchase a 20% stake in New World Communications, a television and film production company controlled by investor Ronald Perelman that had just recently entered into broadcasting through its 1993 purchase of seven stations owned by SCI Television. As a result of Fox acquiring a 20% minority interest in the company, New World signed an agreement to switch the affiliations of twelve stations (eight CBS affiliates, three ABC affiliates – two of which were subsequently placed in a blind trust and then sold directly to Fox due to conflicts with FCC ownership rules – and one NBC affiliate) that it had either already owned outright or was in the process of acquiring from Citicasters and Argyle Communications at the time to Fox starting in September 1994 and continuing as existing affiliation contracts with their existing major network partners expired.
That summer, SF Broadcasting, a joint venture between Fox and Savoy Pictures that was founded in March 1994, purchased four stations from Burnham Broadcasting (three NBC affiliates and one ABC affiliate); through a separate agreement, those stations would also switch to Fox between September 1995 and January 1996 as existing affiliation agreements lapsed. These two deals were not the first instances in which a longtime "Big Three" station affiliated with Fox: the network scored its first major coup when it moved its Miami affiliation from charter affiliate WCIX (which became a CBS owned-and-operated station, now WFOR-TV) to NBC affiliate WSVN in January 1989, the result of a three-station affiliation swap spurred by NBC's purchase of longtime CBS affiliate WTVJ. Through the expansion of its news programming and a refocused emphasis on crime stories and sensationalistic reporting under news director Joel Cheatwood, that switch helped the perennial third-place WSVN become a strong competitor in the Miami market.
The NFC contract, in fact, was the impetus for the affiliation deal with New World and SF Broadcasting's purchase of the Burnham stations, as Fox sought to improve local coverage of its new NFL package by aligning the network with stations that had more established histories and advertiser value than its charter affiliates. The deals spurred a series of affiliation realignments between all four U.S. television networks involving individual stations and various broadcasting groups – such as those between CBS and Group W (whose corporate parent later bought the network in August 1995), and ABC and the E. W. Scripps Company (which owned three Fox affiliates that switched to either ABC or NBC as a result of the New World deal) – affecting 30 television markets between September 1994 and September 1996. The two deals also had the side benefit of increasing local news programming on the new Fox affiliates, mirroring the programming format adopted by WSVN upon that station's switch to the network (as well as expanding the number of news-producing stations in Fox's portfolio beyond mainly charter stations in certain large and mid-sized markets).
With significant market share for the first time ever and the rights to the NFL, Fox firmly established itself as the nation's fourth major network. Fox Television Stations would acquire New World outright on July 17, 1996 in a $2.48 billion stock purchase, making the latter's twelve Fox affiliates owned-and-operated stations of the network; the deal was completed on January 22, 1997. Later, in August 2000, Fox bought several stations owned by Chris-Craft Industries and its subsidiaries BHC Communications and United Television for $5.5 billion (most of these stations were UPN affiliates, although its Minneapolis station KMSP-TV would rejoin Fox in September 2002 as an owned-and-operated station). These purchases, for a time, made Fox Television Stations the largest owner of television stations in the U.S. (a title that has since been assumed by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the network's largest affiliate groups).
Fox completed its prime time expansion to all seven nights on January 19, 1993, with the launch of two additional nights of programming on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (The method of gradually adding nights to the programming schedule that began with the network's April 1987 prime time launch was replicated by The WB and UPN when those networks debuted in January 1995). September 1993 saw the heavy promotion and debut of a short-lived western series that incorporated science-fiction elements, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. However, it was the supernatural investigative drama that debuted immediately following it on Friday nights, The X-Files, that would find long-lasting success, and would become Fox's first series to crack Nielsen's year-end Top 20 most-watched network programs. After several other failed attempts at late night programming following the cancellation of The Late Show (most notably, the quick failure of The Chevy Chase Show in 1993), Fox finally found success in that time period with the debut of MADtv on October 14, 1995; the sketch comedy series became a solid competitor to NBC's Saturday Night Live for over a decade and was the network's most successful late night program as well as one of its most successful Saturday night shows, running for 14 seasons until its cancellation in 2009.
An attempt to make a larger effort to program Saturday nights by moving Married... with Children from its longtime Sunday slot and adding a new but short-lived sitcom (Love and Marriage) to the night at the beginning of the 1996–97 season backfired with the public, as it resulted in a brief cancellation of America's Most Wanted that was criticized by law enforcement and public officials, and was roundly rejected by viewers, which brought swift cancellation to the newer series. Married... quickly returned to Sundays (before moving again to Mondays two months later); both it and Martin would end their runs at the end of that season. The Saturday schedule was revised in November 1996, to feature one new and one encore episode of Cops, and the revived America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back. Cops and AMW remained the anchors of Fox's Saturday lineup, making it the most stable night in American broadcast television for over 14 years; both shows eventually were among the few first-run programs remaining on Saturday evenings across the four major networks after decreasing prime time viewership – as more people opted to engage in leisure activities away from home rather than watch television on that night of the week – led ABC, NBC and CBS to largely abandon first-run series on Saturdays (outside newsmagazines, sports and burned off prime time shows that failed on other nights) in favor of reruns and movies by the mid-2000s. America's Most Wanted ended its 22-year run on Fox in June 2011, and was subsequently picked up by Lifetime (before being cancelled for good in 2013); Cops, in turn, would move its first-run episodes to Spike in 2013 after 23 seasons (ending its original run on Fox as the network's longest-running prime time program), leaving sports and repeats of reality and drama series as the only programs airing on Fox on Saturday evenings.
By the 1997–98 season, Fox had three shows in the Nielsen Top 20, The X-Files (which ranked 11th), King of the Hill (which ranked 15th) and The Simpsons (which ranked 18th). Building around its flagship animated comedy The Simpsons, Fox would experience relative success with animated series in prime time, beginning with the debut of the Mike Judge-produced King of the Hill in 1997. Family Guy (the first of three adult-oriented animated series from Seth MacFarlane to air on the network) and Futurama (from Simpsons creator Matt Groening) would make their debuts in 1999; however, they were canceled in 2002 and 2003 respectively. Due to strong DVD sales and highly rated cable reruns on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, Fox later decided to order new episodes of Family Guy, which began airing in 2005. Futurama would be revived with four direct-to-DVD films between 2007 and 2009 and would return as a first-run series on Comedy Central, where it ran from 2010 to 2013. Less successful efforts included The Critic, starring Saturday Night Live alumnus Jon Lovitz (which Fox picked up in 1994 after it was cancelled by ABC, only for the series to be cancelled again after its second season), and The PJs (which moved to The WB in 2000, after Fox cancelled that series after its second season). Other notable shows that debuted in the late 1990s included the quirky David E. Kelley-produced live-action dramedy Ally McBeal and period comedy That '70s Show, the latter of which became Fox's second-longest-running live-action sitcom, airing for eight seasons.
Throughout the 1990s and into the next decade, Fox launched a slate of cable channels beginning with the 1994 debuts of general entertainment network FX and movie channel FXM: Movies from Fox (now FX Movie Channel), followed by the debut of Fox News Channel in August 1996. Its sports operations expanded with the acquisition of controlling interests in several regional sports networks (including the Prime Network and SportsChannel) between 1996 and 2000 to form Fox Sports Net (which launched in November 1996), its 2000 purchase of Speedvision (later Speed Channel, which was replaced in the United States by Fox Sports 1 in August 2013; however, it continues to exist in other North American and Caribbean countries as Fox Sports Racing), and the launches of Fox Sports World (later Fox Soccer, which was replaced by FXX in September 2013) and Fox Sports en Español (now Fox Deportes) in the early 2000s.
