Previously known as CBN Cable, and, later,
The Family Channel (after most of the religious programs were purged; it was
then spun off into the International Family Entertainment IPO), it was
purchased (handsomely) by Rupert Murdoch and merged with a similar Fox
cable channel. (The channel's name was later shortened to Fox Family). It follows the pattern of Murdoch lining the pockets of his
political allies, and follows the pattern of Pat Robertson's hypocrisy, since he always decried the sleaze on Fox.

Now, pending the paperwork and haggling, it (as well as Fox Kids Europe and Latin America) will become part of the Disney family of <SARCASM>fine broadcast networks</SARCASM>. (Cost: $3.2 billion in cash, and the assumption of $2.1 billion in debt). It was, in fact, Disney who was easily the highest bidder the previous time around, when Fox/NewsCorp won -- the difference was that Mr. Murdoch promised to allow Pat to keep two hours of weekday airtime (10 AM Eastern Time, with an 11 PM rebroadcast) for The 700 Club, the Robertson family media/political cash cow, from which emanated its many purely-cash cash cows -- e.g. the African Development Company; while Disney balked at this, Fox was willing to let Pat have the two hours in perpetuity, with only the formality of renewing this side deal every five years. Now that Disney has won this prize again (and it is a prize; though viewership was never all that good, a vast number of US cable systems carry Fox Family, perhaps due to Pat's clout in Middle America during the channel's formative years), two parties -- Disney's Michael Eisner and 800-pound FFC shareholder Dr. Robertson, an even stranger pair of bedfellows than Robertson/Murdoch -- have to either agree to keep the 700 Club deal intact (which would pain the liberal Eisner), or buy off the Robertson family. This is unresolved as I write this (September 22, 2001) , but I've seen $75-100 million dollars floated around as the buyout price for the rider -- above and beyond what's being paid for the shares.

After purchasing the Family Channel from Pat Robertson and company, Fox attempted to turn the channel into a powerful (non-religious) entertainment franchise, even getting sizable investment capital from Saban Entertainment, which produced such Fox hits as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Fox's rights to Major League Baseball led to a weekly game being broadcast (in addition to their Game of the Week on Fox, Fox Sports Net, and fX). Plenty of family-friendly original programming, including one show starring former NBA player John Salley, was commissioned. However, the channel failed to find an audience for young children against the juggernauts of Nickelodeon (Viacom), Cartoon Network (AOL Time Warner), the Kids WB lineup, and even the daily Fox Kids lineup on broadcast TV stations. As for the limited market of family programming, Fox Family competed with Pax TV (owned by NBC) and a few small-market networks.

After Fox failed to turn the Family Channel into a successful branded franchise, it sold the whole thing to Disney in 2001 for over $3 billion. Once the transition is complete, the channel will once again change its name to ABC Family Channel.

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