TLC (originally an initialism for The Learning Channel) is an American pay television channel owned by Discovery, Inc. Initially focused on educational and learning content, by the late 1990s the network began to primarily focus towards reality series involving lifestyles, family life, and personal stories.
|Broadcast area||United States|
|Headquarters||Silver Spring, Maryland, United States|
Spanish (SAP audio feed)
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)|
(downscaled to letterboxed 480i for the SDTV feed)
|Available on most cable systems||Varies by cable provider|
|Dish Network||Channel 183 (HD/SD)|
|DirecTV/Stream||Channel 280 (SD/HD)|
|Philo, Sling TV, YouTube TV|
1972–1980: Early history as the Appalachian Educational Satellite ProjectEdit
TLC’s history traces to the 1972 formation of the Appalachian Educational Satellite Project (AESP), a distance education project formed by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), in participation with the Education Satellite Communication Demonstration (ESCD), a partnership with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA intended to transmit instructional, career and health programming via satellite to provide televised educational material to public schools and universities in the Appalachian region. ARC submitted a proposal to participate in the ESCD and use the ATS-6 communications satellite (launched into orbit in 1974) to disseminate “career education” programming to teachers at no cost; the consortium set up 15 earth station receiver sites across eight states in conjunction with local education service agencies.
The ATS-6 temporarily ceased service to the Appalachian region after being re-orbited to India in September 1975; by the time the satellite reoriented to the United States the following year, the number of earth receivers used to transmit AESP content increased to 45 sites in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina (some of which also acted as relays to local television stations in the region). All programming offered through the project was accepted for academic credit at 12 universities in the region. In October 1978, NASA disclosed the ATS-6 would suspend transmissions for 12 months due to technical problems with the satellite. As a result, ARC decided to purchase transponder time on the commercial Satcom I communications satellite, in order to continue its distance education offerings.
1980–1998: From ACSN to The Learning Channel, "A place for learning minds"Edit
The non-profit Appalachian Community Service Network (ACSN) was incorporated in April 1980, maintaining a board of directors appointed by the Appalachian Regional Commission. The ACSN television service launched in October 1980 as ACSN – The Learning Channel; unlike the closed-circuit AESP, the network distributed its programming available directly to cable systems for home viewing. Its programming also expanded to include “informational” content. (NASA immediately launched NASA TV as the ACSN's internal replacement.) By 1982, ACSN claimed that it “achieved the fastest rate of growth of all basic cable programming services,” with availability on around 70 cable affiliates reaching 1.5 million subscribers; by this point, 70 universities granted academic credit for telecourses carried on the network. On January 1, 1984, the network shortened its name to The Learning Channel.
The channel mostly featured documentary content pertaining to nature, science, history, current events, medicine, technology, cooking, home improvement, and other information-based topics. These are often agreed to have been more focused, more technical, and of a more academic nature than the content that was being broadcast at the time on its eventual rival, The Discovery Channel, which launched in 1985. TLC was geared toward an inquisitive and narrow audience during this time, and had modest ratings. An exception to this viewership commonality was Captain's Log (produced and hosted by Mark Graves, a.k.a. Captain Mark Gray), a weekly primetime boating safety series that aired from 1987 to 1990; the program often achieved between a 4.5 to 6 rating share and was the highest compensated series in the history of TLC with over 30 times the compensation of any other series on the network.
In 1986, Infotech, Inc.—then-owner of the Financial News Network (FNN)—acquired a 51% interest in The Learning Channel for $3 million; the American Community Service Network retained a 31.5% share of the network, with the remaining 17.5% owned by network management.
On February 15, 1991, The Discovery Channel, Inc.—owners of the namesake cable channel—announced it had reached an agreement to acquire The Learning Channel from ACSN and Infotech (the latter of which was in the process of a bankruptcy-led asset liquidation to repay creditors, subsequently resulting in the sale of the Financial News Network to a joint venture of NBC and Cablevision that integrated the network with rival financial news channel CNBC) for $12.75 million (equivalent to $24.23 million today). Under Discovery, The Learning Channel continued to focus primarily on instructional and educational programming for much of the 1990s; however, in what preceded its later expansion of such content, it also began to include shows less focused on education and geared more toward attracting popular consumption and mass marketing. In 1992, the network’s name was shortened to "TLC,” although the full name remained in use on alternating basis.
TLC continued to offer educational programs such as Paleoworld (a show about prehistoric creatures), though more and more of its programming began to be devoted to niche audiences for shows regarding subjects like home improvement (Hometime and Home Savvy were two of the first), arts and crafts, crime programs such as The New Detectives, medical programming (particularly reality-based shows following real patients through the process of operations), and other shows that appealed to daytime audiences, particularly housewives. This was to be indicative of a major change in programming content and target audience over the next few years.
