Ion Television: Wikis

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Ion Television
Ion Television logo.svg
Type Broadcast television network, satellite television network
Country United States
Availability National (but not available in all markets)
Founded by Lowell 'Bud' Paxson
Slogan Positively Entertaining
Owner ION Media Networks
Key people R. Brandon Burgess
Launch date August 31, 1998 (as PAX TV)
July 1, 2005 (as i: Independent Television)
January 29, 2007 (as Ion Television)
Former names Pax (1998–2005)
i (2005–2007)
ION (2007-2008)
ION Television (2008-present)
Picture format 480i (SD)
720p (HD)
Official Website http://www.iontelevision.com

Ion Television is a television network which first began broadcasting on August 31, 1998. The network is owned by ION Media Networks (formerly Paxson Communications). As of 2009, the network was reportedly viewable in over 94 million homes in the U.S. through its television station group, as well as cable and satellite distribution.[1] The network has 94 affiliate stations in the U.S. (some of which are owned-and-operated). However, despite its wide availability, it is the least watched major English language network in the United States, behind MyNetworkTV.[2]

The network changed its name from PAX TV to i: Independent Television on July 1, 2005, and then to Ion Television on January 29, 2007.

Contents

History

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PAX

PAX TV logo, used from August 31, 1998 to July 1, 2005. The initial version, shown here, was tri-colored; by 2004 the logo had become a single color

The network was originally named Pax Net, then renamed PAX TV before its launch in 1998 by Lowell 'Bud' Paxson, co-founder of the Home Shopping Network and chairman of Paxson Communications. The network also aired religious programming at night from The Worship Network during the late night hours and contemporary Christian television network Praise TV Friday and Saturday nights from 12:00–3:00 AM ET/PT.

Paxson, a Christian since 1985, was unhappy with the amount of sex, violence, and profanity on network television and decided to create a network which would carry only programming devoid of such content.[citation needed] PAX's initial schedule was much larger in scope than it is today and consisted of general entertainment programs from 12:00 PM–12:00 AM ET/PT weekdays and paid programming from 12:00-1:00 AM and 5:00 AM–12:00 PM ET/PT and all afternoon Saturdays and Sundays.

Initial programming on the network consisted of new shows, such as It's a Miracle, the game show The Reel to Reel Picture Show, and talk shows Woman's Day and Great Day America, along with reruns of older programming, including Highway to Heaven, Here's Lucy, The Hogan Family, Dave's World, and Touched by an Angel. New episodes and older reruns of Candid Camera were also shown. The network also created some original dramas such as Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye and Doc.

PAX aired many game shows, some original and some reruns. Examples include Supermarket Sweep, On the Cover, Shop 'til You Drop, Balderdash, and Family Feud.

From PAX to i

i logo, used from July 1, 2005 to January 29, 2007

On June 28, 2005, Paxson announced it would rebrand PAX as i, in order to reflect a new strategy of "providing an independent broadcast platform for producers and syndicators who desire to reach a national audience." After the transition was complete, PAX TV would continue to air programming under its PAX brand on one of its digital channels over the air and in select cable homes (see below). Some media observers jocularly postulated that i was code for "infomercial."

With this rebranding also came the following changes to the programming lineup:

  • i dropped overnight programming from The Worship Network, which had been airing late nights on the network since its launch in August 1998. The time period is now leased to infomercials. Worship programming moved to a digital subchannel on local i affiliates.
  • In many markets starting in the Fall of 2002, i had aired editions of local newscasts from local NBC affiliate stations. This was discontinued from some i station lineups on June 30, 2005.
  • Also dropped was "Tomorrow's Weather Tonight", a five-minute segment featuring current weather and forecasts from WeatherVision which had aired on the channel since 2000.
Ion Television logo used from January 29, 2007 to September 8, 2008.

