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|Type||Broadcast, cable and satellite television network|
|Founded||by Lowell 'Bud' Paxson|
|Slogan||Positively Entertaining (primary)
Watch It Unfold. (secondary; promotional campaign)
|Headquarters||West Palm Beach, Florida|
|Owner||Ion Media Networks|
|Key people||R. Brandon Burgess
(chairman and chief executive officer of Ion Media Networks)
|Launch date||August 31, 1998
(as Pax TV)
July 1, 2005
(as i: Independent Television)
January 29, 2007
(as Ion Television)
|Former names||Pax TV (1998–2005)
i: Independent Television (2005–2007)
|Picture format||720p (HD)|
|Official website||Official website|
Ion Television is an American hybrid broadcast and cable/satellite television network that is owned by Ion Media Networks. The network first began broadcasting on August 31, 1998 as Pax TV, a name it used until its rebranding as i: Independent Television on July 1, 2005; the network adopted its current identity as Ion Television on January 29, 2007.
As of 2010, the network was reportedly viewable in 99 million homes in the U.S. through its group of 60 stations, as well as through distribution on cable and satellite providers (which serve as the network's only method of distribution in markets where the network does not have an owned-and-operated station or affiliate). The network's stations cover all of the top 20 U.S. markets and 37 of the top 50 markets.
The network was originally named Pax Net, but renamed Pax TV before its launch in 1998 by Lowell "Bud" Paxson, co-founder of the Home Shopping Network and chairman of Paxson Communications. Paxson was a Born Again Christian who felt that other networks were too raunchy and not family-friendly enough, and decided to create a network that he perceived as an alternative. The network also aired religious programming from The Worship Network during the late-night hours and contemporary Christian television network Praise TV on Friday and Saturday nights from midnight to 3 a.m. ET/PT.
Most of Pax's initial affiliates were Paxson Communications-owned affiliate stations of the Infomail TV Network or InTV, a broadcast network launched in 1995 by Lowell "Bud" Paxson, that relied solely on infomercial programming. The network launched on August 31, 1998 with Pax's initial schedule being much larger in scope than it would be in later years. It consisted of general entertainment programs from noon-midnight ET/PT weekdays and of paid programming from midnight-1 a.m. ET/PT, 5 a.m.–noon ET/PT, and all afternoon on 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, Doc, Mysterious Ways, Hope Island, and Twice in a Lifetime.
Pax aired many game shows. Examples include first-run revivals of established cable games such as Supermarket Sweep and Shop 'til You Drop, plus some original games including On the Cover, Balderdash, a 2002 revival of Beat the Clock, Hollywood Showdown (in conjunction with Game Show Network, which also aired the show), and Born Lucky. Later, the network would carry re-runs of Family Feud and (due to their alliance with NBC) The Weakest Link as well as the 2000 revival of Twenty One.
From Pax to i
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: the network replaced programming from The Worship Network shown during overnight hours with infomercials. The Worship Network, which had been airing late nights on the network since its launch as Pax TV in August 1998, began to carry its full 24-hour schedule through its addition as a fourth digital subchannel on local i-owned stations and affiliates until the network was removed in 2010; in addition, most Pax stations that had aired rebroadcasts of late evening and/or morning newscasts from local network affiliates (primarily those affiliated with NBC) discontinued these programs on June 30, 2005. Tomorrow's Weather Tonight (which debuted in 2000), a five-minute forecast segment produced by WeatherVision that typically ended the network's entertainment schedule, was also discontinued.
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.
Ion Television operates on a 108-hour network programming schedule, which it adopted in October 2012. It provides general entertainment programming to affiliated stations Monday-Fridays from 11 a.m.-3 a.m. ET/PT, and Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m.-3 a.m. ET/PT. An E/I compliant children's programming block known as qubo airs for one hour each Wednesday–Friday at 11 a.m. ET/PT. All other times are filled with religious programming or infomercials.
The current method of using syndicated programming is very similar to the international model of broadcasting used in Europe, Canada, Latin America, Asia and Australia, 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.
