The American Broadcasting Company, owned by the Walt Disney Company since 1996, was spawned from NBC in 1943, where it originated as the "NBC Blue" radio network as the result of an antitrust ruling. It changed its name to ABC the following year, and launched its television network in 1948.In the 1950s, ABC was the traditional third-runner in the American ratings, usually finishing a distant last to the other, "older" networks as many markets had no access to an ABC station, much less a third television station in that era. (Even markets that had access to ABC programming usually ended up watching those shows at different times, as their local NBC or CBS affiliates would pick up ABC shows and run them at odd or obscure hours.) Starting in the 1960s, however, ABC began to make up for this by targeting younger audiences with shows like American Bandstand, The Mod Squad, Batman and Room 222, as well as traditional Dom Com fare like Bewitched and The Brady Bunch. Then, in the 1970s, it hired Fred Silverman away from CBS. With Silverman's invention of the Jiggle Show (with Charlie's Angels and Three's Company), loading the schedule with sitcoms (Happy Days and others), and the broadcast of several significant Mini Series (Roots, Rich Man Poor Man) and sports events (Monday Night Football, Wide World of Sports, the Olympic Games), ABC saw both its ratings position and its revenue skyrocket. By the end of the decade, it had become a dependable frontrunner and completely lost its "also-ran" cachet. Among the things that helped this was the signing of several of NBC's affiliates in mid-sized markets, as their existing affiliates in those markets were, like their network, not strong performers (and several were on the less-desirable UHF band).ABC's run at the top stretched into the 1980s, but began to slip midway through the decade. The once-moribund NBC was experiencing its resurgence under Brandon Tartikoff, and hit shows like Three's Company and Laverne and Shirley were coming to an end. While ABC was still producing hit shows like Dynasty, Moonlighting, The Wonder Years, Growing Pains and MacGyver, it was also producing bombs like Dolly and the Lucille Ball sitcom Life With Lucy. The network wound up being bought out by a media company only a tenth its size, Capital Cities Communications, in 1985, which bought ABC based on the massive strength of their ABC affiliate in Philadelphia, WPVI. After this, the network became more financially conservative (as its new owner had been known for prior to the purchase), tightening its purse strings and slowing investment in new series.In the 1990s and early 2000s, the network's only success story was its spectacular subversion of the Friday Night Death Slot, the TGIF comedy block on Fridays, which featured such shows as Full House, Family Matters and Boy Meets World. Hits on other nights, such as The Practice and Alias, were few and far between, and attempts to launch a hit Reality Show (like CBS' Survivor and Fox's American Idol) proved to be embarrassments. It briefly enjoyed massive success with the hit Game Show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, until they started marketing the show to death by airing it four nights a week, turning it from a megahit into a punchline almost overnight. Also during the 1990s, Capital Cities was bought by The Walt Disney Company, the network's current owner, who during the first few years of their ownership played this up significantly (early fears of it being rebranded "The Disney Network" were never realized), but this has since cooled down.Midway through the decade, however, ABC finally regained its footing. It finally found its reality TV hit in 2003 with Extreme Makeover Home Edition, and followed that up the following year with three scripted series that quickly turned into megahits: LOST, Desperate Housewives, and Grey's Anatomy. Other shows, like Ugly Betty and Dancing with the Stars, also helped to boost ABC's cachet in the new decade. While still behind CBS and Fox, it sits comfortably in third place ahead of a seemingly dead-in-the-water NBC, when discounting any Olympics and Sunday Night Football gains by that network. The network also carries a second network on their owned and operated stations as a digital subchannel called "Live Well Network", a lifestyle network which airs programming pertaining to health, home improvement and food. It has since expanded to other non-ABC station subchannels, and the website is purposefully designed not to look like an ABC site.Not to be confused with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation or with the Japanese network Asahi Broadcasting Corporation (TV Asahi's Osaka affiliate), which both have the same abbreviations.
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