The Fox Network television history has not all been plain sailing. It was launched in October 1986 after the parent company of 20th Century Fox, TCF Holdings, sold 50% of its shares to News Corporation for $250 million in 1985. New Corporation then bought six television stations in various major cities from Metromedia. At this time, the stations that they bought were broadcastings to just 22% of households in the United States. Once they started broadcasting as Fox in 1986 there were reaching 80%. This however, was not enough to be considered alongside the other three main networks of ABC, CBS and NBC who were reaching over 97%. Fox was still in its infancy at this point and although it had many plans in the pipeline it was only broadcasting one show – The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers.
The network was seen to have a young and slightly irreverent outlook in its programming and was soon broadcasting shows such as ‘Married… with Children' and ‘The Tracey Ullman Show'. It was not long before ‘The Simpsons' was born and this went on to be the longest running animated series and situation comedy in the history of U.S. television. Fox Network television history was being made.
‘America's Most Wanted' was the next big success story in Fox Network television history and was the first show to make it into the top 50 shows of the week in the all important Nielson ratings. The show is still among the prime time hits. Although Fox was well on its way to being recognised as a top network broadcaster, its ranking with the other big three was still elusive.
This all changed in 1993 when Fox gained the National Football League coverage contract. Until then this had been the rights of CBS, where it had found its home since the 1950s. After just one season of the NFL coverage, Fox had to be considered alongside CBS, ABC and NBC… the big three had become the big four. Around the same time, Fox started to broadcast some soap operas aimed at the younger audience and these were popular from the outset. Shows such as ‘Beverly Hills 90210' and ‘Melrose Place' were an important part of the Fox network but even they were beaten on viewing figures by ‘The X-Files'. This was the networks entrance ticket to the Top 25 in the Nielson rating schedule.
Since then, Fox Network television history has given us such shows as ‘Family Guy', ‘King of the Hill' and many reality shows such as ‘Joe Millionaire'. Such shows are not popular with everyone and some have knocked the network for broadcasting distasteful viewing. However, the finale of the first series of ‘Joe Millionaire' was watched by over 40 million people. The figures speak for themselves. Fox has always been an entertainment channel. It has never faired well with news reporting but has found its own niche where it entertains and brightens up the lives of millions of viewers throughout the United States.