By 2000, many staple Fox shows of the 1990s had ended their runs. During the late 1990s and carrying over into the early 2000s, Fox put much of its efforts into producing reality shows – many of which were considered to be sensationalistic and controversial in nature – such as Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, Temptation Island, Married by America and Joe Millionaire (which became the first Fox program ever to crack the Nielsen Top 10), as well as video clip shows such as World's Wildest Police Videos and When Animals Attack!. After shedding most of these programs, Fox gradually filled its lineup with acclaimed dramas such as 24, The O.C., House, and Bones, and comedies such as The Bernie Mac Show, Malcolm in the Middle, and Arrested Development.
As the decade wore on, Fox began surpassing ABC and NBC in the ratings – first in age demographics, then in overall viewership – and placed second behind a resurgent CBS in total viewership beginning in 2002. Fox hit a major milestone in 2005 when it emerged as the most-watched U.S. broadcast network in the lucrative 18–49 demographic for the first time, largely boosted by the strength of the reality singing competition series American Idol. Regarded as the single most dominant program on 21st-century U.S. television, as well as the first Fox show to lead the Nielsen seasonal ratings, Idol had peak audiences of up to 38 million viewers during the 2003 season finale and double-season average audiences of around 31 million viewers in 2006 and 2007. Subsequently, it leapfrogged over Fox's Big Three competition to become the highest-rated U.S. television program overall starting with the 2003–04 season, becoming the first reality singing competition series in the country ever to reach first place in the seasonal ratings.
Idol remains the most recent U.S. television program to date to lead the national prime time ratings and attract at least 30 million viewers for at least two television seasons. It became as the most watched program on U.S. television by seasonal average viewership in the 2000s decade, as well as the most recent program scheduled to have successfully established a graveyard slot on U.S. television since the end of NBC's Friends in 2004 and the subsequent decline of the network's previously dominant "Must See TV" Thursday timeblock. By 2005, reality television succeeded sitcoms as the most popular form of entertainment in the U.S. as a result of Fox's rise with Idol and NBC's network declines. House, which aired as Idol's lead-out program on Tuesday nights, earned international prominence in the 21st century and became Fox's first prime time drama series (and the network's third program overall) to reach the Nielsen Top 10 beginning 2006.
Beginning 2004, CBS and Fox, which ranked as the two most-watched broadcast networks in the U.S. during the 2000s, have tended to equal one another in demographic ratings among general viewership, with both networks winning certain demographics by narrow margins; however, while Fox has the youngest-skewing viewer base, CBS is consistently regarded to have the oldest audience demographics among the major broadcast networks. Fox hit a milestone in February 2005 by scoring its first-ever sweeps victory in total viewership and demographic ratings, boosted largely by its broadcast of Super Bowl XXXIX and the strengths of American Idol, 24, House and The O.C.
In September 2006, as a result of the increasing number of over-the-air Fox affiliates and the increased availability of digital subchannels carrying Fox in certain markets, Foxnet was discontinued.
A sweeping milestone came by the conclusion of the 2007–08 season on May 21, 2008, shortly after the widely acclaimed seventh-season finale of American Idol, when Fox outranked longtime leader CBS as the most watched television network in the United States overall for the first time, attributed to the strengths of Super Bowl XLII and its NFL game coverages, Idol and House during that season. Fox is currently the only non-Big Three network to earn first place overall since the start of Nielsen ratings in the 1950–51 season.
In the late 2000s, Fox launched a few series that proved to be powerful hits in different respects. In 2008, the supernatural mystery series Fringe debuted to moderate ratings but earned critical acclaim during its first season on Tuesdays. Throughout its run, the series developed a large loyal fanbase that turned the show into a cult favorite. In 2009, Glee premiered to average ratings when its pilot aired as a lead-out program of the eighth-season finale of American Idol, but earned positive reviews from critics. The show's viewership rose in the first two seasons, and attracted media attention that it formed a large, loyal international fanbase. The cast of the series has been acknowledged by notable luminaries such as the President of the United States Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, who have each asked the cast to perform live for various national events.
At the dawn of the 2010s, new comedies Raising Hope and New Girl gave Fox its first live-action comedy successes in years. The second season of Glee delivered that series' highest ratings during the 2010–11 season, with viewership peaking during its Super Bowl lead-out episode in February 2011. At the same time, Fox's live telecast of the Super Bowl XLV helped the network emerge as the first U.S. television network to earn an average single-night prime time audience of at least 100 million viewers.
American Idol lost its first place standing among all network prime time programs during the 2011–12 finale (falling to second that season behind NBC Sunday Night Football), ending the longest streak at #1 for a prime time broadcast network series in U.S. television history, through its eight-year ratings domination in both the Adults 18–49 demographic and total viewership. Idol also remained in the Nielsen Top 10 for eleven years from 2003 to 2013, and became the highest-rated non-sports prime time television program as well as the highest-rated reality series in the U.S. from 2003 to 2012; these records marked the longest Nielsen ratings streaks of any Fox program in these categories. The 2012 season finale of American Idol marked the end of the season-long 25th anniversary of the establishment of Fox network, helping it win in the 18–49 demographic for the eighth consecutive season, the longest such streak according to Nielsen measurement records.
Fox suffered a collapse in viewership during the 2012–13 season; American Idol and Glee suffered steep ratings declines, while the network as a whole fell to third place (suffering an overall decrease by 22%) in total viewership and to second place in the 18–49 demographic (where it remained as of 2014) by the end of the season.
The decline in ratings continued into the 2013–14 season, with Fox placing fourth among the major networks in total viewership for the first time since 2001. Subsequently, on January 13, 2014, Fox announced that it would abandon its use of the standard concept of greenlighting shows through the initial order of pilot episodes during the designated "pilot season" (running from January through April), instead opting to pick up shows directly to series.
Fox scored renewed ratings successes with its February 2014 live telecast of Super Bowl XLVIII, which became the second most watched television broadcast (by average) in U.S. history, and the lead-out programs that followed this event – New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Later, in May 2014, Kevin Reilly announced that he would resign as chairman of Fox Entertainment. On July 15, 2014, corporate parent 21st Century Fox announced that it would merge the operations of the network and 20th Century Fox Television into the newly created Fox Television Group, with 20th Century Fox Television co-chairpersons Dana Walden and Gary Newman appointed to head the division.
The 2014–15 season saw hits in the freshmen dramas Gotham (based on the Batman mythos) and the Lee Daniels-produced Empire. Ratings for Empire, in particular, increased week-to-week throughout its first season, becoming the network's first successful American Idol lead-out since House, as well as the first American television program to consistently increase its episode-to-episode viewership during its first five weeks since the 1992 feat set by ABC's Roseanne. Empire ended its inaugural season as the first U.S. television show ever to increase its episodic viewership on a consistent basis throughout the course of a single season, as well as Fox's fourth program overall (and the first since the 2013 finale of American Idol) to enter the Nielsen Top 10 by the end of the 2014–15 season.
