Disney Channel (occasionally shortened as Disney) is an American pay television channel that serves as the flagship property of Disney Branded Television, a unit of the Disney General Entertainment Content division of The Walt Disney Company. The channel was originally called The Disney Channel from 1983 to 1997, then shortened to "Disney" from 1997 to 2002, until settling with "Disney Channel".
|Timeshift service||Disney Channel East|
Disney Channel West
|Owner||Disney General Entertainment Content|
|Parent||Disney Branded Television|
|Launched||April 18, 1983|
|Former names||The Disney Channel (1983–1997)|
|Webcast||Watch live (U.S. Only)|
|Website||DisneyNOW portal (U.S. Only)|
Disney Channel's programming consists of original first-run television series, theatrically released and original made-for-TV movies and select other third-party programming. Disney Channel–which formerly operated as a premium service–originally marketed its programs towards families during the 1980s, and later to younger children by the 2000s.
As of May 2022[update], Disney Channel is available on basic cable and satellite in over 88 million homes in the US and to millions worldwide. Currently available on basic cable and satellite in over 88 million U.S. homes and to millions of other viewers on Disney Channels around the world. Disney Channel-branded content spans television, online, mobile, VOD platforms and the DisneyNOW app. There are 46 Disney Channels available in 33 languages worldwide.
The Disney Channel launched nationally as a premium channel at 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time on April 18, 1983. The channel's development with help from the channel's founding president Alan Wagner, and formally announced the launch of its family-oriented cable channel in early 1983. The channel – which initially maintained a 16-hour-per-day programming schedule from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time – would become available on cable providers in all 50 U.S. states by September 1983, and accrue a base of more than 611,000 subscribers by December of that year. In October 1983, the channel debuted its first made-for-cable movie, Tiger Town, which earned the channel a CableACE Award. The channel had reached profitability by January 1985, with its programming reaching 1.75 million subscribers by that point.
In September 1990, TCI's Montgomery, Alabama, system became the first cable provider to carry the channel as a basic cable service. Between 1991 and 1996, a steadily increasing number of cable providers began shifting The Disney Channel from a premium add-on offering to their basic tiers, either experimentally or on a full-time basis; however, Walt Disney Company executives denied any plans to convert the channel into an ad-supported basic service, stating that the premium-to-basic shifts on some providers was part of a five-year "hybrid" strategy that allowed providers to offer the channel in either manner. On April 6, 1997, the channel – which was officially renamed as simply Disney Channel.
High School Musical 2 is currently the most successful DCOM in terms of popularity and accolades, setting a basic cable record for the single most-watched television program, as its August 2007 debut was watched by 17.2 million viewers (counting sports, this record stood until a December 3, 2007 telecast of a New England Patriots-Baltimore Ravens game on corporate sibling ESPN's Monday Night Football, which was watched by 17.5 million viewers). The Cheetah Girls films were also notably successful in terms of merchandise and sales for its concert tour and soundtrack albums. The first film in 2003 was the first made-for-TV movie musical in Disney Channel's history and had a worldwide audience of over 84 million viewers. The second movie was the most successful of the series, bringing in 8.1 million viewers in the United States. An 86-date concert tour featuring the group was ranked as one of the top 10 concert tours of 2006; the tour broke a record at the Houston Rodeo that was set by Elvis Presley in 1973, selling out with 73,500 tickets sold in three minutes.
In addition to its made-for-cable films, Disney Channel has rights to theatrically released feature films, with some film rights shared with sister network Freeform. Alongside films released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (mainly consisting of releases from Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar), the channel also maintains rights to films from other studios. Some films released by Bagdasarian Productions (such as The Chipmunk Adventure and Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein) have also aired on Disney Channel, although most of them are not currently owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
- Disney Junior (branded as Mickey Mornings on-air) – A morning weekday block of programming (formerly known as "Disney Junior on Disney Channel") that features that network's programming and debuted on February 14, 2011, the day after the closure of Playhouse Disney (which launched on April 6, 1997); the current name and Mickey Mouse-hosted continuity segments were both launched in June 2020.
- Disney Night Time – As a premium channel from April 18, 1983, to April 6, 1997, The Disney Channel featured programming aimed at older parental audiences during the evening and overnight hours under the banner title "Disney Nighttime". The content seen in these blocks was devoid of sexual and violent content. Programming seen during Disney Nighttime included older feature films (similar to those seen at the time on American Movie Classics, and eventually Turner Classic Movies, with both Disney film titles and movies from other film studios mixed in), alongside original concert specials (featuring artists ranging from Rick Springfield to Jon Secada to Elton John), variety specials and documentaries.
