Disney Channel's programming consists of original first-run television series, theatrically released and original made-for-cablemovies 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.
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 merchandise 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.
Disney Junior – "Disney Junior" is a block that features shows targeted at children aged 3–9. which debuted on February 14, 2011; it airs Monday through Fridays from 8:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. (6:00–10:00 a.m. during the summer months, other designated school break periods and on major holidays) and weekends from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time (the block primarily targets preschoolers as Disney Channel's usual target audience of pre-teens and young adolescents are in school during its designated time period on weekdays). Disney Junior carries one of the few programs on Disney Channel that feature classic Disney characters as of 2013, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (the others are the Have a Laugh! and Mickey Mouse shorts that air within and outside of the block). Other programs currently seen in this block include Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Sheriff Callie's Wild West, Sofia the First, Miles from Tomorrowland, The Lion Guard and Doc McStuffins.
Weekend evening blocks – Disney Channel airs first-run or recent episodes of its original series over the course of three nights, branded as "Disney Channel (day of week) Night", with first-run episodes premiering on Friday or Sunday evenings. Friday nights feature a combination of either Bunk'd, Girl Meets World, Liv & Maddie: Cali Style, Elena of Avalor or Stuck in the Middle, while Sunday nights feature Best Friends Whenever, Bizaardvark or K.C. Undercover. Since October 2010, programming on both night's schedules has been somewhat fluid as while all series have a permanent place on the Friday and Sunday primetime schedules, episode premieres of all Disney Channel original series are subject to rotational scheduling depending on the lineup for that given week; depending on the night, these episode premieres usually air Fridays from 8:00–10:30 p.m., Saturdays from 8:00-11:00 p.m., and Sundays from 7:30–9:00 (or 9:30) p.m. Eastern/Pacific. Saturday nights feature repeats of recent episodes of the channel's original series or an occasional film telecast (the channel made two previous attempts at launching a Saturday night block of first-run programs to compete against Nickelodeon's higher-rated lineup on that night, first from 2007 to 2008 and again briefly during the spring of 2009; the channel would later air new episodes of its Sunday evening series to Saturday night for one week on June 8, 2013, supposedly to compete against the premiere of the Nickelodeon series Sam & Cat). Encores of the respective night's programs typically air between 11:00 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. Eastern/Pacific each night during that weekend.
Out of This World Weekend (Summer of 2014) – a weekend of shows having space themed episodes.
Whodunit? Weekend (April 2012 and Summer 2015) – a weekend of shows having mystery themed episodes. This was the first special weekend.
Summer Adventure Weekend (July 2012) – a weekend of shows with vacation themed episodes.
Flash Forward Weekend (Summer 2013) – a weekend of shows related to time travel.
Freaky Freakend (April 2013) – a weekend of shows featuring paranormal themed episodes.
April Fuel Week (April 2015) – a week of shows (Mon-Thurs) featuring special episodes.
What the What?!? Weekend (April 2014 and April 2015) – a weekend of shows featuring guest stars from other Disney Channel shows; occurs mostly in April. The guest stars usually play a bizarre character.
Disney Nighttime – As a premium channel from April 18, 1983 to April 6, 1997, The Disney Channel featured programming aimed at adult audiences during the evening and overnight hours under the banner title "Disney Nighttime". Unlike the nighttime content aired on the channel's then-competitors (such as HBO and Showtime) at the time of its launch, the "adult" programming featured on The Disney Channel was largely devoid of any overt sexual and violent content. Programming seen during Disney Nighttime included older feature films (similar to those seen at the time on American Movie Classics, and eventually Turner Classic Movies, with both Disney film titles and movies from other film studios mixed in), along with original concert specials (featuring artists ranging from Rick Springfield to Jon Secada to Elton John), variety specials and documentaries.
Disney Channel Discovery – aired on certain Saturday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time from October 5, 1986 to 1993, showcased family-oriented feature films not previously seen on television or in wide theatrical release.
Mystery Night – ran each Tuesday evening starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from 1990 to 1993, focused on mystery films from the 1930s to the 1960s.
The Best of Hollywood – ran each Monday (later Sunday) evening, starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from January 4, 1988 to May 25, 1997, showcased feature film classics from the 1930s to the 1980s.
Sunday Night Showcase – ran each Sunday evening starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from February 7, 1988 to August 25, 1996, featured various music, variety, comedy and documentary specials.