On January 29, 2007, the network changed its name again, to the current ION Television. The programming was, for the most part, unchanged at that time; the network continued to feature programming from its content deals, such as Who's the Boss?, Mama's Family, Growing Pains, and The Wonder Years. However, in 2008, the network re-tooled its focus, emphasizing the 18–49 demographic and airing various, newer programming attracting a younger audience, such as Boston Legal, NCIS and Criminal Minds.

Programming

Ion Television operates on a 66-hour network programming schedule, which it adopted in September 2009. It provides 61 hours of afternoon and prime time general entertainment programming to affiliated stations Monday-Fridays from 4PM-12AM and weekends from 3-11PM (all times ET/PT), along with a children's programming block known as qubo airing for one hour each on Wednesday–Fridays from 3-4PM ET/PT. All other times are filled with religious programming or infomercials. The network will in the future resume original programming. However the current method of using syndicated programming is very similar to the international model of broadcasting used in Europe and Canada but not the United States. This model mixes imported and syndicated shows with original programming.

On May 1, 2008, Ion Television released its new programming plan for the 2008–2009 season at the New York Public Library in New York City. In addition to the "new" programming as described, Ion announced a new logo and slogan for the network, Positively Entertaining.[3]

Recent programming deals

In 2006, Ion Media Networks reached several programming deals. Two were with major programming suppliers announced within a week of each other. Another would bring original programming to the Ion network, among other things.

On June 27, 2006, Ion announced a comprehensive programming deal with Warner Bros. Television Distribution, giving them broadcast rights to movies and programming owned by Warner.[4] On July 5, 2006, Ion announced a similar deal with Sony Pictures Television, giving them broadcast rights to movies and programming owned by Sony.[5] Starting in September, programs and feature-length movies from both libraries were phased into the primetime schedule. The schedule was heavy on programs from the deals such as Who's the Boss?, Designing Women, Mama's Family, Growing Pains, Green Acres, and The Wonder Years. However, all shows were phased out when the network entered its current direction.

Ion also struck a deal with NBC Universal for library content, which gave it access to shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents.[6] Like Warner and Sony, Ion no longer airs any NBC Universal programs.

In January 2008, Ion and Comcast reached an agreement to continue to carry Ion, as well as add qubo and ION Life to Comcast's channel lineups.[7]

In September 2008 Ion Television reached a multiyear agreement with Warner Bros. Television Distribution, which gave the network access to the studio's more recent movies.

Criminal Minds and Ghost Whisperer were added to the Ion Television lineup in 2009. Ghost Whisperer began airing on Ion on June 1, 2009 on Mondays.[8]

In January 2009, the network announced that it had acquired broadcast rights to air the award-winning Canadian cable drama series Durham County in 2009.[9] Reba joined the Ion line-up on April 26, 2009.

Most Ion programs now come from either 20th Century Fox Television or CBS Television Distribution.

Ion Television has announced deals with various studios to acquire nearly 40 major feature films and television series from Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros..[10]

Other programming

Children's programming

The network, as PAX TV, aired a five-hour children's programming block called PAX Kids on Saturday and Sunday mornings, which featured mostly religious children's programming and archive programming from DIC Entertainment such as the Super Mario Bros. animated series.[11] The lineup lasted only a year and a half, presumably due to low ratings. (The last animated show that got axed was Archie's Weird Mysteries). What was unusual about the lineup is that although it was a weekend-only lineup like ABC, CBS and NBC, it was spread over two days, Saturday and Sunday.

In May 2006, the network announced plans to launch a new children's block on Saturday mornings starting in September 2006 as part of the qubo endeavor (see below), teaming ION Media Networks with NBC Universal, Scholastic Press, Corus Entertainment's Nelvana unit, Classic Media and its Big Idea Productions unit. qubo includes blocks airing on Ion Television, NBC and Telemundo (NBC Universal's Spanish-language network) along with a 24/7 digital broadcast kids channel, video-on-demand services and a branded website. ION Television, along with PBS, are the only broadcast networks that broadcast children's programming on weekday afternoons.

