"The Best Place to Be."
Disney Channels Worldwide
April 18, 1983; 33 years ago (1983-04-18)(Original launch as The Disney Channel)April 6, 1997; 19 years ago (1997-04-06)(relaunch as Disney Channel)
"The Best Place to Be."
Girl Meets World, Jessie, Austin & Ally, Liv and Maddie, Hannah Montana
Disney Channel (originally called The Disney Channel from 1983 to 1997 and commonly shortened to Disney from 1997 to 2002) is an American basic cable and satellite television network that serves as the flagship property of owner Disney Channels Television Group, itself a unit of the Disney Media Networks division of The Walt Disney Company.
- Movie library
- Special weekends
- Disney XD
- Disney Junior
- Toon Disney
- Criticism and controversies
- Video games
Disney Channel's programming consists of original first-run television series, theatrically-released and original made-for-cable 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 at younger children by the 2000s. Most of Disney Channel's original programming is aimed at kids ages 9–16, while its Disney Junior programs are targeted at children 8 years and under.
As of January 2016, Disney Channel is available to approximately 93.9 million pay television households (80.6% of households with at least one television set) in the United States.
Disney Channel's schedule currently consists largely of original series aimed at pre-teens and young teenagers (including live-action series such as K.C. Undercover, Best Friends Whenever, Liv and Maddie: Cali Style, Stuck in the Middle, Bizaardvark, and Bunk'd and animated series such as Elena of Avalor), and original programming which are also Disney XD original series such as Walk the Prank and Mech-X4, and series aimed at preschoolers as part of its Disney Junior block (such as Sofia the First, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Doc McStuffins, Sheriff Callie's Wild West, Miles from Tomorrowland and The Lion Guard). The channel also airs repeats of former Disney Channel original series (such as The Suite Life on Deck, Good Luck Charlie, Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, I Didn't Do It, Dog with a Blog, Jessie, and Austin and Ally), occasional reruns of Disney XD original series part of the "Disney XD on Disney Channel" block (such as Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Future-Worm! and Milo Murphy's Law), original made-for-TV movies, feature films, short-form programs known as "short shows" (which air more commonly on the Disney Junior block, and are used primarily to fill predetermined five-minute gaps between programs) and music videos from artists signed to sister companies Hollywood Records and Walt Disney Records as well as songs featured in recent and upcoming Disney feature film releases (full versions of these music videos typically air only during the video's premiere and as filler between programs, while shorter versions usually air during promo breaks during the current program).
Disney Channel essentially operates as a commercial-free channel, opting not to feature traditional commercial advertisements during its in-show breaks due to concerns that younger viewers may be unable to separate the difference between programs and advertisements, and in order to pay a lower license fee rate to broadcast feature films distributed by major movie studios than ad-supported channels would pay – in lieu of running commercials, Disney Channel maintains underwriter sponsorships with major companies such as Best Western and Mattel, in addition to in-house promotions for the channel's programs (and occasionally, programs seen on other Disney-owned channels, most commonly Disney XD and Disney Junior) and Disney entertainment products. Until 2016, Disney Channel aired up to a minute of underwriter sponsorships per hour; in October 2016, Disney Channel increased the amount of underwriter sponsorships it aired.
Atypical of most U.S. cable channels, since 2006, Disney Channel's scripted programs (including shows featured on the Disney Junior block) feature additional scenes played over the closing credits. It also has an unwritten requirement that its original live-action series have no more than six regular cast members (So Weird was the last series prior to 2003 to have more than six series regulars within its cast, Shake It Up is the only series since that point to exceed the limit as it had seven contract cast members during its second season in 2012–13); Stuck in the Middle would also go over this limit, with nine main cast members from the beginning. The channel's series tend to have smaller writing staffs compared to scripted series seen on other broadcast and cable networks (usually featuring around four and eight credited staff writers, instead of the eight to 11 writers commonly found on most scripted shows). Its live-action multi-camera series also commonly utilize a simulated film look (the FilmLook processing for such shows debuting between 2003 and 2008; the HD-compatible 'filmizing' technique for all newer and returning original series produced after 2009, which reduce the video frame rate to 24 frames per second).
During the 1980s and 1990s, Disney Channel ran classic Disney animated shorts released between the 1930s and 1960s, which were removed from the lineup in 2000; since 2009, repackaged versions of these shorts are seen as part of the short series Re-Micks and Have a Laugh!. The channel later debuted Mickey Mouse, a series of original shorts featuring the classic Disney animated characters including the titular character on June 28, 2013.
Disney Channel often broadcasts a movie most nights during the week and occasionally airs films during the daytime hours, however these are not always necessarily telecasts of a theatrically released film. The channel produces original made-for-cable movies called Disney Channel Original Movies (or DCOMs), which are frequently broadcast during primetime hours. Family-oriented made-for-TV movies began airing on the Disney Channel in October 1983 under the brand Disney Channel Premiere Films with the premiere of Tiger Town; the DCOM slate began with the August 1997 premiere of Northern Lights. After that point, the number of DCOMs that debuted each year began to increase – from two in 1997 to a high of twelve in 2000, when the network premiered a new original movie each month during that year, gradually decreasing to the current rate two to four premieres each year.
