Goodbye, Fox Family Channel
Many layoffs expected as Disney takes over; official launch of ABC Family set for January
By Joe Schlosser -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/11/2001 7:00:00 PM
Fox Family Channel employees are bracing for wide-ranging layoffs as Disney moves forward with plans to transform the network into ABC Family.
Fox Family Channel's moniker and logo have already given way to ABC Family, the network Disney executives plan to use as a repurposing home for Disney and ABC programming. The news that Fox Family Channel was disappearing so suddenly came as a jolt to the network's 500-plus employees, many of whom are expected to lose their jobs in the coming months. Late last month, Disney officially acquired Fox Family Worldwide from News Corp. and Haim Saban for $5.2 billion.
"We've said from the very beginning that one of the most important factors of the deal was that we saw great synergies because we run networks, and it doesn't take a lot to figure where those will be," one Disney executive said last week.
The majority of the business affairs, distribution, marketing, programming and PR positions are expected to be filled by Disney employees. ABC is expected to handle prime time programming and marketing chores, with Disney cable executives handling distribution. All current Fox Family employees are expected to be interviewed for potential positions at ABC Family, but many say they don't expect many opportunities. A Disney source says any layoffs will not come until January.
"A lot of people are in denial, thinking they are still going to need us," says one Fox Family Channel employee. "I think there is going to be quite an awakening when Disney tells us what's actually happening." A Disney spokeswoman would say only that "we are in the process of making a determination in restructuring the company."
There won't be a lot of fanfare surrounding the arrival of ABC Family until January, when Disney plans to officially launch the network with national promotion and its own programming lineup. Until then, Fox Family Channel shows will fill the schedule, including a 25-day run of holiday-themed movies and shows Dec. 1-25.
Disney programmers are hashing out ABC Family's initial lineup, which will likely include some original Fox Family shows and repurposed and original ABC- and Disney-produced shows and movies. Production is currently under way on Fox Family's half-hour series State of Grace, which stars Frances McDormand (Fargo). The show is set to return for a second season in January. The fate of other Fox Family series, including daytime series So Little Time, starring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, is unclear.
Earlier this month, Disney made its first official repurposing deal with an outside studio, Warner Bros., for upcoming drama The Court. The series, which stars Sally Field as a Supreme Court Justice, is expected to air on ABC Family a week after it airs on ABC.
Disney is also expected to air reruns of ABC staple Whose Line Is It Anyway?, to which it owns the backend syndication rights. ABC sitcoms According to Jim and My Wife and Kids, both produced by Disney-owned Touchstone TV, are expected to be aired on ABC Family if they continue to be successful on the network. A TGIF Friday-night lineup, similar to ABC's former staple, is also said to be in the works. Disney movies and ABC News programs like Nightline are in the mix, sources say.
Comedies Family Matters, Growing Pains, Step by Step and Two of a Kind—all former ABC sitcoms that were already on Fox Family Channel—will continue on ABC Family.
Pat Robertson, one of the original owners of The Family Channel, will have his evangelist series The 700 Club on several times a day. News Corp. and now Disney promised to air it as part of their acquisition deals for the network.
ABC and Disney executives had no comment on programming issues.
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