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Disney Channel is an American pay television channel that serves as the flagship property of Disney Branded Television, a unit of the Disney Entertainment division of The Walt Disney Company.


Launched on April 18, 1983, under the name The Disney Channel as a premium channel on top of basic cable television systems, it originally showcased programming towards families due to availability of home television sets locally at the time. Since 1997, as just Disney Channel, its programming has shifted focus to target mainly children and adolescents between ages 7 and 17. The channel showcases original first-run children's television series, theatrically-released and original television films and other selected third-party programming.

As of September 2022, Disney Channel is available on basic cable and satellite in over 190 million American and global homes. Original programming/content on/from the channel spans television, online, mobile, video on demand and mobile platforms, with the latter dominated by the DisneyNOW website-app hybrid product. There were 46 Disney Channels available in 33 languages worldwide, but some have either shut down or declined in viewership since 2016 in parts of Europe and most of the Asia-Pacific due to the rise of social media and streaming media platforms as well as the successful launch of Disney+ in certain countries/regions/territories from 2020 onward.

History[]

Disney Channel launched nationally as a premium channel at 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time on April 18, 1983, under the name The Disney Channel. The channel's development with help from its founding president Alan Wagner, and formally announced the launch of its family-oriented cable channel in early 1983. The channel – which initially maintained a 16-hour-per-day programming schedule from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time – would become available on cable providers in all 50 U.S. states by September 1983, and accrues a base of more than 611,000 subscribers by December of that year. In October 1983, the channel debuted its first made-for-cable movie, Tiger Town, which earned the channel a CableACE Award. The channel had reached profitability by January 1985, with its programming reaching 1.75 million subscribers by that point.

In September 1990, TCI's Montgomery, Alabama, system became the first cable provider to carry the channel as a basic cable service. Between 1991 and 1996, a steadily increasing number of cable providers began shifting The Disney Channel from a premium add-on offering to their basic tiers, either experimentally or on a full-time basis; however, Walt Disney Company executives denied any plans to convert the channel into an ad-supported basic service, stating that the premium-to-basic shifts on some providers was part of a five-year "hybrid" strategy that allowed providers to offer the channel in either manner. On April 6, 1997, the channel officially rebranded as Disney Channel, although occasionally marketed as "Disney" from 1997 to 2002.


Television films have also been produced for broadcast on Disney Channel since its launch under the banner of Disney Channel Premiere Films, with the first film released being Tiger Town in 1983, until October 1997, which is when they stopped using the "Premiere Films" label and renamed it the "Disney Channel Original Movies" (DCOM) thereafter. The first movie to be released under the Disney Channel Original Movie category was Under Wraps, a Halloween themed movie that aired for the first time on Disney Channel on October 25, 1997.

The most successful original film under the banner in terms of popularity and accolades is High School Musical 2, which debuted on August 17, 2007, to 17.2 million viewers and set a current longstanding record for the highest-rated television premiere in the history of the channel. Following High School Musical 2, the movie that had the second highest-rated Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) premiere was Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie, followed by Camp Rock, Descendants 2, Princess Protection Program, Teen Beach Movie, and Jump In!. It also set a basic cable record for the single most-watched television program until December 3, 2007, when corporate sister channel, ESPN, surpassed it with the telecast of an NFL game between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens on its Monday Night Football programme by 0.3 million viewers more (17.5 million viewers). The Cheetah Girls media franchise was also notably successful in terms of merchandise and sales for its concert tours and soundtrack albums. Its debut film from 2003, being the first Disney Channel original musical television film, premiered to over 84 million global viewers and its sequel premiered to 8.1 million American viewers and in the process became the most successful of the film series. An 86-date concert tour featuring the eponymous girl group was ranked as one of the top 10 concert tours of 2006, smashing the record at the Houston Rodeo previously set by Elvis Presley in 1973, selling out with 73,500 tickets in three minutes at one point.

In addition to its original television films, Disney Channel has rights to theatrically released feature films, with some film rights shared with sister network, Freeform. Alongside films released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (mainly consisting of releases from Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar), the channel also maintains rights to films from other studios. Some films released by Bagdasarian Productions (such as The Chipmunk Adventure and Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein) have also aired on Disney Channel, although most of them are not currently owned by any of The Walt Disney Company's divisions.

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