The qubo lineup on Ion Television features the same programming as the NBC qubo lineup. On Friday, September 15, 2006 i started airing the qubo programs VeggieTales, Dragon, 3-2-1 Penguins!, Babar, Jane and the Dragon, and Jacob Two-Two.

qubo 3:00 PM 3:30 PM
Wednesdays My Friend Rabbit Babar
Thursdays 3-2-1 Penguins!/LarryBoy Stories The Zula Patrol
Fridays VeggieTales Turbo Dogs

Sports

Previous network sports event telecasts included Conference USA college football games (produced by College Sports Television), the Women's United Soccer Association, Real Pro Wrestling (which more resembles the amateur form than the theatrically-based ring sport), the Champions Tour of golf, Paralympic Games, and most recently, BodogFight.

Ion Television aired NFL Films' weekly highlight program, the NFL Films Game of the Week, Saturdays at 6 PM ET beginning September 15, with the Giants-Cowboys game from September 9, 2007. The series ran from September 9 through December 29, but was not renewed for 2008.

Ion Television was supposed to begin coverage of the American Indoor Football Association beginning in March 2008.[12] However, the game's producers did not provide a live broadcast and the deal was canceled.

Ion Plus

Separate national feeds have been made available to DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and non-O&O stations, featuring programming from ION Life in place of paid programming that airs on the main network.

Prior to the launch of Ion Life, the Ion Plus feeds carried reruns of cancelled PAX original programs (Miracle Pets, Beat the Clock), as well as public domain movies and sitcom episodes (I Married Joan, The Beverly Hillbillies).

The feeds used the PAX name and bug long after PAX had changed its name to i, until about September 2005.

Ion HD

In early 2009, Ion Media Networks had planned to launch ION Television HD by February 16.[13] However, on February 19 they released a statement saying that to avoid confusion with the current DTV transition, they will postpone HDTV plans until March 16.[14] Nevertheless, stations began to switch in late February from 480i to 720p, with most programming pillarboxed by very dark blue bars instead of black ones. Due to the presence of three other digital subchannels, it appears to be transmitted in 720p30 (30 frames per second) to reduce the bit rate, while sports-intensive networks (ABC, ESPN, and Fox) use high-motion 720p60.

Not all of ION's owned-and-operated stations currently operate the HD feed.

Multiplexing

Ion affiliates have made notable use of "multiplexing," or splitting a digital TV channel into separate digital sub-channels. On these sub-channels, the stations/network broadcasts four digital channels.

Qubo on Ion Television

On May 8, 2006, Ion Media Networks, NBC Universal, Corus Entertainment's Nelvana unit, Scholastic Books, Classic Media and its Big Idea Productions unit announced plans to launch qubo, a new children's entertainment endeavor spread across all medium platforms, including video-on-demand on digital cable.[15] The new project features new and library programming from the partners, each one producing a new series a year.

The primary goal for qubo is to "champion literacy and values in the children's television category".[15] qubo made its debut on NBC and Telemundo on September 9, 2006, with NBC's qubo block repeating on Ion Television on Fridays at 3:00 pm.[16] A 24-hour digital television network began January 8, 2007;[17] programming on the digital channel features a daily repeating 4-hour block of shows, all featuring programming exclusive to the new channel. As a consequence to this, the i secondary feed was replaced on i O&Os with a repeating promo loop in late September 2006.

Ion Life

The network launched on February 19, 2007 as ION Life.

The Worship Network

The Worship Network was originally founded in 1992 to "create an atmosphere in the home to inspire and encourage a quiet time to worship God." When PAX launched in 1998, The Worship Network provided overnight programming. In 2005, PAX and The Worship Network struck a deal in which the network would be carried on a digital subchannel of PAX 24 hours a day.

Until January 31, 2010 the Worship Network was carried on digital subchannels of Ion O&Os and in some cases, was used as an alternative to the main Ion network feed. It is also seen around the world through its 250 broadcast affiliates.[18]

On January 31, 2010 Ion dropped the Worship Network from their stations' lineups.[19]

Subchannel ordering

Though each channel map may vary by market, usually the ION affiliate is carried on channel -1, with Qubo on -2 and ION Life on -3.