- The Magical World of Disney – used as a Sunday night umbrella for films and specials on The Disney Channel from September 23, 1990, to November 24, 1996, originally airing exclusively on Sunday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. From December 1, 1996, to 2001, The Magical World of Disney served as the overall branding for Disney Channel's nightly evening lineup of films starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific.
- The American Legacy – ran on Tuesday evenings at 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from January 7, 1992, to August 27, 1996. Originally launched in honor of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the United States, the block featured films, documentaries and specials about the contributions, history and scenic wonders of the nation.
- Toonin' Tuesday – Running from October 5, 1993, to August 27, 1996, "Toonin' Tuesday" was a weekly program block featuring various animated programs. Each Tuesday from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific, "Toonin' Tuesday" featured primarily animated films and specials (though reruns of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show sometimes aired as part of the block). The block ended on August 27, 1996, due to changes to the channel's programming schedule.
- Bonus! Thursday – From October 7, 1993, to August 29, 1996, The Disney Channel ran a weekly program block called "Bonus! Thursday" (or "Bonus!" for short), which ran each Thursday from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. The block featured programs aimed at teenagers, including series such as Kids Incorporated, The All-New Mickey Mouse Club, various Mickey Mouse Club serials (including Teen Angel and Match Point), and Eerie Indiana, followed by films and specials. The block ended on August 29, 1996, due to changes to the channel's programming schedule.
- Totally Kids Only ("TKO") – a weekday morning lineup of live-action and animated series, which became the brand for the channel's morning and afternoon block (from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific) aimed at children ages 2 to 8 that ran from 1993 to April 1997
- Triple Feature Friday – ran each Friday starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from October 8, 1993, to May 30, 1997, featured three separate films – sometimes regardless of each film's genre – that were tied to a specific subject
- Disney Drive-In – ran each Saturday starting at 1:30 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from October 8, 1994, to August 31, 1996, featured Disney series such as Zorro, Texas John Slaughter and Spin and Marty, followed by Disney films and specials The block ended on August 31, 1996, due to changes in the channel's schedule.
- Block Party – From October 2, 1995, to August 28, 1996, four animated series that previously aired in syndication on The Disney Afternoon (Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, DuckTales and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers) were rerun together on The Disney Channel as a two-hour programming block called "Block Party", which aired weekdays from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. The "Block Party" branding was dropped on September 3, 1996, when Darkwing Duck was removed as the block's lead-in and Goof Troop was added to end the lineup. This unnamed block continued to air into 1997.
- Magical World of Animals – an hour-long block of wildlife series aimed at children that ran from August 1997 to 1999. Promoted as an offshoot of the Magical World of Disney and airing Sunday evenings from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the block consisted of two series: Going Wild with Jeff Corwin and Omba Mokomba.
- Vault Disney – premiered in September 1997, five months after Disney Channel's first major rebrand, replacing the Disney Nighttime lineup. Originally airing only on Sunday nights from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, Vault Disney expanded to seven nights a week in September 1998 (the Monday through Saturday editions of the block at this time aired from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Eastern/Pacific; the start time of the block as a whole was moved consistently to midnight daily in September 1999). The vintage programming featured during the late-night schedule changed to feature only Disney-produced television series and specials (such as Zorro, Spin and Marty, The Mickey Mouse Club and the Walt Disney anthology television series), along with older Disney television specials. Older Disney feature films also were part of the lineup from 1997 to 2000 but aired in a reduced capacity. The block also featured The Ink and Paint Club, an anthology series featuring Disney animated shorts, which became the only remaining program on the channel to feature these shorts by 1999, upon the removal of Quack Pack from the schedule. The channel discontinued the block in September 2002, in favor of running reruns of its original and acquired series during the late evening and overnight hours (which comparative to the adult-focused Vault Disney, are aimed at children and teenagers, an audience that is typically asleep during that time period).
- Zoog Disney – launched in August 1998, a program block that originally aired only on weekend afternoons from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. The hosts for the block were "Zoogs", animated anthropomorphic robot/alien creature-hybrid characters with human voices (some of whom acted like teenagers). The block unified television and the Internet, allowing viewer comments and scores from players of ZoogDisney.com's online games to be aired on the channel during regular programming in a ticker format (which the channel continued to use after the block was discontinued, however, the ticker has been all but completely dropped from on-air usage as of May 2010[update]). From June 2000 to August 2002, the afternoon and primetime lineups on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays were branded under the umbrella title "Zoog Weekendz". The Zoogs were redesigned with cel shading and given mature voices in 2000, though the remade Zoog characters were discontinued after less than a year; the entire Zoog Disney block was phased out by September 2002.