The 2015–16 season marked a notable turnaround for Fox, as it jumps ahead of ABC to third place in nationwide ratings (both in overall viewership and in the 18–49 demo) and posted several firsts for the network and on U.S. television. Its improvement was boosted by the transfer of the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants from NBC, as well as shows such as Grease: Live, Empire and the return of The X-Files after its most recent season ending in 2002. Grease: Live became the first live American TV musical special of the 21st century to be broadcast in front of a live studio audience (as well as the first ever live musical special aired by a non-Big Three network on primetime), while Empire and The X-Files ranked in the Nielsen Top 10 for the season, the first season with 2 Fox programs entering the top rankings since the American Idol-House duo of the 2007–2008 season (and the first ever season that Fox achieved such rankings without American Idol or any other reality television show from Fox in the Top 10).
2016 also marked the finale of American Idol in its original run on Fox after airing for fifteen seasons, ending an era of one of the most successful shows in U.S. television history. In February 2017, Fox broadcast Super Bowl LI, which also featured the first ever overtime in Super Bowl history. The broadcast attracted a U.S-all-time high total of 172 million viewers on peak conclusion, marking the first time that any U.S. television broadcast exceeded the 170-million viewership mark.
On July 27, 2018, in a deal first announced December 2017, and completed March 20, 2019, 21st Century Fox shareholders agreed to sell most of its key assets (including 20th Century Fox, 20th Television, and FX Networks) to The Walt Disney Company for $71.3 billion, following the spin-off of certain businesses. The sale did not include the Fox Broadcasting Company and television stations or the Fox Sports, Fox News, and Fox Business cable channels, which were to be maintained under a company tentatively referred to as "New Fox". Because Disney already owns the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the acquisition of the Fox network by Disney would have been unlawful under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s rules prohibiting a merger between any of the four major broadcast networks.
It was acknowledged that Fox had placed a larger emphasis on its sports programming in its first upfronts since the deal was announced, including the acquisitions of the NFL's Thursday Night Football package and rights to the FIFA World Cup. It was also noted that Fox had been increasingly pivoting towards programs that could generate large audiences, as opposed to ones that become successful primarily through critical acclaim. On June 27, 2018, WWE announced that SmackDown would move to Fox and return to airing on Friday nights beginning October 4, 2019, following its run on USA Network, under a five-year contract valued at $205 million per-year. The network also began to increase its non-scripted output, announcing The Masked Singer (a new celebrity music competition series based on the South Korean format King of Mask Singer), and the new game shows Mental Samurai and Spin the Wheel for the 2018–19 season.
In August 2018, Fox Television Group CEO Dana Walden outlined how the network would operate following the transition to New Fox. The network will commission and acquire series from "independent" studios (such as Lionsgate, MGM Television, Sony Pictures Television, and Warner Bros., which do not fully own a major broadcast network), with Fox taking co-ownership stakes in the productions. Walden noted that the vertical integration of the major broadcast networks (including Fox itself) with associated studios had limited opportunities for outside studios, and cited several top programs that were distributed by third-parties, such as The Big Bang Theory and This Is Us (produced by Warner Bros. Television and 20th Television for CBS and NBC respectively). There are also plans for Fox to acquire new pitches directly from their writers, and offer them to outside producers. As part of the transition, Fox aimed to gradually reduce the amount of scripted programming development coming from 20th Century Fox Television, although stalwarts such as The Simpsons will remain with the network.
Following the completion of the sale, network head Dana Walden became chairwoman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment. AMC president Charlie Collier succeeded Gary Newman as chairman and CEO of Fox on November 1, 2018. Newman is expected to temporarily remain with Fox in a transitional role, in order to oversee the corporate transition to New Fox. The start of 2019 saw The Masked Singer premiere to strong viewership, becoming Fox's highest-rated non-scripted premiere without an NFL lead-in since 2011, and recording the highest-ever Nielsen ratings gain after three days of delayed viewership for an unscripted series. On January 30, 2019, Fox ordered a second season, while the season finale saw an average audience of 11.5 million viewers.
With the completion of Disney's purchase the next day, the "New Fox" entity, officially named Fox Corporation, formally began trading on March 19, 2019. At its 2019–20 upfronts (its first after the sale's completion), Fox announced that the second season of The Masked Singer would be part of its fall lineup, and had been renewed for a third season to premiere in 2020 after Super Bowl LIV. Fox announced 10 new scripted series, with three (Almost Family, Bless the Harts, and Prodigal Son) slated for the fall lineup. Fox Entertainment also established a new in-house studio, Fox Alternative Entertainment, led by the network's president of alternative entertainment and specials Rob Wade. The studio will invest in unscripted productions and formats, with its first production to be season 2 of The Masked Singer.
As of 2015, Fox currently provides 19 hours of regularly scheduled network programming each week. The network provides fifteen hours of prime time programming to its owned-and-operated and affiliated stations on Monday through Saturdays from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. and Sundays from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. (all times Eastern and Pacific). An hour of late night programming is also offered on Saturdays from 11:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, a former hour of original comedy, but currently a repeat hour for primetime series (though scheduling for that hour varies depending on the market due to late local newscasts airing in the traditional 11:00/10:00 p.m. timeslot on some Fox stations). Weekend daytime programming consists of the paid programming block Weekend Marketplace (airing Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., although the block is not carried by all affiliates and, in some areas, is offered to another station in the market), and the hour-long Sunday morning political discussion show – and the network's only regular national news program – Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace (airing from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific, although the timeslot also varies by market due to local news or public affairs programming).
Sports programming is also provided; usually on weekends (albeit not every weekend year-round), and most commonly airing between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. or as late as 8:00 p.m. on Sundays (often airing for longer hours during the National Football League season, slightly less during NASCAR season); between 12:00 and 7:00 p.m. (during baseball, college football, and college basketball season) on Saturday afternoons; and during prime time on certain Saturday evenings. The Saturday prime time block – if any sports programming is scheduled for a particular week on that night – currently varies between occasional Premier Boxing Champions events, Major League Baseball, or NASCAR coverage in the late winter and early spring/summer, and college football coverage during the fall.
Typically every Sunday night during prime time (unless preempted, usually by sports telecasts), Fox airs a lineup incorporating original adult animation series. This block of adult cartoons became a staple of the network – airing under the brand Animation Domination from May 1, 2005, to September 14, 2014, when the network rebranded the block as Sunday Funday as a result of the re-incorporation of live-action comedy series on the Sunday night lineup after ten years (aside from occasional burn-offs of series aired on other nights during the 7:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific hour), although animated series remain an integral part of that night's schedule.
The first programs to air as part of the Animation Domination lineup were American Dad! (which also had its beginnings in the lineup, and moved to TBS in October 2014), Family Guy (which returned to the network after a three-year cancellation when Animation Domination began), The Simpsons (the longest-running cartoon on Fox, predating the lineup by 16 years), and King of the Hill (which also predated the lineup by eight years). Animated shows currently airing as part of the lineup include Family Guy, The Simpsons and Bob's Burgers. In addition to King of the Hill, series that have previously aired on the lineup have included Sit Down, Shut Up; Napoleon Dynamite; and The Cleveland Show.