Differences between Ion and other broadcast networks

Ion Television, unlike other broadcast networks, does not necessarily allow its owned and operated stations to air syndicated programming during the daytime and late night hours. In the United States, syndicated programming accounts for a majority of local network affiliate and independent stations revenue.

Network programming (on stations that have a network affiliation) and infomercials make up the rest. Since paid programming makes up most of Ion's schedule, the "pro" is that it is the main source of revenue. However, this is also a "con" since Ion relies more on infomercials rather than sitcoms and dramas; sponsors of television series often have qualms about their message being lost on stations whose primary content is infomercials and other paid programming. During the 2005–2006 season, Ion (as i) launched only one new series, Palmetto Pointe, a teen drama series which only lasted six episodes, and in 2006–2007, the network went entirely to a lineup of reruns (except for Health Report and Ion Life specials). However, beginning in July 2007, this changed, as ION inked a deal with RHI Entertainment, who is producing new series for Ion.

As a result, there are a small number of stations (such as WKFK-LP, for instance) that have taken dual affiliation with both Ion and another smaller network, usually either America One or MyNetworkTV.

The fact that Ion airs more infomercials than they do series programming is the main reason why some satellite operators dropped Ion affiliates from their channel lineups.[20]

In some markets, DirecTV carries a "place holder" simulcast of the national modified feed (for example, Los Angeles area viewers watch Ion on both channels 30, KPXN, and 305).

Network troubles

In 2003, the predecessor Pax network scaled back its operations. It was originally offering five or six new series each season. That year the number of new series airing on Pax dwindled to just two: Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye, which was pulled in 2005, and Doc, which were pulled in 2004 because Pax's international backer, CTV, pulled out of producing the shows. The organization seemingly recovered a year later when seven TV series made it to Pax's 2004-05 schedule.

In the Spring of 2005, it was reported that PAX intended to break its contract with NBC Universal, which eliminated most of their entertainment programming, and rely on infomercials, talk shows, and other paid programming to help increase cash flow. However, the network issued a press release on May 25, 2005, in which Paxson Communications chairman Lowell "Bud" Paxson was quoted[citation needed] as saying:

There have been several reports in the press that the Company is dropping or reducing entertainment programming. Those reports are totally incorrect. The Company will continue to offer the same or an increased amount of entertainment programming than it has in the past.

In November 2005, NBC Universal was granted a transferrable option to purchase a controlling stake in Paxson Communications.[citation needed] If this option is exercised, NBC would acquire approximately 63 i affiliates. As part of the agreement, Lowell Paxson left the network (and its parent company).

According to a statement on its website[20], DirecTV planned to terminate its agreement with the i network in February 2006 and would drop i as well as its local channels from the DBS service. DirecTV cited that "most of [i Network's] programming consists of infomercials and other promotional shows", despite an earlier promise by network executives that the network "would consist of general, family-oriented entertainment". To appease DirecTV officials, the network decided to junk some infomercials and shopping shows and replace them with old public domain programming and cancelled PAX originals (see below). The channels were expected to be removed from the service by February 28, 2006. However, in May 2006, it was announced that DirecTV and Ion Media had come to a new carriage agreement.

In early 2006, it was announced that the i affiliates in Memphis, Tennessee (WPXX-TV), Rapid City, South Dakota (KKRA-LP) and Greenville, North Carolina (WEPX-TV, as well as WPXU-TV in Jacksonville, North Carolina) would add programming from MyNetworkTV in September 2006, thus causing programming airing on i to be unavailable on these stations while MNTV is broadcasting. This blow came after losing some affiliates in New Mexico, New York, and Illinois completely (although the New York station, WWBI-LP in Plattsburgh, subsequently rejoined i after a sale that resulted in the affiliation change fell through). In April 2006, it was reported i owed more than US $250,000,000 to creditors.[21] Standard & Poor's reported a much higher debt in March 2008, owing $867,000,000 to creditors and having a bond rating of CCC+/Outlook Negative.[22]

In 2006, i struck several major content deals (see details above) in hopes of assuring its long-term future.