- Disney Replay – "Disney Replay" was a block that premiered on April 17, 2013, featuring episodes of defunct Disney Channel Original Series that premiered between 2000 and 2007 (such as Lizzie McGuire, That's So Raven and Hannah Montana). Airing Wednesday nights/early Thursday mornings (as a nod to the popular social media trend "Throwback Thursday"), originally from 12:00 to 1:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, the block expanded to six hours (running until 6:00 a.m. Eastern/Pacific) on August 14, 2014. Programs featured on Disney Replay were added to the WATCH Disney Channel service on August 16, 2014. The block was discontinued on April 28, 2016, and moved to Freeform with a new name: That's So Throwback.
- Disney XD on Disney Channel – "Disney XD on Disney Channel" is the former branding of two blocks airing on Friday and Saturday nights; an animated block airing Fridays from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., showing series mainly exclusive to Disney XD such as Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Milo Murphy's Law, and DuckTales, and a live-action block airing Saturdays from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., airing series such as MECH-X4 and Walk the Prank. It was discontinued as Disney XD's carriage became equivalent to that of Disney Channel.
Related channels, stations, programs and services
Current sister channels and programs
Disney Junior (formerly Playhouse Disney)
Disney Junior is a daily morning program block aimed at preschoolers. Its spiritual predecessor known as Playhouse Disney premiered on April 6, 1997, as part of Disney Channel's morning lineup. On May 26, 2010, Disney-ABC Television Group announced the launch of a new digital cable and satellite channel targeted for young children called Disney Junior, which debuted on March 23, 2012. It is a commercial-free channel that competes with other preschooler-skewing cable channels such as Nick Jr. and Sprout (now Universal Kids). The channel features programs from Disney Channel's existing preschool programming library and movies from the Walt Disney Pictures film library. Disney Junior took over the channel space held by Soapnet – a Disney-owned cable channel featuring soap operas – due to that genre's decline in popularity on broadcast television and the growth of video on demand, online streaming, and digital video recorders negating the need for a linear channel devoted to the soap opera genre. After a period during which cable providers unwilling to drop the network immediately retained it to prevent subscriber cancellations, Soapnet ceased all operations on December 31, 2013. The former Playhouse Disney block on Disney Channel rebranded as Disney Junior on February 14, 2011, along with the existing international channels. Disney-ABC Television Group once planned to launch a Playhouse Disney Channel in the United States in 2001, however it never happened despite launching internationally.
Disney XD is a digital cable and satellite television channel in the United States, which is aimed at boys and girls (originally aimed at young male audiences) aged 6–14. The channel was launched on February 13, 2009, and is the successor to Toon Disney; it carries action and comedy programming from Disney Channel and the former Jetix block from Toon Disney, alongside some first-run original programming and off-network syndicated shows. Like its predecessor Toon Disney, but unlike sister channels Disney Channel and Disney Junior, Disney XD operates as an ad-supported service. The channel carries the same name as an unrelated mini-site and media player on Disney.com, which stood for Disney Xtreme Digital, though it is said that the "XD" in the channel's name does not have an actual meaning.
Former sister channels and stations
Toon Disney launched on April 18, 1998 (coinciding with the 15th anniversary of sister network Disney Channel's launch), and was aimed at children and teenagers between the ages of 6 and 18. The network's main competitors at launch were Time Warner's Cartoon Network and Viacom's Nickelodeon. Toon Disney initially operated as a commercial-free service from April 1998 to September 1999, when it became ad-supported (unlike Disney Channel). The channel carried a mix of reruns of Walt Disney Television Animation and Disney Channel-produced animated programming, alongside some third-party programs from other distributors, animated films, and original programming. In 2004, the channel introduced a nighttime program block aimed at children ages 7 to 14 called Jetix, which featured action-oriented animated and live-action series. During Toon Disney's first year on the air, Disney Channel ran a sampler block of Toon Disney's programming on Sunday nights for interested subscribers. The network's successor, Disney XD, a channel also aimed at children, launched on February 13, 2009, and features a broader array of programming, with a heavier emphasis on live-action programs.
