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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.
It evolved into a family-focused entertainment network in 1981, and was spun-off into a for-profit company known as International Family Entertainment in 1990, eventually becoming known as The Family Channel.
As a condition of this spin-off, the network has been contractually required to broadcast certain religious programs produced by CBN, including The 700 Club and an annual telethon.
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 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.In 1997 IFE and The Family Channel were acquired by a joint venture between News Corporation and Saban Entertainment, resulting in its re-branding as the Fox Family Channel.The new owners sought to re-position the network towards younger viewers as a companion for their popular Fox Kids programming block.