Fox Kids originated as a programming block that aired on the Fox network since September 8, 1990. The block aired on Saturday mornings throughout its existence (Sunday mornings in Canada), with an additional block on Monday through Friday afternoons airing until January 2002, and again in September 2002. Fox Kids is the only form of daytime television programming, outside of sports, aired by the Fox network to date. Following the sale of 21st Century Fox to The Walt Disney Company back in October 2018, Fox Corporation became the new owner of Fox Kids Worldwide along with its newly-formed subdivisions made specifically for their programs. Fox Kids Worldwide was going to be part of the Disney-Fox merge, but Fox Corporation declined the offer, so therefore, Fox Kids Worldwide remained under the Fox Corporation ownership since then.
Outside the United States, the first Fox Kids-branded television channel launched on October 1, 1995, on Foxtel in Australia. Beginning in 2004, the international and Latin American channels were gradually relaunched under the Jetix brand following Disney's acquisition of Fox Family Worldwide.
According to James B. Stewart's book DisneyWar, Fox Kids' history is intertwined with that of the syndicated children's program block The Disney Afternoon. DuckTales, the series that served as the launching pad for The Disney Afternoon, premiered in syndication in September 1987, airing on Fox's owned-and-operated stations as well as various Fox affiliates in many markets. This may have been due to the fact that the Walt Disney Company's chief operating officer at the time, Michael Eisner, and his then-Fox counterpart, Barry Diller, had worked together at ABC and at Paramount Pictures.
In 1988, Disney purchased independent television station KHJ-TV in Los Angeles, changing its call letters to KCAL-TV the next year. The station's new owners wanted DuckTales to be shown on KCAL, effectively taking the local television rights to the animated series away from Fox-owned KTTV. Furious at the breach of contract, Diller pulled DuckTales from all of Fox's other owned-and-operated stations in the fall of 1989. Diller also encouraged the network's affiliates to do the same, though most did not initially. As Disney went forward in developing The Disney Afternoon, Fox (whose schedule at the time was limited to prime time programming on Saturday and Sunday nights) began the process of launching its own children's programming lineup.
Fox Kids was launched on September 8, 1990, as the Fox Children's Network, a joint venture between the Fox Broadcasting Company and its affiliates. Originally headed by division president Margaret Loesch, its programming aired for 30 minutes per day on Monday through Fridays, and for 3 hours on Saturday mornings.
In September 1991, the block was rebranded as the Fox Kids Network, with its programming expanding to 90 minutes on weekdays and 4 hours on Saturday mornings. The weekday editions of the block grew to 3 hours the following year.
By fall of 1992, Fox Kids increased its schedule to 3 hours on Monday through Fridays, airing usually from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM local time (making Fox the first network to air programming in the 4:00 p.m. hour since 1986), and 4 hours on Saturdays from 8:00 AM to noon Eastern and Pacific Time (7:00 AM to 11:00 AM Central and Mountain). Many stations split the weekday lineup programming into a one-hour block in the morning and a two-hour block in the afternoon (though this varied slightly in some markets), when network programs intertwined with syndicated children's lineups. Other stations aired all three hours combined in the afternoon due to their carriage of local morning newscasts and/or syndicated talk shows; stations that aired such programming in this case had dropped children's programs acquired via the syndication market, moving them to other "independent" stations. Very few Fox stations aired all three hours of the weekday block in the morning.
In 1992, Fox Kids began holding a "TV Takeover" event on Thanksgiving afternoon.
Broadcasting ambiguities Edit
When Fox Kids launched, virtually all of Fox's owned-and-operated stations and affiliates carried the block, with few (if any) declining to carry it. The first Fox station to drop the block was Miami affiliate WSVN, the network's first station to maintain a news-intensive format, in 1993 (the station had been a Fox affiliate since January 1989 as a result of NBC purchasing and moving its programming to longtime CBS affiliate WTVJ in a three-station ownership and affiliation swap in the Miami market).
The following year, in May 1994, Fox signed a multi-station affiliation agreement with New World Communications to switch that company's CBS, ABC and NBC affiliates to the network between September 1994, and July 1995, in order to improve its affiliate coverage in certain markets after the National Football League awarded Fox the contract to the National Football Conference television package. Many of the stations owned by New World (which later merged with Fox's then-parent company News Corporation in July 1996) declined to carry the block in order to air syndicated programs aimed at older audiences or local newscasts. In certain cities with an independent station, or beginning with the launches of those networks in January 1995, affiliates of UPN and The WB, Fox contracted the Fox Kids block to air on one of these stations if a Fox owned-and-operated station or affiliate chose not to carry it. In some cases, Fox Kids would be carried on the same station as one of its two competing children's blocks, The WB's Kids' WB and UPN's UPN Kids block (the latter of which was replaced in 1999 by Disney's One Too but ended in 2003, and was replaced by the revival of the UPN Kids block from 2003-2017, then it was rebranded as UPN Kids Click, then Nick on UPN in 2019).