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. On July 5, 2006, Ion announced a similar deal with Sony Pictures Television, giving them broadcast rights to movies and programming owned by Sony. 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 NBCUniversal for library content, which gave it access to shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
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. 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. NCIS joined in September 2008, and Criminal Minds and Ghost Whisperer were added to the Ion Television lineup in 2009. 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. The show aired for less than a year.
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..
On January 21, 2011, it was announced that Ion Television would air the remaining 11 episodes from season four of Flashpoint, after CBS airs the first 8 episodes of season four. Ion has also renewed the series for a fifth, and final, season. In July 2011, Ion Television acquired six films from Starz Media and will begin air them as part of its Big Movie Weekend starting in November. Ion also acquired syndication rights of top-rated cable programs Psych and Monk, from NBCUniversal. The two series began airing in late 2011 and early 2012. House M.D., also from NBCUniversal, will begin airing twice a week sometime in the fall of 2012. House was airing as of September 23.
On August 24, 2011, Ion Television and Penske Media Corporation, announced the launch of Entertainment News Television (ENTV), an original multi-platform breaking news service, which will consist of content mainly from the resources of the Hollywood Life and Deadline.com entertainment news sites. In September 2011, Ion Television acquired the syndication rights to Leverage  and George Lopez. George Lopez began airing on September 29, while Leverage debuted in July 2012.
On October 4, 2011, it was announced on The Hollywood Reporter that ION Television has now acquired the first two seasons of The Listener for broadcast in 2012, with an option for future seasons. In December 2011, Ion Television acquired the syndication rights to Cold Case, which debuted in 2012. On June 25, 2012, it was announced that Ion Television had made a deal with WWE to air a new one-hour series titled WWE Main Event on Wednesday nights beginning October 3.
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. The lineup lasted only a year and a half, presumably due to low ratings. (The last animated show to be cancelled 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.
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. 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". 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. A 24-hour digital television network began January 8, 2007; programming on the Qubo 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.
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 BodogFight.
Ion Television aired NFL Films' weekly highlight program, the NFL Films Game of the Week, Saturdays at 6 PM ET beginning September 15, 2007, with the Giants-Cowboys game from September 9. 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. However, the game's producers did not provide a live broadcast and the deal was canceled.
On December 28, 2010, Ion Television signed a deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship to air the preliminary fights to their January 1 pay per view UFC 125. Ion also aired the preliminary fights for UFC 127 and UFC 140 later in 2011.
Separate national feeds have been made available to Dish Network, DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Charter, 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 after Pax had changed its name to i, until about September 2005.
In early 2009, Ion Media Networks had planned to launch Ion Television HD by February 16. 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. 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.
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 three (formerly four) digital channels.
Qubo is a 24/7 children's channel that was launched on January 8, 2007.
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.
On January 31, 2010 Ion dropped the Worship Network from their stations' lineups.
Despite Ion's decision to drop The Worship Network in 2010, it decided as of April 2012 to launch another channel. It is a shopping network similar in nature to HSN and QVC. It runs on the same sub-channel as The Worship Network did, that being XX-4.
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 benefit is that it provides the main source of revenue. However, this is also a drawback 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, the network 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).
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 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. 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, 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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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/Washington/New Bern NC, 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 Baltimore, Maryland; Toledo, Ohio; Austin, Texas; San Diego, California; Tucson, Arizona; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cincinnati, Ohio; and St. Louis, Missouri. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a deal by Paxson to buy WPCB-TV and trade it for secondary PBS station WQEX was approved by the Federal Communications Commission but rejected by WPCB-TV in a controversy in 2000; it would not be until 2010 that Paxson's successor, Ion, would successfully buy WQEX, which was since converted to a commercial license as WINP-TV. 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 Pax programming from 1998 to 2000, but was never formally affiliated with the network. Buffalo, New York and Rochester, New York, normally treated as separate markets, share Ion affiliate WPXJ-TV, which is centrally located between the two cities and is licensed to Batavia.
