Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch came to America in the 1980s in order to buy out the 20th Century Fox film studio and give it a sibling TV network. Murdoch purchased the Metromedia group of six independent stations in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Washington, D.C., and Houston to serve as the nucleus of the network.
Some of these stations had formerly been a part of the DuMont Network, which came on the air in The '40s as the nation's third television network. Several problems, like ownership complications, problems keeping talent, and NBC and CBS making sure that they got all the good stations, did it in slowly. DuMont was finished off by the quick rise of ABC in 1954 from an also-ran to a money-making also-ran who could hang in there patiently. For the next thirty years, all attempts at creating a fourth television network (not counting PBS, which nobody does anyway, since it operates on a completely different business model and doesn't have the same production woes as other networks) were met with little success, and most of the former group of DuMont stations ended up part of Metromedia, which eventually began to run strong independent stations from The '60s and into The '70s and The '80s.
(20th Century Fox had also owned 50% of an early fourth television network attempt, NTA Film Network. Its flagship, New Jersey-based WNTA, later became NET affiliate WNDT, which later became PBS affiliate WNET. Its Los Angeles affiliate KTTV became one of Fox's O&Os at its founding in 1986, and is still so as of 2017.)
However, Rupert Murdoch had plenty of clout (and cash) on his side, and unlike the failed leaders of fourth networks past, was bound and determined to make Fox successful. By purchasing the Metromedia stations, he could easily influence other stations in other markets to give Fox a try, and have owned-and-operated stations that always cleared the network's programming, no matter what (with the possible exception of breaking news). He had to forfeit his Australian citizenship due to regulations disallowing foreign investors from owning more than a small part of an American television station or networks, meaning he was "all in" on a bet that a fourth network could attain success. Fox would make or break him.
The Fox network began broadcasts in 1986 in Late Night with the Late Show with Joan Rivers, but it was more of a whimper than a bang. Johnny Carson disowned his former guest host Rivers completely, providing a kiss of death to the show before it ever began (she was never forgiven by Carson). She lasted less than a year before the show would die a slow death with guest hosts. (Among them was Arsenio Hall, who became popular enough to sign a syndication deal with Paramount after the end of the series.) Fox has never done well in late night and eventually gave the time back to their affiliates (after The Wilton-North Report nearly broke up the network completely), and the less said about Chevy Chase's short run on Fox, the better.
Fox truly launched in April 1987 in primetime, making its name with edgy, risque TV shows like The Simpsons, Married... with Children, Beverly Hills, 90210, In Living Color!, and the pioneering Reality Show C.O.P.S.. In 1993, they shocked the industry by picking up the NFC contract for over a billion dollars. The network then signed up with stations owned by New World Communications, owner of stations in several NFC markets (it had previously been Storer Communications of Toledo, Ohio, a major owner of TV stations, distribution firms and cable systems, only for the stations and distribution assets to be sold to the remnants of New World Pictures, once a B-Movie company started by Roger Corman, then the former owners of Marvel Comics). While ABC and NBC were hurt by this loss, it had truly devastating effects on CBS, the former holder of the NFC package, who had to move to lower-tier UHF stations in several cities (such as channel 46 in Atlanta, initially set to affiliate with The WB, channel 58 in Milwaukee and channel 62 in Detroitnote ). To add insult to injury, Fox also signed over football commentators (such as Pat Summerall, John Madden, Terry Bradshaw, Dick Stockton, and James Brown) from CBS in addition to plundering its affiliates. The combination of the New World deal and the football contract in the early '90s were responsible for cementing Fox's status as being on par to the three major networks, and sent CBS into a Dork Age that it would take a decade to get out of. (It also helped set off some Disaster Dominoes through the TV industry.)
This helped accelerate another trend Fox stations were stumbling onto. See, part of Rupert Murdoch's strategy was to program just under the minimum number of hours to be considered a "network" by the FCC, and so avoid numerous restrictions the FCC placed on "networks". So rather than program primetime from 8-11 PM like the Big Three networks did, Fox would only program primetime from 8-10 PM. When the New World stations and other former Big Three affiliates switched to Fox, they found that the ratings for their late news surged once they moved from 11 to 10 and weren't competing with the other Big Three affiliates' newscasts (something a number of Fox's charter affiliates had long benefitted from). Soon, virtually all Fox stations, including some that had never had news departments before, were airing news in the 10 PM hour to great success, further cementing Fox's reputation as a peer of the Big Three networks but all but assuring Fox would never program the 10 PM hour itself. Many Big Three affiliates also tried to get in on the action by programming 10 PM newscasts on UPN, WB, or independent stations.