1998–2006: "Life Unscripted", new directionEdit
Perhaps due to poor ratings from a narrow target audience, TLC began to explore new avenues starting in the late 1990s, deemphasizing educational material in favor of entertainment. "Ready Set Learn", the network's children's program block, was slowly reduced through the years as the network deliberately redirected viewers towards the full-day lineup of children's programming on Discovery Kids. The block was dropped completely in late 2008, and Cable in the Classroom programming, meant for recording by teachers, had completely disappeared by the early 2000s.
In 1998, the channel began to distance itself from its original name "The Learning Channel", and instead began to advertise itself only as "TLC". During this period, there was a huge shift in content, with most new programming being geared towards reality-drama and interior design shows. The huge success of shows like Trading Spaces, Junkyard Wars, A Wedding Story, and A Baby Story exemplified this new shift in programming towards more mass-appeal shows.
This came at a time when Discovery itself was overhauling much of its own programming, introducing shows like American Chopper (which Discovery moved to TLC for a time). Much of the old, more educationally focused programming can still be found occasionally dispersed amongst other channels owned by Discovery Communications. Most of TLC's programming today is geared towards reality-based drama or interests such as home design, emergency room or medical dramas, extreme weather, law enforcement, dating, and human interest programs.
2006–2008: "Live and learn", attempted turnaroundEdit
On March 27, 2006, the network launched a new look and promotional campaign, dropping the "Life Unscripted" tag and introducing a new theme, "Live and learn", trying to turn around the network's reliance on decorating shows and reality programming. As part of the new campaign, the channel's original name, "The Learning Channel", returned to occasional usage in promotions. The new theme also played on life lessons,[clarification needed] which featured heavily in the network's advertising and promotional clips. This campaign used humor to appeal to a target audience in their 30s.
2008–present: Return to reality programmingEdit
In early March 2008, TLC launched a slightly refreshed look and promotional campaign, alongside a new slogan: "Life surprises". This new slogan came as TLC began to shift even more to personal stories, and away from the once-dominating home improvement shows. Programs focused on family life became the core of the channel. Jon & Kate Plus 8, which by 2008 was the highest-rated program on TLC, and Little People, Big World were joined by 17 Kids and Counting (which became 18 Kids and Counting and then 19 Kids and Counting as the Duggars, the family that the series centers on, expanded), and Table for 12 in 2008 and 2009 respectively. The series Toddlers & Tiaras also debuted in 2008, and proved popular enough to spawn a spin-off in 2012, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, focusing on the family life of recurring contestant Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson, which was canceled in 2014. Also premiering on TLC in 2009 was Cake Boss, which focuses on the head baker at Carlo's Bakery and his staff, who mostly consist of his family.
In July 2014, TLC introduced a new slogan and promotional campaign, "Everyone Needs a Little TLC", which continued to build upon the network's current focus on personal stories and family life.
In 2017, home design programming began to return to the network with the premiere of Nate & Jeremiah By Design; the series was renewed for a second season. In April 2018, TLC premiered a revival of Trading Spaces (which accompanied the season 2 premiere of Nate & Jeremiah By Design); the season premiere and an accompanying reunion special were seen by 2.8 million viewers, marking the network's highest-rated Saturday primetime program since 2010.
In March 2018, Discovery Communications acquired Scripps Networks Interactive, and was renamed Discovery, Inc. TLC president Nancy Daniels left the network to become the chief brand officer of Discovery's factual networks, to replace the outgoing Rich Ross. She was replaced by Scripps Networks' chief programmer Kathleen Finch as chief brand officer of Discovery's lifestyle networks, overseeing TLC and the six networks formerly owned by SNI (such as HGTV and Food Network), among others. In 2019, HGTV and TLC premiered a co-commissioned revival of another former TLC series, While You Were Out; new episodes premiered on both networks simultaneously, with HGTV airing an alternate cut of the episode focusing more on the renovation process.
A high definition simulcast of TLC was launched on September 1, 2007. It is currently available on many subscription-television systems in the United States and Canada.
Middle East and North AfricaEdit
OSN— a paid platform in the Middle East and North Africa—launched TLC HD and broadcast it with the Discovery Network, using the same form as the American TLC channel and adding new exclusive Arabic-English programs from its production as "Nidaa".
TLC's American feed is available in Canada on most cable and satellite providers, as it is authorized for carriage as a foreign cable television service by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission; save for a few differences it features the same programming schedule as that seen in the United States.