An extension of the Sunday prime-time block called "Animation Domination High-Def" launched on Saturday late nights in July 2013 (marking the return of first-run programming in that time period since the 2010 cancellation of The Wanda Sykes Show), with ADHD Shorts, Axe Cop and High School USA!. Due to low ratings, Fox announced on April 17, 2014, that it would discontinue "Animation Domination High-Def"; although the block was slated to end on June 28, 2014, it continued to air in encore form until the start of the 2016–17 season, when the hour returned to airing encores of comedies or reality series.
Fox began airing children's programming on September 8, 1990 with the debut of the Fox Children's Network (rebranded as the Fox Kids Network in 1991, and then to simply Fox Kids in 1998), a programming block that aired on Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons. Programming within the Fox Kids block consisted mainly of animated series, although it also featured some live-action series as part of the lineup. Shows featured in the block included Bobby's World, X-Men, Spider-Man, The Tick and Goosebumps; it also aired select shows from Warner Bros. Animation including the popular animated series Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs and Batman: The Animated Series (Warner Bros. pulled Batman and Animaniacs from the Fox Kids lineup in September 1995, moving both shows, as well as Tiny Toons – which had already ended its run – to the newly launched Kids' WB block on The WB). Fox Kids' most successful series, however, was Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (from eventual sister company and Fox Kids co-parent Saban Entertainment), which debuted in 1993 and became the block's flagship program until it moved to ABC and Toon Disney in 2002.
In October 2001, Fox sold its children's division, Saban Entertainment and Fox Family Worldwide (the parent subsidiary of cable network Fox Family Channel, now Freeform) to The Walt Disney Company for $5.3 billion. The network relegated the Fox Kids block to Saturdays in January 2002 (turning over the two-hour timeslot held by the weekday block to its owned-and-operated and affiliated stations, rather than retaining the slots and filling them with adult-oriented daytime shows); then on September 14, 2002, as part of a time-lease agreement with 4Kids Entertainment to program the remaining four-hour Saturday morning lineup, Fox Kids was replaced by a new children's program block called FoxBox (which was renamed 4Kids TV in February 2005).
Fox discontinued the 4Kids TV block on December 27, 2008, due to conflicts between the network and 4Kids Entertainment that were later settled, regarding 4Kids' failure to pay Fox for the programming lease rights, and the network's inability to fulfill a promise guaranteeing clearance on 90% of its stations and to get other stations to carry the block in certain markets where a Fox station declined it (an issue that plagued Fox's children's program blocks since the start of its affiliation deal with New World Communications). Fox had earlier announced, on November 23, that it would no longer carry children's programming in the time period, citing stiff competition from cable channels aimed at the demographic; the network instead turned over two of the four vacant Saturday morning hours to its affiliates to allow them to air local newscasts or educational programs purchased from the syndication market, while it retained the remaining two hours to run a network-managed paid programming block, Weekend Marketplace, which debuted on January 3, 2009.
On September 13, 2014, Xploration Station, a two-hour syndicated block produced by Steve Rotfeld Productions, began airing on Fox stations owned by several affiliate groups including Fox Television Stations and Tribune Broadcasting. The block, which complies with guidelines defined by the Children's Television Act, features programs focused on the STEM fields. Stations can choose to either carry Xploration Station or continue to air Weekend Marketplace (as the Sinclair Broadcast Group chose to do, since it already carries syndicated E/I programming purchased by the company across its Fox affiliates, although Sinclair added the block on most of its Fox affiliates in September 2016).
Unlike ABC, CBS and NBC, Fox does not currently air national news programs (morning, evening or overnight) or newsmagazines – choosing to focus solely on its prime time schedule, sports and other ancillary network programming. The absence of a national news program on the Fox network is despite the fact that its parent company, Fox Corporation, owns Fox News Channel, which launched in August 1996 and currently maintains near-universal distribution within the United States via pay television providers. Fox News is not structured as a news division of the Fox network, and operates as a technically separate entity within Fox Corporation through the company's Fox News Group subsidiary. However, it does produce some content that is carried by the broadcast network, which is usually separate from the news coverage aired by the cable channel; in particular, FNC anchor Shepard Smith anchors most prime time news presentations on the Fox network, especially during political news events (which are anchored by Bret Baier on Fox News Channel).
Specifically, the Fox network airs coverage of the State of the Union address, presidential debates, national election coverage, as well as live breaking news coverage currently branded as a "Fox News Special Report" (also branded as a "Fox News Alert" or sometimes a "Fox News Red Alert"); carriage of such special coverage of a breaking news story may vary from station to station, and is often limited to events that occur during the network's usual prime time block (for example, unlike the Big Three, Fox does not often provide coverage of major political convention speeches, which usually occur during the 10:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) hour during which most of its affiliates air local newscasts; however, the majority of Fox's owned-and-operated stations and affiliate groups do carry weekday breaking news briefs). The political discussion show Fox News Sunday also airs on the Fox network on Sunday mornings and is rebroadcast later in the day on FNC. Fox also operates an affiliate news service called Fox NewsEdge, which launched with Fox News Channel in 1996, and provides national and international news reports, and feature stories for Fox stations to use in their own local newscasts.
Fox first tried its hand at a national news program in prime time with the hour-long weekly newsmagazine The Reporters, which was produced by the same team behind the Fox Television Stations-distributed syndicated tabloid program A Current Affair; the program ran from 1988 to 1990, when it was cancelled due to low ratings. From 1987 until about 1990, Fox also aired news capsules that aired within its prime time schedule branded as Fox News Extra, which were produced at New York City O&O WNYW (Cora-Ann Mihalik, who anchored the newsbriefs, had at the time also co-anchored WNYW's weeknight 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts). Another failed attempt occurred in 1993, when Fox launched Front Page (which included among its five hosts, Ron Reagan and Josh Mankiewicz), in an attempt to capture a younger demographic for a newsmagazine program.
The network tried its hand at a newsmagazine again in 1998 with Fox Files, hosted by Fox News Channel anchors Catherine Crier and Jon Scott, as well as a team of correspondents; it lasted a little over a year before being cancelled. Its last attempt at a newsmagazine series occurred during the 2002–03 sweeps period, with The Pulse, hosted by Fox News Channel anchor Shepard Smith. On May 17, 2016, the network aired an interview special with then Fox News primetime anchor Megyn Kelly, Megyn Kelly Presents.
Fox also attempted national morning programs, only the first of which aired on the network itself. Its first venture at such a program was Fox After Breakfast, an hour-long morning news and lifestyle show, hosted by Tom Bergeron and Laurie Hibberd, that ran on the network from 1996 to 1998 (Fox aired the program at 9:00 a.m. – as opposed to the 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. time slot that NBC, CBS and ABC air their national morning shows – in order to accommodate local morning newscasts that ran in the latter slot on some of its stations); the program originated as Breakfast Time in 1995 on sister cable channel FX. Fox tried again in 2002 with Good Day Live, a heavily entertainment-focused syndicated offshoot of Good Day L.A., a news/entertainment/lifestyle program that debuted in 1993 on Los Angeles owned-and-operated station KTTV; the national version of the program was cancelled in 2005. On January 22, 2007, Fox premiered The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet on its owned-and-operated stations; hosted by Mike Jerrick and Juliet Huddy (then-anchors of Fox News Channel's DaySide), the show was lighter in format and more entertainment-oriented, though its focus often changed when a major news story occurred. In February 2007, the program was syndicated to other stations including many affiliated with ABC, NBC and CBS in markets where it was not carried by a Fox or MyNetworkTV affiliate; The Morning Show was cancelled in June 2009.