By the late 2000s, thanks to the success of American Idol, Fox was running neck-and-neck with a now-resurgent CBS for first place in the ratings, eliminating any doubt as to its position on American television. The network is often stereotyped (rightfully or wrongly) for being overly trigger-happy in terms of cancelling shows, which has been mocked by Family Guy (itself a victim of this), among others. This was especially egregious due to some of the shows gaining cult followings long after their cancellation, namely Family Guy, fellow animated sitcom Futurama, space western Firefly, and mockumentary-sitcom Arrested Development. (The four shows were all eventually revived by FOX themselves, Comedy Central, the movie Serenity, and Netflix, respectively.)
Another source of controversy surrounding Fox, alluded to above, is that its content has historically pushed far more boundaries than its broadcast competition, making it a frequent target of Moral Guardians. The Simpsons character Bart Simpson was seen as promoting juvenile delinquency, Married... with Children was subject to a boycott attempt by a Michigan housewife due to its raunchy content (which only increased its ratings), and trashy reality shows like The Swan, Married by America, Temptation Island and Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? managed to disgust nearly everyone. In The '90s, Fox was also famous for running shockumentaries like the When Animals Attack! specials and World's Wildest Police Videos.
Fox News Channel also dominates cable news, coming in as the number-one rated cable news network in 2007, formerly hosting the number-one rated cable news Talk Show, The O'Reilly Factor (which held the spot for one hundred months in a row until O'Reilly was terminated by the network in April 2017 for sexual harassment allegations), and grossing more viewers than the other cable news networks combined. However, it is always important to note that Fox and Fox News are completely different operations, and even some of the network's affiliates go out of their way to make sure that viewers know that in their local news coverage. Fox News Sunday, however, is a staple of Sunday mornings on the network, and State of the Union Addresses and Presidential election coverage on the network are produced by Fox News. Sister cable network Fox Business Network is a Spirited Competitor to CNBC with a much deeper pro-business slant.
Fox Kids utterly dominated children's television throughout The '90s, and they, Kids' WB!, and The Disney Afternoon waged war for the hearts and minds of American children through what could be considered one of the finest and last moments for children's broadcast television programming. Unfortunately, the block suffered as a result of the New World deal; most of the new VHF affiliates didn't want anything to do with the block, especially the weekday afternoon portion. Most of these stations would find new affiliations as well, either with the network Fox displaced, or with the fledgling UPN or The WB, resulting in Fox Kids either being time-shifted or relegated to smaller independent stations in many markets. Fox would then buy the Family Channel in 1997, but, without a clear strategy for either Fox Kids or Fox Family, both would be doomed. By 2001 Fox had sold out most of the Fox Kids library and Fox Family itself to Disney and ended the broadcast block in 2002. For the next six years the time was leased out to 4Kids Entertainment, until a conflict between the two over affiliate coverage (most of the top Fox affiliates declined to carry it, and the block suffered a massive ratings drop when the Atlanta market dropped the block in 2006) and financial disputes (Fox received no payments for the block) ended in a breakup and 4Kids taking their ball to The CW, leaving the Saturday morning time to a network-programmed block of Infomercials which is completely ignored by everyone, including, it seems, Fox.
Fox, through their cable division, also runs a number of general networks, including FX, FXM (which was similar to Turner Classic Movies, but with solely older films from the Twentieth Century Fox libraries during the day, and recent films with more commercials at night), FXX (a comedy-oriented spinoff of FX), and the National Geographic Channels: both the original network and National Geographic Wild (which replaced the Fox Reality Channel). Spanish viewers are targeted with the upstart Fox Life (formerly Utilisima) network, and from 2012-2015, the broadcast MundoFox network, which drew from the network's deep reserve of Latin American and European Spanish programming. (Fox pulled out of the MundoFox network, which lumbered along an additional year after until its end at the start of December 2016.)