The Magical World of Disney – used as a Sunday night umbrella for movies and specials on The Disney Channel from September 23, 1990 to November 24, 1996, originally airing exclusively on Sunday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. From December 1, 1996 to 1999, The Magical World of Disney served as the overall branding for Disney Channel's nightly evening lineup of films starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific.
The American Legacy – ran on Tuesday evenings at 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from January 7, 1992 to August 27, 1996. Originally launched in honor the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the United States, the block featured movies, documentaries and specials about the contributions, history and scenic wonders of the nation.
Toonin' Tuesday – Running from October 5, 1993 to August 27, 1996, "Toonin' Tuesday" was a weekly program block featuring various animated programs. Each Tuesday from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific, "Toonin' Tuesday" featured primarily animated films and specials (though reruns of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show sometimes aired as part of the block). The block ended on August 27, 1996 due to changes to the channel's programming schedule.
Bonus! Thursday – From October 7, 1993 to August 29, 1996, The Disney Channel ran a weekly program block called "Bonus! Thursday" (or "Bonus!" for short), which ran each Thursday from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. The block featured programs aimed at teens, including series such as Kids Incorporated, The All-New Mickey Mouse Club, various Mickey Mouse Club serials (including Teen Angel and Match Point), and Eerie Indiana, followed by movies and specials. The block ended on August 29, 1996 due to changes to the channel's programming schedule.
Totally Kids Only ("TKO") – a weekday morning lineup of live-action and animated series, which became the brand for the channel's morning and midday block (from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific) aimed at children ages 2 to 8 that ran from 1993 to April 1997
Triple Feature Friday – ran each Friday starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from October 8, 1993 to May 30, 1997, featured three different films – sometimes regardless of each film's genre – that were tied to a specific subject
Disney Drive-In – ran each Saturday starting at 1:30 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from October 8, 1994 to August 31, 1996, featured classic Disney series such as Zorro, Texas John Slaughter and Spin and Marty, followed by classic Disney films and specials The block ended on August 31, 1996 due to changes in the channel's schedule.
Block Party – From October 2, 1995 to August 28, 1996, four animated series that previously aired in syndication on The Disney Afternoon (Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, DuckTales and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers) were rerun together on The Disney Channel as a two-hour programming block called "Block Party", which aired weekdays from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. The "Block Party" branding was dropped on September 3, 1996, when Darkwing Duck was removed as the block's lead-in and Goof Troop was added to end the lineup. This unnamed block continued to air into 1997.
KidScene - a daily one-hour block of programming headlined by former syndicated series Kids Incorporated starting in 1986 and ending 1989. The new 1989 version of The Mickey Mouse Club would join the block in 1989.
Playhouse Disney – a daily morning program block aimed at preschoolers that debuted on May 8, 1997, replacing the mixture of shows targeted at preschoolers and shows aimed at older children that aired as part of Disney Channel's morning lineup. The block was discontinued on February 13, 2011, and replaced the following day by Disney Junior.
Disney Distractions – the banner name for Disney Channel's afternoon double feature block of family-oriented films, which ran Saturdays and Sundays from 12:30 to (usually) 4:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific from 1997 to 2000.
Magical World of Animals – an hour-long block of wildlife series aimed at children that ran from August 1997 to 1999. Promoted as an offshoot of the Magical World of Disney and airing Sunday evenings from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the block consisted of two series: Going Wild with Jeff Corwin and Omba Mokomba.
Vault Disney – debuted in September 1997, five months after Disney Channel's first major rebrand, replacing the Disney Nighttime lineup. Originally airing only on Sunday nights from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, Vault Disney expanded to seven nights a week in September 1998 (the Monday through Saturday editions of the block at this time aired from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Eastern/Pacific; the start time of the block as a whole was moved uniformally to midnight daily in September 1999). The classic programming featured during the late night schedule changed to feature only Disney-produced television series and specials (such as Zorro, Spin and Marty, The Mickey Mouse Club and the Walt Disney anthology television series), along with older Disney television specials. Older Disney feature films also were part of the lineup from 1997 to 2000, but aired in a reduced capacity. The block also featured The Ink and Paint Club, an anthology series featuring classic Disney animated shorts, which became the only remaining program on the channel to feature these shorts by 1999, upon the removal of Quack Pack from the schedule. The channel discontinued the block in September 2002, in favor of running reruns of its original and acquired series during the late evening and overnight hours (which comparative to the adult-focused Vault Disney, are aired at children and teenagers, an audience that is typically asleep during that time period).
