The history of ABC2 can be traced back to 1998 when the Australian Broadcasting Authority released a report, titled Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting, recommending that the Australian Government support the early introduction of digital broadcasting as a free-to-air service with the loan of a 7 MHz channel for each broadcaster. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation stated that it wished to run up to four multichannels at different times of the day or alternatively offer a high-definition television service. The corporation claimed that up to A$100 million would be needed to prepare for these services, half of which would need to be government-funded.
In August 2001 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation launched the ABC Kids channel, with Fly TV following in November 2001. The two multichannels, available only through digital television, broadcast a range of programming targeted at younger and teenage viewers. Funding issues meant that, in June 2003, ABC Television closed ABC Kids and Fly TV. Unlike its predecessors, ABC2 launched on 7 March 2005 on channel 21, independent of government funding, instead running on a budget of A$3 million per year. The first programme in the launch schedule was an episode of Landline – although scheduled to begin at 6.25am, the programme was delayed ten minutes. The channel was officially inaugurated by former Minister for Communications, Senator Helen Coonan, at the Australian Parliament House in Canberra on 10 March 2005.
Weekly video gaming and technology programme Good Game was launched on 19 September 2006, becoming one of the first programmes in its genre to be broadcast on free-to-air television in Australia. Similarly in the same year, programmes produced included Australia Wide, Short and Curly, dig tv and Late Night Legends.
Genre restrictions imposed by the Australian government on digital multichanneling were lifted along with the media ownership laws passed through the Australian parliament on 18 October 2006. Previously limited in the subjects it could cover, ABC2 was henceforth able to carry shows identified as comedy, drama, national news, sport or entertainment.
On 1 January 2008 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation announced the introduction of live coverage and programme content on ABC2 from the Australian Film Commission, Opera Australia, and the Australian Ballet.
At 12:00pm on 8 February 2008 ABC2 was rebranded with a new slogan and yellow-coloured logo, complementing the new ABC TV logo, which was concurrently revamped as ABC1. The channel also moved from channel 21 to channel 22.
With a new controller, ABC2 continued as a children's channel in the daytime, changing over to adult programmes at 7.00 PM. In 2011, ABC2 Kids changed logos, becoming ABC4 Kids, but was changed to a classic-like logo in 2015, rebranding as ABC Kids.
In 2010, as part of a revamp of the entire ABC Television network, ABC2 hired its very first television controller, Stuart Menzies (formerly Head of ABC Documentaries). ABC1 also hired its very first television controller, Brendan Dahill.2010–present: Stuart Menzies
ABC2 is required by charter to meet certain programming obligations. Although it has a strong focus on comedic and lifestyle programming, it also presents documentaries and educational programmes, news and current affairs, children's shows, drama, and sports.
To allow automated operation of the channel without the complications of variable length live news broadcasts, prior to the launch of ABC News 24, ABC2 broadcast hourly ABC News updates produced for ABC Online. ABC2 also launched the morning show, ABC News Breakfast, on 3 November 2008, a three-hour news program running every weekday. The program is now simulcast on ABC and ABC News 24.
ABC2 also previously ran ABC Asia Pacific News, which is produced for the Australia Network.
In May 2011, with the move of ABC News Breakfast to ABC, children's programming was relocated to ABC2 and ABC3.
ABC2 broadcasts exclusive national coverage of many sporting competitions, which include the New South Wales Rugby Union, Queensland Rugby League, Victorian Football League, South Australian National Football League, West Australian Football League, and the Northern Territory Football League. The Women's National Basketball League and W-League Women's Football Competition is broadcast live on ABC2 every week. In addition to this ABC2 also broadcasts the Fed Cup and the Tiwi Islands Football League Grand Final annually.
ABC2 is available on all of ABC Television's digital television transmitters in 576i SD Digital, as well as on most satellite and cable services.
ABC2 does not broadcast 24 hours a day. From 5am to 7pm daily, the channel's bandwidth is used for the ABC Kids channel. ABC2's programming commences at 7pm daily and usually closes around 3am.
The channel launched with a three-dimensional logo of the numeral two. The previous idents were produced in part by Amanda Dennis (known for her work on Australia Wide, and Good Game), and were used in some form since the channel's launch, until the 2008 rebrand. ABC2's previous slogan was "More Choice, More Often". All promos featured the "Big 2" placed in famous, and iconic Australian locations, such as Port Jackson, the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre and the Northern Territory. The "Big 2" was somewhat similar to the on air mascot of BBC Two in appearance. ABC2's logo was modified for the promotion of the channels launch, and for various sporting events, notably the channel's launch, where the logo appeared under-construction, and during the promotion of Australians Women's Netball where it took on the appearance of a netball.
On 8 February 2008, ABC2 updated to a yellow logo, and slogan to "Connecting 2", as well as moving its digital terrestrial broadcast from Channel 21 to Channel 22. In addition to this, the slogan "More Choice, More Often" was replaced with "Connecting 2". After concerns in some sections of the media that the 43-year-old Lissajous curve brand was to disappear completely, ABC management reaffirmed that it would remain in use by the corporation. On 1 April 2011 the logo was rebranded to look similar to that of the logo used by ABC1, and the slogan replaced with "Always Brighter". The logo was refreshed in 2015 and the Lissajous curve was removed.