Fox also owned a number of regional sports networks, most of which are now branded "Fox Sports Networks", with some owned by DirecTV under the branding Root Sports). This began in the 90s as Fox Sports Net, with the acquisition of the Prime Network and SportsChannel RSNs from Liberty Media and Cablevision, respectively. They also acquired a few others from other companies. During the mid-2000s the networks began to break apart, with several stations being bought out by Comcast and rebranded, and others stopping their alliance with FSN. They also ran Fox Soccer Channel (which would later morph into FXX, in September 2013), but still run Fox Soccer Plus, which broadcasts portions of Series A, Barcelona FC and the UEFA Champions League in the hopes that the beautiful game will catch on in America eventually, a bet that paid off, as Fox will be the US English language broadcaster of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup. (It lost the rights to the English Premier League to NBC Sports in 2013.) Also owned by Fox is FS1 (fomerly Fox Sports 1), a relatively new all-sports network seeking to challenge ESPN's dominance (it was previously known as SPEED Channel (and before that, Speedvision), and was more known as NASCAR's official network), and companion network FS2 (Fox Sports 2), which was previously known as Fuel TV, and showed mainly extreme sports. In 2011, Fox began carrying the UFC, which was considered a major step in legitimizing that sport further, and saw some programming on FS1 and/or FS2. As of January 2019, all UFC programming is broadcast exclusively on ESPN.
On a smaller note, Fox also has their hands in radio via Clear Channel, which distributes two networks from them; Fox News Radio, which provides a traditional radio news service to radio stations with FNC anchors, along with a few full-fledged talk shows. Fox Sports Radio is the Spirited Competitor to the larger ESPN Radio, with mainly sports talk, but no play-by-play rights outside of local stations affiliated to them which have their region's teams (although it has picked up some national play-by-play rights, like the UFC, as a side effect of some of Fox's larger rights deals in recent years). There is a simulcast of the audio portion of the Fox NFL Sunday pre-game show. A lesser program, Fox All Access, was one of those weekend shows that aired on pop music stations and played current tracks and promoted Fox shows and films; it used to promote Fox Kids programming (known as the Fox Kids Countdown) until that block's passing in 2002, and finally faded away in June 2012.
The Fox name is used for several Murdoch-owned channels across the world, including the British/Irish channels Fox and Fox+, and the Fox Life suite of channels in Europe and South America. In Australia, the name is used both for the Foxtel cable and satellite television service (half-owned by News Corp) and their general entertainment cable network, which is sandwiched between Seven Network and Nine Network and named Fox 8 in an attempt to establish parity between them and the broadcast networks, as well as an Australian version of Fox Sports.
In December 2017, Disney announced it would acquire 20th Century Fox and most of Murdoch's entertainment and international properties for $71.3 billion, excluding the network, Fox News and Fox Sports' US properties for antitrust concernsnote and leaving Fox without an attached production studio. The deal put major question marks over the future of the network. Initial speculation suggested that Fox Corporation, which will form comprising of the aforementioned Fox assets not sold to Disney, would operate the network with a lessened emphasis on scripted entertainment in favor of sports, reality, and news programming. Moves by the network since then, such as signing a five-year deal to carry NFL Thursday Night Football beginning in 2018, and becoming the broadcasting partner for WWE SmackDown beginning October 2019, have reinforced this speculation. The network denies any change in strategy, however, claiming that it intends to stay in the entertainment business going forward, buying content from the non-network affiliated studios (Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Television, Paramount, and Lionsgate being the most prominent) and taking an ownership stake in these programs, branding this strategy as a "content accelerator" called "Sidecar." The network thus announced that 10 new scripted series will premiere in the 2019-20 season, its first as an independent network, with only 3 of them to begin in the fall. As part of the transition, Fox dropped its longtime moniker as the Fox Broadcasting Company in favor of a new name, Fox Entertainment, to reflect the new structure.
Shows on Fox:
- 21 Jump Street: One of the very first shows on the network. Made Johnny Depp a star.