When the network launched, Fox management, having seen the critical role that sports programming – soccer events, in particular – had played in the growth of the British satellite service BSkyB, believed that sports – and specifically, professional football – would be the engine that would make Fox a major network the quickest. In 1987, after ABC initially hedged on renewing its contract to broadcast Monday Night Football, Fox made an offer to the National Football League to acquire the rights for the same amount that ABC had been paying, about $13 million per game at the time. However, partly due to the fact that Fox had not yet established itself as a major network, the NFL chose to renew its contract with ABC (where Monday Night Football remained until its move to sister cable channel ESPN in September 2006).
Six years later, when the league entered contract negotiations with its television partners, Fox placed a $1.58 billion bid to obtain broadcast rights to the National Football Conference – covering four seasons of games, beginning with the 1994 NFL season. The NFL selected the Fox bid on December 18, 1993, stripping CBS of football telecasts for the first time since 1955. The event placed Fox on par with the "Big Three" television networks and ushered in an era of growth for the NFL. Fox's acquisition of the NFL rights also quickly led toward the network reaching an affiliation deal with New World Communications to change the affiliations of twelve of its stations to Fox (see above). The rights gave Fox many new viewers and a platform for advertising its other programs.
With a sports division now established with the arrival of the NFL, Fox acquired broadcast television rights to the National Hockey League (1994–99), Major League Baseball (since 1996) and NASCAR auto racing (since 2001, initially as part of a deal that also involved NBC and TNT).
From 2007 to 2010, Fox aired the Bowl Championship Series—a group of college football bowl games held around New Year's Day, and the BCS National Championship Game (with the exception of any event held at the Rose Bowl Stadium, including the Rose Bowl Game and the Rose Bowl-hosted 2010 BCS National Championship Game, as their organizer maintained a separate contract with ABC). Following the conclusion of the deal, Fox acquired rights to the Big Ten Conference and Pac-12 Conference's newly-established football championship games (the latter alternating yearly with ESPN). In 2017, Fox acquired tier 1 rights to the Big Ten Conference.
In August 2011, Fox and mixed martial arts promotion Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) reached a multi-year agreement, which included the rights to broadcast four live events in prime time or late night annually, marking the first time that the UFC aired its events on broadcast television. Its first UFC on Fox event, Velasquez vs. Dos Santos, aired on November 12, 2011. This deal ended at the end of 2018, with UFC events moving to ESPN and ESPN+.
The network's telecast of Super Bowl XLVIII remains the highest rated program in the history of the network, and the second-highest-rated U.S. television program of all time.
As of June 2018, Fox has 17 owned-and-operated stations, and current and pending affiliation agreements with 225 additional television stations encompassing 48 states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. possessions; through its Fox Television Stations subsidiary, Fox has the most owned-and-operated stations of the major American commercial broadcast networks. The network has a national reach of 95.77% of all households in the United States (or 299,268,292 Americans with at least one television set). Currently, New Jersey and Delaware are the only U.S. states where Fox does not have a locally licensed affiliate (the former is served by New York City O&O WNYW and Philadelphia O&O WTXF, while the latter is served by WTXF and Salisbury, Maryland affiliate WBOC-DT2).
Fox largely discontinued analog broadcasts on June 12, 2009, as part of the transition to digital television. As a newer broadcast network, Fox still has a few low-power affiliates broadcasting in analog, covering markets like Youngstown, Ohio (WYFX-LD). In some markets, including both of the ones mentioned, these stations also maintain digital simulcasts on a subchannel of a co-owned/managed television station. Fox also maintains a sizeable number of subchannel-only affiliations in cities located outside the 50 largest Nielsen-designated markets that do not have enough full-power stations to support a standalone affiliation or have a low-power station as the only other option as an affiliate; the largest subchannel-only Fox affiliate by market size is WGGB-DT2 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Currently outside Fox's core O&O group, Nexstar Media Group is Fox's largest affiliate group in terms of overall market reach, with fourteen stations (including some former Fox O&Os that were spun off in 2008 to Local TV, which Tribune later acquired in 2013, to finance former Fox parent News Corporation's purchase of The Wall Street Journal); the Sinclair Broadcast Group is the largest operator of Fox stations by numerical total, owning or providing services to 26 Fox-affiliated stations.
Fox previously distributed its programming in markets that did not have enough stations to support an affiliate via Foxnet, a cable channel acting as an alternate national feed for small and certain mid-sized U.S. markets (generally those within the bottom 110 Nielsen media markets) that launched in 1991 and operated until its shutdown on September 12, 2006; the channel featured a master schedule of programs acquired from the syndication market and some brokered programming to fill time slots not occupied by Fox network programming. The concept behind Foxnet served as the basis for The WB 100+ Station Group (launched in September 1998 as the cable-only feed of The WB) and The CW Plus (the immediate successor of The WB 100+, which launched in September 2006 as a cable-only/digital multicast feed of The CW), which both allow the customization of localized branding (which Foxnet did not allow its cable partners to do) in addition to allowing affiliates to sell local advertising.
Differences between Fox and the "Big Three" networks
Fox's programming schedule differs from the "Big Three" networks in several significant ways: the network airs its prime time programming for only two hours on Monday through Saturday evenings and three hours on Sundays, compared to the three hours on Monday through Saturdays (from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m.) and four hours on Sunday nights (from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time) programmed by the three longer-established networks, ABC, CBS and NBC. This scheduling is termed as "common prime", referring to the programming of prime time content across all of the conventional broadcast networks during the early- and mid-evening hours, while the 10:00 p.m. (Eastern) hour is programmed only by the three older networks.
Fox has traditionally avoided programming the 10:00 p.m. hour, choosing to cede the time period to its local affiliates for them to program, many of which air local newscasts during that hour; however, some exceptions do exist for select special film presentations, which by virtue of their running time (depending on whether the film's original length, combined with commercial breaks that would be included in the television cut, would exceed a traditional two-hour broadcast timeslot) must spill over into the 10:00 p.m. hour, and overruns from live sports telecasts scheduled to air during prime time. However, the network did regularly schedule programming in the 10:00 p.m. hour on Sunday nights from September 1989 to September 1993 (when that specific time period was turned back over to its affiliates), although it never added programming at that hour on any other night. Fox's original reason for the reduced number of prime time hours was to avoid fulfilling FCC requirements in effect at the time to be considered a network, and to be free of resulting regulations, although these rules have since been relaxed.
Despite being a major network, in addition to not carrying national morning and evening newscasts, Fox also does not air any network daytime programming (such as soap operas, game shows or talk shows). Because of this, the network's owned-and-operated stations and affiliates handle the responsibility of programming daytime hours with syndicated or locally produced programming (corporate sister 20th Television distributes several syndicated daytime programs carried by many Fox stations, such as Divorce Court and The Wendy Williams Show; Fox Television Stations also test markets certain series from 20th Television and other syndicators such as Warner Bros. Television Distribution that are proposed for national distribution on some of its stations). The network also does not carry network-supplied children's programming on Saturday mornings or late-night programming on Monday through Friday nights. Local affiliates either produce their own programming or run syndicated programs during these time periods. Because of the erratic scheduling of the network's sports programming, many Fox stations choose to run a mix of syndicated programming, infomercials and especially movies to fill weekend afternoon timeslots when a sports event is not scheduled to air.