Radio Disney launched on November 18, 1996, and aimed towards music programming is oriented towards children, pre-teens, and teenagers, focusing mainly on current hit music and a heavy emphasis on those signed with Disney Music Group record labels. On December 3, 2020, Disney announced the channel's closure in the first quarter of 2021. On April 14, 2021, Radio Disney ceased broadcast when its last remaining terrestrial station was changed to a simulcast of KSPN .
|Disney Channel HD||Disney Channel HD is a high-definition simulcast feed of Disney Channel that broadcasts in the 720p resolution format; the feed first began broadcasting on March 19, 2008. Most of the channel's original programming since 2009 is produced and broadcast in HD, along with feature films, Disney Channel original movies made after 2005, and select episodes, films, and series produced before 2009. Disney XD and Disney Junior also offers their own high-definition simulcast feeds.|
|Disney Channel On Demand||Disney Channel On-Demand is the channel's video-on-demand service, offering select episodes of the channel's original series and Disney Junior programming, along with select original movies and behind-the-scenes features to digital cable and IPTV providers.|
|DisneyNow||DisneyNow is a TV Everywhere service that allows subscribers to Disney Channel on participating television providers to stream the channel's programming live and on-demand.|
The service is a successor to Disney Channel's original TV Everywhere service, "Watch Disney Channel", which launched in June 2012; in September 2017, Disney replaced the separate apps for Disney Channel, Junior, and XD with a new app known as DisneyNow.
|Disney+||Disney+ (launched in November 2019) is a subscription video-on-demand streaming service owned and operated by the Direct-to-Consumer & International (DTCI) division of The Walt Disney Company. The service primarily distributes films and television series produced by The Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Television, with the service advertising content from Disney's Marvel, National Geographic, Pixar, and Star Wars brands.|
|Disney Family Movies||Disney Family Movies is a defunct subscription video-on-demand service that launched on December 10, 2008, replacing Disney's previous service MovieBeam, which used a data stream from over-the-air television stations to offer purchasable films from the studio via a set-top box. The service offered a limited selection of movies and short films from the Walt Disney Pictures film catalog for a fee of about $5 to $10 per month, making it similar in structure to Disney Channel's original model as a premium service. Disney Family Movies was discontinued on October 31, 2019, prior to the launch of the video on-demand streaming service Disney+, which offers a wider film selection and is not confined to cable on-demand providers.|
Criticism and controversies
Anne Sweeney, who was president of Disney Channel from 1996 to 2014, has been the target of criticism. Some critics have disapproved of the marketing strategy that was drafted during her tenure, which has resulted in the slanting of the target audience of Disney Channel's programs toward teenyboppers, as well as a decrease in animated programming and an increase in live-action shows and television films. In 2008, Sweeney had explained that Disney Channel, resulting from its multi-platform marketing strategy using television and music, would become "the major profit driver for the [Walt Disney] Company."
The channel has also pulled episodes (even once having to reshoot an episode) that have featured subject matter deemed inappropriate due to its humor, the timing of the episode's airing with real-life events, or subject matter considered inappropriate for Disney Channel's target audience. In November 2008, the Hannah Montana episode "No Sugar, Sugar" was pulled before its broadcast after complaints from parents who saw the episode through video on demand services due to misconceptions regarding diabetics and sugar intake (the Mitchel Musso character of Oliver Oken is revealed in the episode to have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes). Portions of that episode were subsequently rewritten and re-filmed to become the season three episode "Uptight (Oliver's Alright)," which aired in September 2009.
In December 2011, Disney Channel pulled episodes of two of its original series from the network's broadcast cycle – the season one Shake It Up episode "Party It Up," and the So Random! episode "Colbie Caillat" – after Demi Lovato (star of So Random! predecessor series Sonny with a Chance, who was treated for bulimia nervosa in 2010) objected on Twitter to jokes featured in both episodes (the Shake It Up episode, in particular) that made light of eating disorders. On May 17, 2013, the channel pulled "Quitting Cold Koala", a second-season episode of Jessie, prior to its scheduled premiere broadcast, due to parental concerns over a scene in which a character's gluten-free diet leads to him being ridiculed.
In 2010, Disney Channel All Star Party was released for the Nintendo Wii. The four-player mascot party game, in which the stages resemble board games, features characters from Disney Channel programs such as Sonny with a Chance, Wizards of Waverly Place, and JONAS L.A. Several video games based on the Disney Channel animated series Phineas and Ferb were released by Disney Interactive Studios. The Disney Channel website also features various Flash games incorporating characters from the channel's various program franchises. There have also been games based on Kim Possible and Hannah Montana.
Disney Channel has established its channels in various regions and territories worldwide, including Canada, Latin America & Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic & Hungary, Romania & Bulgaria, Poland, Scandinavia, Greece, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Israel, India and Japan. Channels for Italy, the UK & Ireland, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan used to be available, but were mostly shut down in parts of Europe & Asia-Pacific in the early 2020s with most content instead moving to Disney+.
Disney Channel also licenses its programming to air on certain other broadcast and cable channels outside the United States (formerly including Family Channel in Canada, for example), regardless of whether or not an international version of Disney Channel already exists in the country.
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