The Family Channel
The network was founded by Pat Robertson as the CBN Satellite Service, an arm of his television ministry, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). When the channel launched on April 29, 1977, it became the first basic cable channel to be transmitted via satellite from its launch and, effectively, the first national basic cable-originated network (TBS – which began transmitting via satellite in December 1976 – originated as a feed of broadcast television station WTCG (later WTBS and now WPCH-TV) in Atlanta, Georgia; the national version of the channel did not exist until 1981, when the Turner Broadcasting System launched a separate feed of WTBS for distribution to cable systems outside the Atlanta market containing national advertisements). Initially, the network offered only religious programs aimed at a Christian audience. The offerings on the CBN Satellite Service during its early years included CBN's flagship news/talk show, The 700 Club (which aired three times per day every Monday through Friday in the late-morning and at night), along with programs from many notable and lesser-known television evangelists. As a result, a few televangelists began to produce stripped programs to air on the network each weekday. The CBN Satellite Service grew its subscriber base to 10.9 million households by May 1981.
In August 1981, the channel was relaunched as the CBN Cable Network. At that time of the name change, it was concurrently repositioned as an advertiser-supported "family-friendly" entertainment network, although the channel continued to offer religious programs that occupied about a third of its daily schedule. Entertainment programming that aired on the channel during this period included various classic television series (consisting of classic sitcoms from the 1950s and westerns from the 1950s and 1960s.
In August 1988, the word "Family" was incorporated into the channel's name to better reflect its programming format, rebranding as The CBN Family Channel; shortly after the new name was adopted, however, references to CBN within its name began to be excised in on-air continuity announcements and print promotions for its programs (with the exception of the initialized reference to its parent ministry featured within its logo), referring to it as simply "The Family Channel". The logo that the channel used until the sale to News Corporation consisted of a blue ring with the participle "The" (accompanied by the "CBN" initials as well until 1990) placed on top and "Channel" at the bottom with a blended yellow and red "Family" script font overlaid on the ring and an orange/yellow striped sphere. The channel's promotional advertisements were also revamped as well, featuring a series of promos known as "Family Moments," depicting situations in which families spent time with each other (such as a family playing checkers, a grandfather bonding with his grandson, and a woman hugging her husband on their wedding day).
By 1990, the network had grown too profitable to remain under the CBN banner without endangering the Christian Broadcasting Network's non-profit status. In January of that year, CBN spun off The CBN Family Channel to International Family Entertainment Inc.. Consequently, The Family Channel became the official name for the channel in September 1990, dropping all remaining references to the "CBN" moniker.
As a stipulation of the sale to International Family Entertainment, the channel was required to continue to carry The 700 Club (a stipulation that Pat Robertson also imposed when the channel was sold to Fox Family Worldwide in 1997 and then to The Walt Disney Company) (now known as Disney Enterprises, Inc.) (in 2001).
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