In addition, from the network's inception, Fox has produced two versions of its program promotions for distribution to the network's stations: a standard version incorporating airtimes based on their broadcast in the Eastern/Central or Pacific/Mountain time zones, depending on the feed used by the station (as those seen during network commercial breaks), and versions with "clean" end tags to allow stations to include local airtime and station information through graphical insertion and verbal continuity by station promotional announcers during the program logo graphic or prime time menu. This practice – which differs from that long used by ABC, NBC and CBS, which only allow their stations to insert logos within their network promotions – was also later adopted by The WB and UPN (and their successors The CW, and to a lesser extent, MyNetworkTV) for use by their affiliated stations. A third cut of these promos exists for national program advertising carried by cable networks (including Fox's sister cable networks), where the wording 'check local listings' is placed in the end tag.
Within Fox's station body, the quantity of locally produced news programming varies considerably compared to the owned-and-operated and affiliated stations of ABC, NBC and CBS (which typically carry at least 4½ hours of local newscasts on weekdays and one hour on weekends, which are usually spread across morning, midday, early or late evening timeslots). At minimum, most Fox stations run a late-evening newscast following the network's prime time lineup (at 10:00 p.m. in the Eastern and Pacific, and 9:00 p.m. in the Central and Mountain Time Zones), which typically run 30 minutes to one hour in length; besides the fact that the network's stations have more latitude to air an earlier late-evening newscast since Fox does not program that hour, this stems from the fact that several of its charter stations were already airing prime time newscasts as independent stations prior to the network's launch (such as New York City O&O WNYW, which debuted its 10:00 p.m. newscast in March 1967). Most Fox stations also carry a weekday morning newscast of one to three hours in length at 7:00 a.m., as a local alternative to the national morning news programs provided by the "Big Three" networks (though mainly in the case of Fox stations that have a news operation and in a few cases, via simulcasts with ABC-, NBC- and CBS-affiliated stations that operate a Fox affiliate, this is often part of a morning news block that runs for four to six hours on average).
Fox has fewer stations that have an independent news operation than those of ABC, NBC and CBS; as of October 2015, 70 of Fox's 236 stations (including all 18 owned-and-operated stations) maintain in-house news departments (compared to roughly 5⁄8–7⁄8 of the stations of each of the three other major broadcast networks, whose newscasts are either produced in-house or in conjunction with another station). WJW (channel 8) in Cleveland (which was owned by the network from 1997 to 2008) and WXIN (channel 59) in Indianapolis have the highest weekly total of news programming hours among Fox's stations, at 65½ hours.
Most Fox stations that run a news operation utilize a newscast-intensive scheduling format that is very similar to an ABC-, NBC- or CBS-affiliated station – which in many cases, may incorporate midday or early-evening newscasts, the latter of which is often extended by a half-hour to compete with the national evening newscasts provided by the "Big Three" networks; some Fox stations – except for those owned by Fox Television Stations (excluding WFLD in Chicago, the largest Fox station and only O&O of the network without an early-evening newscast) and most owned by Tribune Broadcasting – air their early-evening newscasts only on Monday through Friday nights, due to frequent sports event overruns into that daypart on weekends. The first Fox station to adopt such a scheduling format was WSVN in Miami; upon affiliating with the network in January 1989, WSVN retained its existing morning, midday and early evening newscasts, while moving its late newscast from 11:00 to 10:00 p.m. and expanding it to one hour (the station later relaunched an 11:00 p.m. newscast in 1995), and expanding its weekday morning newscast by two hours. This type of format was later adopted by the former major network stations that switched to Fox between 1994 and 1996, especially those affected by New World and Burnham Broadcasting affiliation deals. Many Fox stations with upstart news departments often do not run a full slate of newscasts initially, usually carrying only a prime time newscast at first, before gradually adding other newscasts over time.
In many small to mid-sized markets (largely those ranked outside the 50 largest Nielsen-designated television markets), production of the local Fox affiliate's newscasts is outsourced to an NBC, ABC or CBS station – either due to insufficient funds or studio space for a news department or in most cases, as a byproduct of the station being operated through a legal duopoly or a management agreement with a major network affiliate (such as with Cunningham Broadcasting-owned WEMT (channel 39) in Greeneville, Tennessee, which has its newscasts produced by NBC affiliate WCYB-TV (channel 5) through a local marketing agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group). Fox affiliates that outsource their news production to a major-network affiliate often carry a lesser amount of news programming than is possible with an affiliate with a standalone news department due to the contracting station's preference to avoid having the Fox station's newscasts compete against their own in common timeslots (differing from outsourcing agreements between two same-market ABC, CBS or NBC affiliates in certain areas, in which both stations may simulcast newscasts in the same timeslots). The lone exceptions to this rule currently are El Paso, Texas affiliate KFOX-TV (channel 14) and WXIN, which respectively began producing newscasts for their CBS-affiliated duopoly partners using resources from their existing news departments in September 2014 (when new sister stations KFOX and KDBC-TV (channel 4) consolidated their operations into a single facility) and January 2015 (when WXIN sister WTTV (channel 4) affiliated with CBS), with the Fox stations maintaining the same amount of news programming that they did beforehand. Another exception is KNPN-LD (channel 26) in St. Joseph, Missouri, which has been the smallest Fox affiliate by market size with an in-house news operation since the station's July 2012 sign-on; News-Press & Gazette Company expanded production of KNPN's newscasts to its sister flagship stations, KNPG-LD (channel 21) and KCJO-LD (channel 30), when they respectively joined NBC and CBS in November 2016 and June 2017, though the former also maintained roughly the same amount of news programming before the conversions (KNPN airs morning, midday and early evening newscasts on weekdays and a nightly late evening newscast; all three stations simulcast the first 90 minutes of the morning newscast, while the remainder of KNPN's newscasts air in separate time slots from those seen on KNPG and KCJO).
WPGH-TV (channel 53) in Pittsburgh is the largest Fox station by Nielsen market ranking (at #23) that outsources its news programming; NBC affiliate WPXI (channel 11; owned by Cox Media Group) has produced the station's 10:00 p.m. newscast since 2006, when WPGH shut down its news department following the closure of owner Sinclair Broadcast Group's News Central division. A few Fox affiliates only air syndicated programming in time periods where newscasts would air on other major network stations. The largest Fox station by market size that does not carry news programming is WSYT (channel 68) in Syracuse, New York (which discontinued a 10:00 p.m. newscast produced by CBS affiliate WTVH (channel 5) in 2006). In Dayton, Ohio, Sinclair Broadcast Group took the unusual step in August 2015 of adopting Fox 45 News as its universal brand for its news operation in that market, making it appear as if the news department was operated by WRGT-TV, even though it actually belongs to WRGT's virtual duopoly partner, ABC affiliate WKEF, which Sinclair owns outright (newscasts on WKEF are branded as "Fox 45 News on ABC22").
Fox maintains several video on demand venues for viewers to watch the network's programming, including a traditional VOD service called Fox on Demand, which is carried on most traditional cable, satellite, streaming, and telecom providers. Fox's parent company 21st Century Fox is also a part-owner of the streaming video service Hulu, and offers most of the network's programming through Hulu's website and mobile app, along with traditional streaming via the network's Full Episode portal on Fox.com.