Days after the network changed to Ion, a small California-based entertainment group named Positive Ions, Inc. sued ION Media Networks, claiming that the network stole the "Ion" branding.[23] Positive Ions has registered trademarks on the word "Ion" and has used the mark commercially since 1999. On May 14, 2007, Positive Ions filed for an injunction that, if granted, would require ION Media Networks to change its name once again.

In April 2009, it was announced that Ion was one again facing balance sheet problems. The company disclosed that it was in discussions with lenders on "a comprehensive recapitalization" of its balance sheet. That translates to an effort to restructure its considerable debt, which stands at $2.7 billion as of April 2009, according to The Wall Street Journal.

On May 19, 2009, ION Media Networks filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, putting the Ion network under bankruptcy for the second time, saying it had reached an agreement with holders of 60% of its first lien secured debt that would extinguish all of its $2.7 billion in legacy debt and preferred stock and recapitalize the company with a $150 million new funding commitment.[24]

On July 15, 2009, RHI entered into a settlement agreement to resolve a dispute with ION Media which, if approved by the Bankruptcy Court, will result in the termination of the programming agreement between RHI and ION.[25]

In late September 2009, a year after Ion purchased WPXX and WEPX/WPXU from Flinn Broadcasting, those stations returned to carrying Ion full-time as they used the out of MyNetworkTV cancelling all existing affiliation agreements in the wake of that network converting to a programming service. WITN took over MyNetworkTV affiliation via a digital subchannel in Greenville/Jacksonville, with Memphis CW affiliate WLMT picking up only WWE SmackDown in place of WPXX.

Major market absences

Ion has no over-the-air stations in several major markets, most notably San Diego, California; Charlotte, North Carolina; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Rockford, Illinois; and St. Louis, Missouri. (A deal by Paxson to buy WPCB-TV and trade it for WQEX was rejected by the Federal Communications Commission in a huge controversy in the late 1990s. St. Louis at one time received the network by way of a low-power repeater of WPXS, a station in Mount Vernon, Illinois). In Charlotte, WAXN-TV carried some of the Pax programming but has not done so since the change to Ion.

In addition, in several other markets, Ion's predecessor was sold to another television station group to affiliate with a different network or a Spanish service, and through either a lack of channel space or interest in the network. Ion has not reappeared in those markets. They include:

In several markets, the station's city of license is considered outside the main portion of a market's metropolitan area, like Minneapolis – Saint Paul, where that area's affiliate station (KPXM) transmits from St. Cloud, 60 miles northwest; Detroit, where affiliate WPXD is licensed to Ann Arbor, Michigan, 40 miles west; and Milwaukee, where the affiliate WPXE is licensed from Kenosha, with its analog transmitter south of Milwaukee in Racine County (although its digital transmitter is located at the traditional Milwaukee tower farm on the north side of the city). In Cleveland, Ion airs on the former ABC affiliate in Akron (WVPX-TV), which had formerly targeted an audience in Akron and Canton.

Network slogans

  • Pax TV: A Friend of the Family (1998-2005)
  • Pax TV: Share It With Someone You Love (1998-2005)
  • Pax TV: Share The Wonder (1998)
  • Pax TV: Feel Good TV (2001-2004)
  • Pax TV: Feel The Spirit (2003-2004)
  • Pax TV: Oh what a night! (2004-2005)
  • i: Independent Television (2005-2007)
  • What's Your ION? (2007-2008)
  • ION: Your Home for Popular TV Favorites (2007-2008)
  • ION Television: Positively Entertaining (2008-present) -- a play on the name, ion, which is an atom or molecule with a positive or negative electrical charge.

See also

References

External links


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