Zoog Disney – launched in August 1998, a program block that originally aired only on weekend afternoons from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. The hosts for the block were "Zoogs", animated anthropomorphic robot/alien creature-hybrid characters with human voices (some of whom acted like teenagers). The block unified television and the internet, allowing viewer comments and scores from players of ZoogDisney.com's online games to be aired on the channel during regular programming in a ticker format (which the channel continued to use after the block was discontinued, however the ticker has been all but completely dropped from on-air usage as of May 2010). From September 2001 to August 2002, the afternoon and primetime lineups on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays were branded under the umbrella title "Zoog Weekendz". The Zoogs were redesigned with cel shading and given mature voices in 2001, though the remade Zoog characters were discontinued after less than a year; the entire Zoog Disney block was phased out by September 2002.
Toon Disney Summer Sundays – ran on Sunday evenings from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific during the summers of 1998 and 1999. Hosted by Sage Galesi and Beau Wirick, it was a sneak preview block of animated series (generally featuring defunct Disney animated series from the 1990s that were previously seen in syndication or on Disney Channel) carried on Disney Channel's then-recently launched sister digital cable and satellite network, Toon Disney.
Disney Channel Saturday Mornings – an animation block that debuted on June 18, 2011 as "Toonin' Saturdays," which was rebranded to its final name in 2012. The lineup – which aired most Saturdays from 9:00–10:00 a.m. Eastern/Pacific, and is sometimes pre-empted in favor of other Disney Channel original programs – primarily consists of double-episode airings of Disney Channel original animated series Fish Hooks and Phineas and Ferb. Occasionally, new first-run episodes of either series will be featured in the block, though new episodes may also sometimes air in their original Friday night time slots. The block was relaunched on January 7, 2017 as Get Animated!.
Disney Replay – "Disney Replay" was a block that debuted on April 17, 2013, featuring episodes of defunct Disney Channel Original Series that premiered between 2000 and 2007 (such as Lizzie McGuire, That's So Raven and Hannah Montana). Airing Wednesday nights/early Thursday mornings (as a nod to the popular social media trend "Throwback Thursday"), originally from 12:00 to 1:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, the block expanded to six hours (running until 6:00 a.m. Eastern/Pacific) on August 14, 2014. Programs featured on Disney Replay were added to the WATCH Disney Channel service on August 16, 2014. The block was discontinued on April 28, 2016 and moved to Freeform with a new name: That's So Throwback.
Disney XD on Disney Channel – "Disney XD on Disney Channel" is the defunct branding of two blocks airing on Friday and Saturday nights; an animated block airing Fridays from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., showing series mainly exclusive to Disney XD such as Star vs. the Forces of Evil and Future-Worm!, and a live-action block airing Saturdays from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., airing series such as Lab Rats: Elite Force, Gamer's Guide to Pretty Much Everything, Kirby Buckets, and Walk the Prank. It was discontinued as Disney XD's carriage became equivalent to that of Disney Channel.
Current sister channels
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.
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.
Former sister channels
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 by Disney XD, a channel aimed at children, which features broader array of programming, with a heavier emphasis on live-action programs.
Disney Channel HD
Disney Channel HD is a high-definition simulcast feed of Disney Channel that broadcasts in the 720p resolution format; the feed first began broadcasting on March 19, 2008. Most of the channel's original programming since 2009 is produced and broadcast in HD, along with feature films, Disney Channel original movies made after 2005 and select episodes, films and series produced before 2009. Disney XD and Disney Junior also offer their own high-definition simulcast feeds.
Disney Channel On Demand
Disney Channel On Demand is the channel's video-on-demand service, offering select episodes of the channel's original series and Disney Junior programming, along with select original movies and behind-the-scenes features to digital cable and IPTV providers.
Disney Family Movies
Disney Family Movies is a subscription video-on-demand service that launched on December 10, 2008. The service offers a limited selection of movies and short films from the Walt Disney Pictures film catalog for a fee of about $5 to $10 per month, making it similar in structure to Disney Channel's original model as a premium service.
DisneyNow is a TV Everywhere service that allows subscribers to Disney Channel on participating television providers to stream the channel's programming live and on-demand.
The service is a successor to Disney Channel's original TV Everywhere service, "Watch Disney Channel", which launched in June 2012; in September 2017, Disney replaced the separate apps for Disney Channel, Junior, and XD with a new app known as DisneyNow.
Criticism and controversies
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 his being ridiculed.
In 2010, Disney Channel All Star Party was released for the NintendoWii. 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.
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