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:
- Champaign-Springfield, Illinois: WPXU (now CW affiliate WBUI)
- Green Bay, Wisconsin: WPXG (now CW affiliate WCWF)
- Tucson, Arizona: KUVE (now Univision affiliate)
- Albuquerque, New Mexico: KAPX (now TeleFutura affiliate KTFQ)
- Fresno-Visalia, California: KPXF (now TeleFutura affiliate KTFF)
- Little Rock, Arkansas: KYPX (now Me-TV affiliate KMYA)
- Reno, Nevada: KREN (now CW affiliate)
- Baton Rouge, Louisiana: WLFT-CD (now independent religious)
- Charlottesville, Virginia: WADA-LP (now Fox affiliate WAHU-CD)
- Lafayette, Louisiana: KDCG-CD (now RTN affiliate)
- Shreveport, Louisiana: KPXJ (now CW affiliate)
- Montgomery, Alabama: WBMM (first to Daystar Television Network, now a CW affiliate)
- Sioux Falls, South Dakota: KAUN-LP (now RTN affiliate)
- Madison, Wisconsin: W43BR (now America One affiliate)
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 was licensed to Ann Arbor, Michigan, 40 miles west (since moved to Southfield, Michigan, where the bulk of Detroit's television stations are located); Hartford, where affiliate WHPX is licensed to New London 40 miles southeast; and Milwaukee, where affiliate WPXE is licensed to 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.
- Pax TV: A Friend of the Family (1998–1999)
- Pax TV: Share It With Someone You Love (1999–2000)
- Pax TV: Share The Wonder (2000–2001)
- Pax TV: Feel Good TV (2001–2002)
- Pax TV: Feel The Spirit (2003–2004)
- Pax TV: Oh what a night! (2004–2005)
- i: Independent Television (2005–2006)
- What's Your Ion? (2006–2007)
- 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.
- List of United States cable and satellite television networks
- List of United States over-the-air television networks
- "ION Media Networks | Home". Ionmedianetworks.com. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
- Source: Northpine.com (screen shot image)
- Paxson's IN TV: move over UPN, WB (Lowell Paxson predicts that his Infomall TV Network will out perform United Paramount Network and WB Network), Broadcasting & Cable (via HighBeam Research), January 23, 1995.
- Pax TV to offer family programming, Chicago Sun-Times (via HighBeam Research), August 16, 1998.
- ION Television Presents "Positively Entertaining" Program Lineup at 2008 Sales Presentation, Business Wire, May 1, 2008
- Ion Media Plugs In New Comcast Accord, Multichannel News, January 14, 2008
- ION Television Acquires the Award-Winning Original TV Series Durham County, January 6, 2009.
- Ion Adds "M*A*S*H" to Weekdays; Ion Announces New Deals with Studios, Sitcoms Online, February 16, 2010
- Andreeva, Nellie. "Canadian 'Flashpoint' In U.S. Syndie Deal, Will Air Originals On CBS And ION". Deadline.com. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
- "TNT Series Gets Syndication Deal : TVBizwire : TVWeek - Television Industry news, TV ratings, analysis, celebrity event photos". TVWeek. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
- Andreeva, Nellie. "Ion Acquires Comedy 'George Lopez'". Deadline.com. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
- ION Television Debuts WWE Main Event, Yahoo! Finance, June 25, 2012
- Katz, Richard (April 3, 1998). "Paxson, DIC in kidstuff deal for Pax Net". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
- How To Get qubo Channel
- This Week In The AIFA Previews Season Kickoff. AIFA press release. 4 March 2008.
- Morgan, John (2010-12-28). "Ion Television lands UFC 125 prelims; Dana White promises three fights". MMAjunkie.com. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
- Multichannel News January 28, 2009 Ion To Launch HD Simulcast On Feb 16 - Initial Rollout Phase Will Reach 20 DMAs, 46 Million Households
- Engadget HD February 19, 2009 ION scared off by the DTV transition, postpones debut another month
- DirecTV.com: Pax
- Burgess' Burden - 4/24/2006 - Broadcasting & Cable
- Standard & Poor's 'Weakest Links' list. USA Today. 22 March 2008.
- Positive Ions Continues Fight with ION Media Networks over ION(R) - BroadcastNewsroom
- Ion Files for Bankruptcy Protection, MultiChannel News, May 20, 2009
- RHI Entertainment Announces Results for the Second Quarter Ended June 30, 2009, Fox Business.com, August 5, 2009
- Broadcasting & Cable: "Ion to Buy WQEX: "Positively entertaining" network grabs Pittsburgh outlet", November 8, 2010.