- Alien Nation
- Allen Gregory
- Ally McBeal
- Almost Human
- American Dad! (seasons 1-10)
- America's Most Wanted (seasons 1-23)
- American Idol
- Andy Richter Controls the Universe
- Arrested Development
- Axe Cop
- Beat Shazam
- The Ben Stiller Show
- Beverly Hills, 90210
- Bob's Burgers
- Boston Public
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine (seasons 1-5)
- The Centsables
- City Hunters (Also a co-producer with AXE products, on the FOX Latin American Channels)
- The Cleveland Show: Spin-off of Family Guy.
- The Cool Kids
- Cops (seasons 1-26)
- Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
- The Critic (season 2)
- Dark Angel
- The Exorcist
- Family Guy: Now the second-longest-running animated sitcom on the network, thanks to the cancellation of King of the Hill and American Dad! moving to TBS.
- The Following
- Fortune Hunter
- The Four: Battle for Stardom, another musical competition show.
- Free Ride
- Futurama (seasons 1-5; the movies are made for DVD and the rest of the series aired on Comedy Central)
- Gang Related
- Get a Life
- The Gifted
- Golan the Insatiable: Featured on Animation Domination High-Definition.
- Greg the Bunny (first season only)
- The Grinder
- Grounded for Life (seasons 1-2)
- Hell's Kitchen
- High School U.S.A.: Featured on Animation Domination High-Definition.
- Hotel Hell
- I Hate My Teenage Daughter
- In Living Color!: The network's first Sketch Comedy show. Also the first (successful) acting gig for Jim Carrey (who, prior to ILC was a struggling stand-up comic who was passed up for Saturday Night Live and starred in the short lived sitcom The Duck Factory). A revival was planned for this show in 2012, but test audience reaction was negative and the project has been shelved.
- The Inside
- Joe Millionaire (2003) and The Next Joe Millionaire (later the same year)
- Kindred: The Embraced
- King of the Hill: The second-longest-running animated sitcom on the network (13 seasons from 1997 to 2009 note . Family Guy is currently tied with this show for second longest running cartoon.
- Kitchen Nightmares
- LA To Vegas
- Lee Daniels Star
- The Last Man on Earth
- Lucifer (2016)
- Lethal Weapon (2016)
- MA Dtv: The longest-running sketch comedy series on FOX, and Saturday Night Live's longest running rival show at 14 seasons (1995-2009). A revival series is shown on The CW since 2016.
- Making History (2017)
- Malcolm in the Middle
- Married by America (2003)
- Married... with Children: The network's longest-running live action sitcom. Was the first acting gig for Ed O'Neill (now on Modern Family as a dad, but not the kind that his character Al Bundy was), Katey Sagal (now on Sons of Anarchy, but outside of playing Peg Bundy, was also known as the voice of Turanga Leela on Futurama,) David Faustino (who now does voicework on The Legend of Korra,) and Christina Applegate (who now does Broadway). Also considered the only show in American television not to have Jumped the Shark thanks to the addition of Ted McGinley (whose appearances made Happy Days and The Love Boat suffer note ).
- The Masked Singer
- The Mick
- Million Dollar Money Drop
- The Mindy Project
- My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé (2004)
- Napoleon Dynamite
- Ned & Stacey
- New Girl
- New York Undercover
- The Orville
- Party of Five
- The Passage
- Pitch (2016)
- The Pitts
- The PJs (first two seasons; the rest of the episodes aired on The WB)
- Prison Break
- Proven Innocent
- Raising Hope
- Red Band Society
- The Resident
- Scream Queens
- Second Chance (2016)
- Shots Fired
- The Simpsons: The longest-running animated series ever, not just on FOX, but also American television. Also one of the most popular and most profitable shows on the network.
- Sit Down, Shut Up
- Sleepy Hollow
- So You Think You Can Dance
- Son of Zorn
- Strange Luck
- The Street
- Surviving Jack
- Temptation Island (2001)
- Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
- Terra Nova
- That '70s Show
- The Tick (2001)
- Til Death
- Titus: A short-lived sitcom about the dysfunctional life and times of stand-up comedian Christopher Titus. Despite being canceled, the show has a cult following.
- The Tracey Ullman Show
- Tru Calling
- The War at Home
- Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? (2000)
- The X Factor
- The X-Files