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Its programming is similar to that of FX and Sundance TV, which includes contemporary off-network syndicated reruns and original series, feature films, and made-for-TV original movies.
Since the network was launched in April 1977, it has undergone various changes to its programming format and naming under its four different owners; the network was founded as the CBN Satellite Service, an extension of televangelist Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.
The New York Times classified both series as being among a larger wave of television programming catered towards the demographic of children aged 9 through 14—also referred to as tweens.
In 1999, Fox spun off two digital cable channels from Fox Family, the Boyz Channel and the Girlz Channel, which both contained programming content targeted at the respective genders.
Disney originally planned to use the channel to show reruns of ABC programming, although this strategy was hindered by the fact that ABC did not hold syndication rights to all of its programming at the time.
Disney-ABC developed a programming strategy to turn ABC Family into a "broad-appeal programming network with its own identity", picking up same-season encores of ABC series such as Alias, Less Than Perfect, and Life with Bonnie; adding a weeknight sitcom block; and continuing to emphasize movies – having already reached a ten-year agreement for the cable rights to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
(which had also begun negotiations to acquire television provider Direc TV) but was unable to agree to a proper valuation.
A decision was made to sell the venture to a third-party. and Saban had agreed to sell Fox Family Worldwide to Disney Enterprises for .9 billion in cash plus the assumption of .3 billion in debt.
In the wake of Fox Family's struggles, Saban offered to acquire the stake in the network held by News Corp.On January 8 of that year, CBN spun out the network into a new, for-profit corporation known as International Family Entertainment (IFE). Following the spin-off, the channel's name was officially shortened to The Family Channel on September 15, 1990.Managed by Pat Robertson's eldest son Timothy, IFE was co-owned by the Robertsons, with a minority interest held by Liberty Media and Tele-Communications Inc. As The Family Channel, it attracted a slightly older (and religious) audience that is not sought by advertisers; only about one-third of homes with television viewers that watched the network included children or youths among its audience.The network's strength was also increased through the production of original series and films.
On August 29, 2005, Disney began distancing itself further from Robertson following his controversial remarks suggesting that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez should be assassinated.
Disney-ABC chose not to move forward with the "XYZ" rebranding, allegedly due to a stipulation thought to have been put in place by Pat Robertson during the sale of the network to Fox, which allegedly mandated that the word "Family" must be contained in the name of the channel for the entirety of its existence, regardless as to who owns it.