The most recent episodes of the network's shows are usually made available on the Fox on Demand television service the day after their original broadcast. In addition, fast forwarding capabilities are disabled while viewing content (a commonality for video-on-demand television services provided by the U.S. broadcast networks) and the program's original advertisements that aired during the initial broadcast are included for a week after becoming available on the service, before being replaced by direct response advertising thereafter. Due to restrictions put in place by the network in January 2012 to encourage live or same-week DVR viewing via traditional and cable on demand methods, Hulu and Fox.com both impose an eight-day delay for most viewers to access the most recent episode of any Fox program, restricting day-after-air streaming of its shows on both services to subscribers of certain pay television providers (such as Dish Network and Verizon FiOS) using an ISP account through agreements made with Fox, along with Hulu's free service with advertisements on Yahoo! Stream; however, Hulu offers newer episodes of Fox programs the day after their original broadcast to paid subscribers requiring only a user-determined login.
Fox began broadcasting its programming in 720p high definition on September 12, 2004, with that day's slate of NFC football games during week one of the 2004 NFL season. Until March 14, 2016, the network did not display an on-screen logo graphic on the bottom-right corner of the screen, outside a ten-second sweep of a "Fox HD" promotional logo (which until the end of 2010, also featured a sponsor tag for DirecTV); instead a trigger in Fox's program delivery system at each station displayed the logo bug of an owned-and-operated or affiliate station in the right-hand corner of the 16:9 screen frame, which disappeared during commercial breaks (the station logo bug would still be triggered even if Fox programming was pre-empted locally due to breaking news, severe weather coverage or special programming, though some stations, such as WGGB-DT2 in Springfield, Massachusetts, did not display a logo or substitute only the "FOX" logo alone). However, network or affiliate bugs are not displayed during Fox Sports programming. During some high-profile or live programs such as American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, however, Fox forwent the affiliate's logo and displayed its network logo instead, mainly for promotional consideration due to fair use of clips from each series by other media outlets (such as news programs, talk shows, and review and satirical programs that rely on clip content); until 2014, the bug was placed in the 4:3 safe area. The Sunday political talk program Fox News Sunday displays the "Fox HD" logo at all times for both that reason and because of many stations airing the program on tape delay later in the morning. Beginning on March 14, 2016, the standard Fox logo with hashtag is now used on all programming, with the station bug flashed for a few moments at the start of a program or coming out of commercial, as is traditionally done with ABC, CBS and NBC stations. In addition, the Fox HD bug was discontinued, although it is still used on Fox News Sunday.
On some Fox programs, a hashtag rests above the affiliate's logo (for example, #newgirl or #bones) to provide viewers reference to the network's official Twitter search tag to find or start discussions during the program being broadcast. In April 2012, additional tags relating to plot points in a given episode (for instance, the #saturdaynightGLEEver tag for an April 2012 episode of Glee of that same title) began to also be promoted in this space to both add additional trending topics and spread out more conversations on Twitter. In cases where the Fox bug appears instead of the station's logo bug, the Twitter hashtag is directly above the Fox logo in the safe area.
During the transitional period from analog to digital television, Fox was the only commercial television network in the U.S. to air programs in widescreen that were not available in HD (which were identified as being presented in "Fox High Resolution Widescreen" from 2001 to 2006). Prior to the launch of its HD feed, some sitcoms and drama series were presented in widescreen standard-definition, with reality, talk and game shows (American Idol being the first major exception, as it began to be presented in high definition in 2008) later being presented only in widescreen enhanced definition. The children's sports program This Week in Baseball began airing in widescreen in 2009, while Fox News Sunday converted to HD when Fox News Channel began operating from its new high-definition facilities in November 2008 (prior to Fox News Channel's conversion to a unified widescreen presentation on both its high-definition and standard-definition feeds in September 2010, it was the final Fox News program to structure its graphics and camera positions for the 4:3 safe area). MADtv was produced to air only in 4:3 until September 2008, likely due to a combination of stations tape-delaying the program and therefore being unable to offer it via the live network feed in 16:9, and the show's producers not making the switch to the format. The final Fox show to convert to HD was Family Guy beginning with its September 26, 2010, episode; all programming provided by Fox, outside of a few infomercials in the Weekend Marketplace block, is now broadcast in widescreen and in high definition as of 2013.
Fox is unique among U.S. broadcasters as it distributes its HD feed over satellite to the network's affiliates as an MPEG transport stream intended to be delivered bit-for-bit for broadcast transmission. During network programming hours, local commercials are inserted over the feed using a transport stream splicer. Affiliates of most other networks decode compressed satellite network video feeds and then re-encode them for final over-the-air transmission.
After Fox began broadcasting its sports programming with graphics optimized for 16:9 displays rather than the 4:3 safe area in late July 2010, the network asked cable and satellite providers to comply and use the #10 Active Format Description flag it now disseminates over Fox programming, which displays content natively broadcast in 16:9 in a letterboxed format suitable for 4:3 television screens to allow any optimized graphical elements to be displayed in full. Subsequently, a number of Fox O&Os and affiliates also began disseminating the AFD #10 flag over local news and syndicated programs that the stations broadcast in HD, and have incorporated graphical elements seen during local programs and on-air promos (as well as logo bugs) optimized for the letter boxed presentation.
During the early 1990s, Fox began having its stations use a branding structure using a combination of the "Fox" name and the station's channel number, often followed by the licensed call letters (for instance, WNYW in New York City, WTTG in Washington, D.C. and WAGA-TV in Atlanta, Georgia, are all branded as "Fox 5"). By the mid-to-late 1990s, stations minimized their call letters to be just barely readable while still in compliance with FCC identification requirements. This marked the start of the trend for other networks to apply such naming schemes.
The branding scheme has varied in some markets, with some Fox stations using a city or regional name within the branding instead of the channel number (for example, Chicago owned-and-operated station WFLD branded as "Fox Chicago" from 1997 to 2012 and Philadelphia O&O WTXF-TV branded as "Fox Philadelphia" from 1995 to 2003); a few of the network's stations also minimized use of the "Fox" name, opting to use their call letters or a more generic branding (WSVN in Miami, which has branded as "WSVN 7" for general use and "(Channel) 7 News" for its newscasts since it joined the network in January 1989; KHON-TV (channel 2) in Honolulu, which changed its general branding from "Fox 2" to "KHON 2" in 2003; WDRB in Louisville, Kentucky, which dropped its "Fox 41" brand in favor of branding by its call letters in September 2011; and KVRR (channel 15) in Fargo, North Dakota, which dropped the generic "Fox" branding it used in part due to its network of repeater stations throughout eastern North Dakota in favor of branding by its calls in May 2015). Similarly, most of the stations that switched to Fox as a result of its 1994 affiliation deal with New World Communications retained their Big Three-era branding for general or news purposes (with a few exceptions such as WJW in Cleveland, which dropped its CBS-era "TV8" and "Newscenter 8" brands in 1995, in favor of "Fox is ei8ht" as a general brand and ei8ht is News as the title for its newscasts; likewise that same year, KDFW in Dallas/Fort Worth re-branded itself as "Fox 4 Texas" after its newscast name of "News 4 Texas" before shortening its ID to simply "Fox 4" in 1996 and changing its newscast name to "Fox 4 News", both in use since then), before conforming to Fox's station branding conventions when Fox Television Stations acquired New World in 1997.