Disney Channel previously ran double airings of its original movies on the night of their premiere, until the January 2006 premiere of High School Musical; encore presentations of new original movies were also aired during primetime on the Saturday and Sunday after their initial premiere from 2001 (when the channel moved its original movie premieres from Saturdays to Fridays) to 2009, when these encores were reduced to occasional airings on one of the two days, with few exceptions (Camp Rock was the first film not to be encored in this manner). "Special edition" airings of its higher-profile original movies are also sometimes aired, including sing-along versions of music-based films (featuring on-screen lyrics for viewers to sing along with the film's songs) and "What's What" editions (styled similarly to Pop-Up Video, featuring on-screen pop-up facts about the movie and its stars).
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 merchiandise, 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 U.S. 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. Along with 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 including Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Hanna-Barbera, The Weinstein Company, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Lions Gate Entertainment, Rankin/Bass Productions, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures. 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 presently owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Films made up roughly half of Disney Channel's daily schedule between 1986 and 1998; the number of movies broadcast on the channel have steadily eroded since then, to the point that films now only air Monday through Thursdays in primetime on an inconsistent basis (with episodes of its original series airing on nights when a film is not scheduled), regularly on weekend late nights and as of December 2013, during the daytime hours also on an inconsistent basis.
Cadet Kelly, Camp Rock and Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior are currently the only Disney Channel Original Movies to have aired on a network outside of the Disney Channel brand domestically in the United States (the latter two have aired on sister channel ABC Family, while Cadet Kelly and Camp Rock have also been broadcast on ABC as part of The Wonderful World of Disney).
On September 13, 2010, Disney Channel began airing theatrical film releases in a letterboxed 4:3 format on the channel's primary standard definition feed, as a widescreen-style format downconverted from the HD feed; although theatrical movies shot with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 or 2.40:1 are panned and scanned to fit high-definition sets to eliminate screen burn-in on plasma displays. Partly due to the network advertising mainly its own programs in lieu of traditional commercials, films featured on Disney Channel often run short of their allotted time slot with interstitial programming airing to pad out the remainder of the time period (usually an episode of an original series if a film runs approximately 90 to 100 minutes, an 11-minute-long episode of an original animated series for films running 105 minutes or a mix of music videos, network promotions and short segments for films running longer than 105 minutes).
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, replacing predecessor Toon Disney; it carries action and comedy programming from Disney Channel and the former Jetix block from Toon Disney, along with some first-run original programming and off-network syndicated shows. Like its predecessor Toon Disney, but unlike parent network Disney Channel and its sister channel Disney Junior, Disney XD operates as an advertiser-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.
On May 26, 2010, Disney-ABC Television Group announced the launch of a new digital cable and satellite channel targeted at preschool-aged children called Disney Junior, which debuted on March 23, 2012. The Disney Junior channel – which like Disney Channel (though unlike Disney XD or the channel Disney Junior replaced, Soapnet), is commercial-free – competes with other preschooler-skewing cable channels such as Nick Jr., Qubo and Sprout. 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. An automated Soapnet feed continued to exist for providers that had not yet made carriage agreements for Disney Junior (such as Dish Network) and those that have kept Soapnet as part of their lineups while adding Disney Junior as an additional channel (such as DirecTV and Cox Communications); After a period during which cable providers unwilling to drop the network immediately retained it to prevent subscriber cancellations, Soapnet ceased full operations on December 31, 2013.
The former Playhouse Disney block on Disney Channel was rebranded as Disney Junior on February 14, 2011; the 22 existing Playhouse Disney-branded cable channels and program blocks outside the United States rebranded under the Disney Junior name over the next two years, concluding with the rebranding of the Russian and Chinese versions in September 2013. Disney-ABC Television Group previously planned to launch a domestic Playhouse Disney Channel in the U.S. (which would have served the same target audience as Disney Junior) in 2001, however this planned network never launched, although dedicated Playhouse Disney Channels did launch outside of the United States.
Toon Disney launched on April 18, 1998 (coinciding with the 15th anniversary of parent network Disney Channel's launch), and was aimed at children between the ages of 6- and 18 -years-old. The network's main competitors were Turner Broadcasting/Time Warner's Cartoon Network and Boomerang, and Viacom/MTV Networks' Nicktoons. Toon Disney originally operated as a commercial-free service from April 1998 to September 1999, when it became advertiser-supported (unlike Disney Channel). The channel carried a mix of reruns of Walt Disney Television Animation and Disney Channel-produced animated programming, along with some third-party programs from other distributors, animated films and original programming. In 2004, the channel debuted a nighttime program block aimed at children ages 7–14 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 ceased operations on February 13, 2009 and was replaced with the Disney XD, a channel aimed to children, which features broader array of programming, with a heavier emphasis on live-action programs.
Criticism and controversies
Disney Channel has received heavy criticism by some critics and viewers for its programming direction in recent years. When compared to the channel's programming during the 1980s and 1990s, there is now very little, if any, programming featuring classic Disney characters, leading some fans to believe the channel fails to represent its name.
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 made-for-TV movies. In 2008, Sweeney had stated 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 December 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! parent 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 countries worldwide including Canada, France, South Africa, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, India, Australia, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, the Middle East, Scandinavia, the Baltic states, United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, the Caribbean, the Netherlands, Israel and Flanders. Disney Channel also licenses its programming to air on certain other broadcast and cable channels outside the United States (previously like Family Channel in Canada) regardless as to whether an international version of Disney Channel exists in the country.