Between 1995 and early 1996, Fox acquired three former ABC-affiliated stations (WHBQ-TV/Memphis, KTVI/St. Louis, and WGHP/High Point). Meanwhile, SF Broadcasting (a joint venture between Savoy Pictures and Fox) acquired three former NBC affiliates and one ABC affiliate during the summer of 1994 (which were later sold to Emmis Communications in 1996). Those stations all aired early evening local newscasts, but wanted to continue to run general entertainment syndicated programming to lead into their news programs instead of cartoons; these stations opted to run Fox Kids one hour early, from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. WGHP stopped airing the block in March 1996 after the station agreed to move it to WBFX (which aired the block for the remainder of its run). In August 1995, religious independent station KNLC assumed the rights to Fox Kids from KDNL-TV (which became an ABC affiliate); however, due to the station's decision to air public service messages from its owner's ministry about controversial topics in lieu of local advertisements, Fox pulled the block from KNLC in mid-1996. As a result, KTVI became the only Fox station that was involved in the network's 1994 deal with New World Communications to carry the block.
Much of the Fox Kids lineup's early programming was produced by Warner Bros. Animation, calling Fox Children's Network a "one-stop shop," essentially pulling out of the children's syndication market by signing a $100-million deal with Fox in May 1991. This meant they moved all their existing programming to Fox Kids. Two of Fox Kids' most popular programs, Animaniacs (following a heated dispute with Fox after it ceded the program's timeslot to carry Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which became one of the block's highest-rated programs when it debuted in 1993) and Batman: The Animated Series, moved to The WB after that network launched in January 1995. Both Animaniacs and Batman served as the linchpin of The WB's new children's block, Kids' WB, when it launched in September of that year (Tiny Toon Adventures, another early Fox Kids program that Warner Bros. produced and also aired on Kids' WB in reruns, had already ended its run).
In 1996, after having established a "strategic alliance" with Fox, Saban Entertainment merged with Fox Children's Network to form a new company, Fox Kids Networks Worldwide, with aims to become a public company and pursue international expansion. In 1997, the venture was renamed Fox Family Worldwide after it acquired International Family Entertainment—owner of the cable network The Family Channel, seeking a cable outlet for the Fox Kids programs to compete with services such as Cartoon Network (owned by WarnerMedia) and Nickelodeon (owned by ViacomCBS).
In 1998, Fox bought out its affiliates' interest in Fox Kids as part of a deal to help pay for the network's NFL package. The Fox Kids weekday block was reduced to two hours, and in an effort to help its affiliates comply with the recently implemented educational programming mandates defined by the Children's Television Act, reruns of former PBS series The Magic School Bus were added to the lineup. In 2000, affiliates were given the option of pushing the block up one hour to air from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM rather than 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM In the six or so markets where a Fox affiliate carried Fox Kids and carried an early evening newscast at 5:00 PM (such as St. Louis and New Orleans), the station was already running the block an hour early by 1996. Some affiliates (such as WLUK-TV) would tape delay the block to air between 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM, one of the lowest-rated time periods on U.S. television (and when virtually all children 5 years of age and older are at school). A few only aired The Magic School Bus in this sort of graveyard slot as an act of malicious compliance with the Children's Television Act. Fox Kids fought vehemently against the E/I rule during its development.
The Fox Corporation Ownership Edit
By 2001, members of the Fox affiliate board had felt they were on much more even footing with the "Big Three" networks and wanted to take back the time allocated to the Fox Kids programming blocks to air their own programming. Saturday mornings, long the only province of children's programming, had become a liability as the other networks started to extend their weekday morning news programs to weekends. The plans to limit the block's airtime to Saturday mornings was only temporary as the weekday blocks returned in September of 2002 and remained there since then.
Fox Kids, which had been the top-rated children's program block among the major networks since 1992, had been overtaken in the ratings by ABC's One Saturday Morning block in 1998, then by Kids' WB a year later with the stronger animation block backed by Warner Bros. that included shows such as Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!. ABC and UPN aired mostly comedy-based cartoons at this time, with the exception of live-action teen-oriented sitcoms Lizzie McGuire and Even Stevens (both originated on Disney Channel as part of what would be a gradual takeover of ABC's Saturday morning lineup by the cable channel's programming), while CBS aired E/I compliant preschool programming from Nick Jr., and NBC was airing teen-oriented sitcoms (later to be replaced the following year by E/I-compliant programming sourced from Discovery Kids), splintering the audience. The added factor of Nickelodeon's aggressive schedule that outrated all of the broadcast networks among children on Saturday mornings left Fox Kids behind, and the programmers could find no way to catch up and stand out in this crowded field. Fox Family, despite good reviews, had a 35% audience decline, which led to Fox Family Worldwide (along with Saban Entertainment) being sold to The Walt Disney Company in 2001, although Fox Kids Worldwide remained with News Corp until 2013 when the company rebranded as 21st Century Fox
In December 2017, The Walt Disney Company announced that they would acquire the entirety of 21st Century Fox including their motion picture, cable entertainment, and broadcast satellite divisions. The remainder of the company would form a so-called "New Fox", maintaining control of assets such as Fox's television network and broadcast stations, the Fox Kids children's block, Fox News, the national operations of Fox Sports, and the 20th Century Fox studio lot, which would be leased to Disney for seven years. Fox's regional sports networks were to be included in the sale to Disney, but on account of the FCC policy of having the duo network rule, they were also formed under Fox Corporation's ownership instead.
In addition to the program block, Fox Kids had its own radio program in the United States, the Fox Kids Radio Countdown. This two-hour broadcast was hosted by Chris Leary of ZDTV and TechTV fame and consisted of contests and gags, with sound effects incorporated throughout the program. It was later renamed as Fox All Access (growing up with its original audience technically) and served primarily as a promotional vehicle for Fox television programs, current artists, and films in its later years, before eventually ending its run in 2012.