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Creator / Fox

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"Oh, the slogan is true: Watch Fox and be damned for all eternity!"
Ned Flanders, The Simpsons, "Marge In Chains"

Fox is an American broadcast network that launched on October 9, 1986. Named after what used to be the 20th Century Fox studio (itself a successor to the Fox Film studio that existed from 1915 to 1935), the network is the flagship property of the eponymous Fox Corporation, which includes sports and news divisions, sibling networks MyNetworkTV and Fox Soul, animation studio Bento Box Entertainment, the free streaming service Tubi, MarVista Entertainment among other assets.

Early History

Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch came to America in the 1980s in order to buy out the Twentieth 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.

(TCF 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 (conversely meaning he had to sell off Network Ten back in Australia), 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 friend and 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, programming first Sunday nights only, adding Saturday nights a few months later, quickly making its name with edgy, risque TV shows like Married... with Children, 21 Jump Street, In Living Color!, and the pioneering Reality Show COPS. Come the 1989-90 season they added regular Monday night programming; Thursdays and Fridays followed in 1990-91, the former night anchored by the previous season's breakout smash The Simpsons and newcomer Beverly Hills, 90210. (Nights that did not feature a regular lineup were occasionally used for theatrical movie broadcasts.)

In 1993, shortly after the network began programming every night of the week, 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 an Audience-Alienating Era 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 PMnote  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.

The 2000s

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 and later Hulu, 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. These notoriously laxer standards and practices board compared to other networks, has allowed a large number of shows airing on the network to get away with insulting the network itself, its parent, associated individuals or even its sister networks and properties (especially Fox News note ).

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!, The Disney Afternoon, and Nickelodeon 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 2004) 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 ran 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 in July 2015, which rebranded as MundoMax and lumbered along an additional year after until its end at the start of December 2016.)

Fox also owned a number of regional sports networks. 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 (a few other RSNs from other companies were also brought into the fold); Fox-produced national programming, like Fox Sports News, their Sports Center clone (later renamed as the National Sports Report when regional reports were introduced; it didn't last too long after) and later The Best Damn Sports Show Period, became integral parts of the hybrid national/local approach. During the mid-2000s, however, the networks began to break apart, with several stations being bought out by Comcast or DirecTV 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 iHeartMedia, 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 co-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.

2017-present; Disney acquisition and the formation of "New Fox"

In December 2017, Disney announced it would acquire 21st Century Fox, including most of Murdoch's entertainment and international properties for $71.3 billion, but excluding the network, Fox News and Fox Sports' US properties for antitrust concerns.note  The regional sports channels were also included in the sale, but the US Department of Justice mandated they be sold to another party as a condition for approval; Sinclair Broadcast Group would buy these networks in August 2019. Fox Corporation formed in the aftermath, comprising of the aforementioned Fox assets not sold to Disney.

Fox was left without an attached production studio, which lead to initial speculation that the network would operate with a lessened emphasis on scripted entertainment in favor of sports, reality, and news programming. Indeed, the network would sign a five-year deal to carry the NFL's Thursday Night Football package beginning in 2018 (the network would drop the package in 2022, making it exclusive to Prime Video). Fox would also become the new home for WWE SmackDown beginning in October 2019, returning the show to over-the-air broadcast television and marking the second time SmackDown has aired on a Fox-owned network, both of which last happened in 2010, before the show moved from MyNetworkTV to under the Comcast NBCUniversal umbrella.

The network denied any change in strategy, however, claiming that it intends to stay in the entertainment business going forward by buying content from the non-network affiliated studios (Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Television, MGM, NBCUniversal and Lionsgate being the most prominent) and taking an ownership stake in these programs. The network thusly premiered 10 new scripted series in the 2019-20 season, its first as an independent network, with only 3 of them beginning that fall. As part of the transition, the network launched a new television production unit, Fox Entertainment.note  In order to stay in the animation business, Fox Entertainment subsequently acquired Bento Box Entertainment, producer of Bob's Burgers, allowing the studio to continue to operate as an independent production house.note  The short-lived 2022 drama series Monarch was the first scripted series fully owned by Fox Corporation to air on the network.note 

Eventually, the 20th Century and Searchlight film and TV studios would drop the "Fox" title, fully distancing themselves of whatever remains of the Fox media empire.

Shows on Fox:

Bold indicates ongoing series.