A particularly unique situation was with KTVU (channel 2) in Oakland-San Francisco, which as a Fox affiliate under longtime owner Cox Enterprises, retained its perennial "Channel 2" brand (with limited references as "Fox Channel 2" by the early 1990s). In 1996, the station rebranded as "KTVU Fox 2" for general purposes (adding the Fox logo on the underside of the top line of its heritage "Circle Laser 2" logo as well), while retaining "(KTVU) Channel 2 News" as the branding for its newscasts. Fox Television Stations (which traded WFXT in Boston and WHBQ-TV (channel 13) in Memphis station to Cox in 2014, in exchange for KTVU and sister station KICU-TV) instituted the "KTVU Fox 2" branding full-time in February 2015, retaining the "Circle Laser 2" both within the group's standardized "boxkite" logo and in an alternate version (which would become the primary logo through its de-emphasis of the O&O standardization later that year) placed next to a prominent Fox wordmark.
Starting in 2006, more standardization of the O&Os began to take place both on-air and online. All of the network's O&Os began adopting an on-air look more closely aligned with the Fox News Channel, which included a standardized red, white and blue boxkite-style logo augmented by red pillars (which rotated on-air, particularly in the logo bugs seen during newscasts). After News Corporation's acquisition of the social networking site Myspace (which it sold in June 2011 to a consortium that included singer Justin Timberlake among its backers), some Fox O&Os launched websites with identical layouts and similar URL domains under the "MyFox" scheme (such as MyFoxDC.com for WTTG). On-air usage of the FNC-inspired logos was reduced in August 2012 (when a new standardized graphics package was implemented, with wordmark bugs being used during newscasts and other programming), while several of the O&Os ceased using the "MyFox" domains in 2015. As of 2017, Fox O&O's with a sister MyNetworkTV station in that market have also begun to play down that network, with many MyNetworkTV O&O's now taking on the branding of "My (Fox channel number) Plus", suggesting them as an extension of their higher-profile sister Fox station.
When Fox launched on October 9, 1986 as Fox Broadcasting Company, it used a logo with three squares containing the network's initials (FBC). Below it was a rectangle with the network's full name in the same font. The logo was mostly blue with yellow lettering, which was used during the network's first six months in existence and was primarily featured as a network identification slide at the beginning of The Late Show with Joan Rivers. On April 5, 1987, when the network inaugurated its prime time programming, a more familiar logo based on 20th Century Fox's signature logo design was introduced, featuring just the capitalized "FOX" name alongside the familiar trademark searchlights and double-pane platform (Fox's owned-and-operated stations used a variant for station identifications from 1987 to 1989, which incorporated both an "O" and searchlight in negative space, the latter of which intersected the "X" and panes within the otherwise translucent yellow/gold logo; until as late as the mid-1990s, some Fox affiliates that did not license the regulation network logo used those that imitated the 20th Century Fox-inspired design in their station logos).
In September 1993, the familiar logo was given a more "hip" makeover, with the "FOX" wordmark overhauled into its current proprietary logotype and the angle changed, removing the tilting (the 1987 logo remained in use during the 1993–94 season in print advertisements featured in TV Guide and other television listings magazines). Starting with the introduction of this logo, the network began displaying an on-screen bug within its programs on the lower right-hand corner of the screen (initially for one minute at the start of each program segment or act, eventually being displayed throughout the program outside commercial breaks, before reverting to the former display format regularly upon the 2009 digital transition). The "O" character also underwent a makeover, acquiring its trademark pillar-like bowl, which has since become a major focal point for the logo and Fox advertising in lieu of the searchlight motif.
Another revised logo was introduced for the 1995–96 television season, removing the searchlights, but retaining the two lower panes and adding a third pane atop the logotype. A variant of the original 1993 design was implemented in 1996, excluding the panes underneath the network name, but restoring the searchlights placed behind the "F" and "X" in the Fox wordmark.
The current version of the logo was introduced in 1999, removing the searchlights completely and switching the logo exclusively to a wordmark design. Despite this, the searchlight theme remains an integral part of 21st Century Fox's branding efforts; they are still incorporated into Fox News Channel's logo, and the universal station logo introduced in 2006 by Fox's owned-and-operated stations – which were retained by the seven former O&Os that Fox Television Stations sold in 2008 to Local TV and had spread to several Fox stations owned by Tribune Broadcasting (including those it acquired through the company's 2013 merger with Local TV; the logo introduced by the O&Os was modified for Tribune's Fox affiliates in 2012 to feature only one searchlight as part of the company's graphical standardizations for those stations) and certain other Fox affiliates not owned or operated by either company. The 1996–99 searchlight logo is still used within the logos of a small number of Fox affiliates; the searchlights continued to be featured in the logo of sister channel FX until a rebranding effort in 2008.
Controversy surrounded the network in 2002 and 2003 over profanity, expressed respectively by Cher and Nicole Richie, aired live during Fox's broadcast of the Billboard Music Awards on its affiliates in the Eastern and Central Time Zones despite the use of five-second audio delays; the indecent material was edited out when the program was broadcast in other time zones from the Mountain Time Zone westward. Both of the obscene instances were condemned by the Parents Television Council, and named by them among the worst instances on television from 2001 to 2004. PTC members filed tens of thousands of complaints to the Federal Communications Commission regarding the broadcasts. A subsequent apology made by Fox representatives was labeled a "sham" by PTC president L. Brent Bozell III, who argued that the network could have easily used an audio delay to edit out the obscene language. As the FCC was investigating the broadcasts, in 2004, Fox announced that it would begin extending live broadcast delays to five minutes from its standard five or ten seconds to more easily be able to edit out obscenities uttered over the air. In June 2007, in the case Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC could not issue indecency fines against Fox because it does not have the authority to fine broadcasters for fleeting expletives, such as in the case of the Billboard Awards. The FCC eventually decided to appeal the Second Circuit Court's finding. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari and oral arguments in FCC v. Fox, et al., began November 4, 2008.
The Parents Television Council has also criticized many popular Fox shows for perceived indecent content, such as American Dad!, Arrested Development, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Hell's Kitchen, Married... with Children, Prison Break and That '70s Show. The Council sometimes has gone even as far as to file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission regarding indecent content within Fox programming, having done so for That '70s Show and Married by America, having successfully been able to get the FCC to fine the network nearly $1 million for its airing of the latter program. That fine was reduced to $91,000 in January 2009 after an appeal of the fine by Fox was granted as a result of its earlier discovery that the FCC originally claimed to have received 159 complaints regarding the content in Married by America; it later admitted to only receiving 90, which came from only 23 people. A study of the complaints by blogger Jeff Jarvis deduced that all but two were virtually identical to each other, meaning that the $1.2 million judgment was based on original complaints written by a total of only three people.
Presidents of Fox Broadcasting Company Entertainment
- MundoMax (defunct; formerly MundoFox)
- Fox Kids
- Fox cartoons
- Animation Domination (Australia)
- Friday night death slot
- Fox News Channel
- Fox Business Network
- Lists of United States network television schedules
- List of United States over-the-air television networks
- Lists of Fox television affiliates
- Fox Broadcasting Co. v. Dish Network, LLC