The Latin American TLC HD, was launched on December 1, 2009, exclusively in high-definition, in the same style as the American channel (most of TLC's programming is available in standard-definition on Discovery Home & Health). On November 1, 2011, the Latin American version of Discovery Travel & Living was relaunched as TLC: Travel & Living Channel, which now also has a dedicated feed for Brazil.
United Kingdom and the Republic of IrelandEdit
An English-language version of the channel was originally launched in 1994 across Europe and was subsequently renamed Discovery Home and Leisure and later Discovery Real Time as part of Discovery's slate of themed channels. TLC relaunched in the UK and the Republic of Ireland on April 30, 2013.
TLC Romania was launched on 20 January 2011, replacing the European version of Discovery Travel & Living in this country.
In early 2013 the channel launched in Bulgaria.
In November 2016, TLC began to appear free, before that TLC was payment channel in Finland.
In November 2011, TLC Portugal debuted on ZON TV (now NOS TV) distributor and satellite services and after on MEO TV.
TLC Germany launched on April 10, 2014 on cable, IPTV and satellite services in both HD and SD.
A Norwegian version of the channel was launched on March 4, 2010 as TLC Norway, replacing the European version of Discovery Travel & Living in Norway.
On October 1, 2010, the Polish version of Discovery Travel & Living was relaunched as TLC Poland, replacing the European version of Discovery Travel & Living in Poland.
TLC Balkans was also launched on October 1, 2010, replacing the European version of the "Travel & Living Channel" in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and North Macedonia. TLC Balkans' playout is from Belgrade, Serbia.
On July 4, 2011, a Dutch version was launched, time sharing with Animal Planet's standard definition feed. Animal Planet remained a 24-hour service for high-definition viewers. TLC became a 24-hour channel on January 8, 2013. It is also available in HD.
On June 3, 2014, the Swiss cable provider UPC Cablecom launched TLC in Switzerland.
An Indian version was launched in 2006 under the jurisdiction of Discovery Channel. It was relaunched as TLC on September 1, 2010.
Sub-Saharan Africa & South AfricaEdit
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- Audrey Watters (May 30, 2015). "What Happened to Educational Television: The Story of 'The Learning Channel'". Hacked Education. Retrieved June 21, 2021.
- M. Jay Douds (October 1982). "Reshaping of an Innovation: ACSN-The Learning Channel, 1974-1982" (PDF). Appalachian Community Service Network. Retrieved June 21, 2021.
- "Learning Channel, The (Network)," in Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946–Present, 9th ed. New York: Ballantine, 2007, ISBdfhfhu9780345497734, p. 778.
- Laurence, Robert P. (August 15, 2005). "Cable Guise: Channels built on arts, education and high culture now go low with cheesy programming". San Diego Union-Tribune. Archived from the original on September 10, 2006. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
- Jane Wells, "When Did The Learning Channel Become The Leering Channel?," Funny Business, CNBC, April 6, 2011
- "Discovery to Buy a Channel". The New York Times. April 2, 1991.
- "TLC, Martin Agency offer 'life lessons'". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 2016-05-01.
- "TLC Life Lessons on Discovery Channel - The Inspiration Room". The Inspiration Room. 2006-05-07. Retrieved 2016-05-01.
- Rice, Lynette (2009-03-25). "'Jon & Kate Plus 8' season finale scores series-best ratings". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 2009-05-05. Retrieved 2008-03-26.
- "TLC Unveils New Brand Campaign And Tagline". Deadline. 2014-07-22. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
- Petski, Denise (2017-08-30). "'Nate & Jeremiah By Design' Renewed For Season 2 By TLC". Deadline. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
- Petski, Denise (2018-04-12). "'Trading Spaces' Return Scores Record Ratings For TLC". Deadline. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
- Hipes, Patrick (March 1, 2018). "Rich Ross Out at Discovery in Exec Shakeup; Scripps' Kathleen Finch Adds To Oversight". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
- Littleton, Cynthia (2018-10-29). "TLC and HGTV to Revive 'While You Were Out' as Crossover Series Tailored for Both Channels (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2019-03-11.
- "TLC, HGTV's crossover reboot "While You Were Out" gets March premiere date". Realscreen. Retrieved 2019-03-11.
- Fletcher, Alex (2013-03-27). "'Here Comes Honey Boo Boo' to air in UK on new TV channel TLC". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
- "TLC to begin airing in Turkey instead of CNBC-e". Daily Sabah. Archived from the original on October 11, 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
- "TLC to replace Discovery Travel and Living from 1 September". Indiantelevision.com. 29 July 2010. Retrieved 23 August 2010.
- "Satellite pay-TV operator loses TLC channel". Retrieved 15 July 2016.