Imagine If... | Fox Kids Didn't Go Off The Air

Originally Posted by Jeff Harris

Actual Events: From 1990 until 2002, Fox Kids ruled children's entertainment. They had the most-watched television block on broadcast television and created a global empire with their international channels, including the US-based Fox Family. In 2001, News Corp, Fox Kids Worldwide's co-owner, sold the company to The Walt Disney Company so they could use the funds to buy a majority stake in DirecTV (which they later sold to Liberty Media in December 2006 along with their stake in a couple of regional sports channels and over $500 million in cash for Liberty Media's significant stake in News Corp).

Fox Kids ended its programming block in 2002 when it sold the Saturday programming block to 4Kids Entertainment, which was originally called The Fox Box before becoming 4Kids TV in 2005. Disney dropped Fox from Fox Family immediately when they relaunched the channel without much fanfare as ABC Family in 2001. In 2004, Disney renamed Fox Kids Worldwide Jetix Internation, creating a brand that would air globally, including taking over Toon Disney's primetime lineup, eventually taking over most of the network's lineup. In the fall of 2006, Jetix was exclusively on "Toon Disney" while ABC Family began a downward slide in the ratings and viewership.

Fox Kids was at a crossroads in 2001.

Power Rangers was still a strong brand, but the entire Fox Kids block was struggling behind Kids' WB's popular weekday afternoon and Saturday morning lineup. So, a challenge was made within the walls of Fox Kids Worldwide in the summer of 2001.

"Fix the block and the network within three years or else, it's over."

Never has such a jarring statement been made within the halls of the Burbank headquarters of Fox. The executives at Fox Kids had never felt such pressure to perform. The lineup was already in place for the 2001-02 season, but there weren't any plans in case any of those shows failed. They did, on the other hand, have shows they could air as backup.

One of those shows was Diabolik. Diabolik was an animated series about a notorious thief who scours the globe for the next big score. Think Lupin III gone solo with guts. They put the series on the backburner even though the series was completed. By November 2001, the series was on the Friday afternoon lineup right before Power Rangers as part of a Evil Vs. Good hour.

And it worked.

Ratings shot up 25% from the same period a year ago. However, the jobs weren't secure yet. Pokemon was still doing well in the ratings, but its grip on the viewership was slipping, as was Yu-Gi-Oh.

Fox Kids dramatically changed its morning and afternoon schedules that winter. Fox Kids moved reruns of Digimon and Ned's Newt to weekday mornings along with the returning E/I series Fox Cubhouse and Bobby's World while they begin to return classic Fox Kids reruns to the lineup. Eek! The Cat and X-Men joined the weekday afternoon lineup along with the Fox Family series Totally Spies airing right before Power Rangers. The Saturday morning lineup also had a bit of older shows and newer shows with Mon Colie Knights, Totally Spies, and Mad Jack joined by the new seasons of Power Rangers, Digimon, and Diabolik. Reruns of those shows aired the next day on Fox Family along with X-Men, The Tick, NASCAR Racers, and Spider-Man.

In the fall upfronts, Fox Kids announced that the block will remain on the air with new seasons of Power Rangers, Digimon, and Totally Spies as well as the premieres of Ultimate Muscle, Buffy: The Slayer Chronicles (an animated adaptation of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer), Kirby: Comin' At Ya!, and a new version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Fox Family announced that they picked up Fighting Foodons, Heavy Gear, and Transformers: Energon as well as reruns of the 80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series to air on weekday and Sunday mornings while transforming the Saturday mornings on Fox Family into a teen zone, harkening back to the early YTV-esque atmosphere of the network, which was reintroduced in fall 2002. The Saturday lineup, called The Basement, has aired numerous shows over the years since then, including Canadian imports like Degrassi: The Next Generation, Edgemont, and 15/Love, cartoons like Delta State, 6teen, and Oban: Star Racers, a new season of Saved By The Bell, a new season of Masked Rider, and a reintroduced American Bandstand co-produced by Dick Clark Productions and hosted by LA disc jockey Ryan Seacrest.

Fox Family transformed their post-700 Club timeslot into a block of sitcoms, game shows, and cartoons suitable for the entire family while The Basement took over the 3 PM to 6 PM lineup. Primetime has off-network dramas and original programming.

Today, Fox Kids execs look back at that afternoon back in 2001 with pride and laughter. The laughter comes from their memories of actually having fear for their jobs. The pride comes from the fact that they accomplished a job to create a new identity, a new persona, and a new attitude for both Fox Kids and Fox Family. They learned to work well with others to develop a stronger brand that will continue to be around for years to come.

Back to reality: Fox Kids gave up too soon.

In light of the pressing competition Pokemon gave the block, Fox Kids just raised their hands like a cheese-eating surrender monkey and just gave up without even fighting back. They took the money Disney offered without even realizing that they were merely eliminating a competitor that bothered them for years. Now, instead of getting beaten by Power Rangers, ABC now airs the popular franchise and earns millions from merchandising alone. Of course, ABC killed ABC Family's worth by airing anything worth watching throughout the year. When they removed the Jetix lineup, they made the channel virtually worthless in the eyes of cable operators. In fact, the purchase of Fox Kids Worldwide was seen as a catalyst for the removal of Michael Eisner from his position as the head of Disney.

News Corp used their share of the money to buy DirecTV, which, as I mentioned above, they gave to Liberty Media in December 2006. News Corp only earns the fee 4Kids to program their Saturday morning lineup, no merchandising, video, and advertising fees at all. They gave up way too soon, and there's no turning back . . . unless they really want to learn from their mistakes and learn how to work well with others

Can you imagine this?


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