What Used to Be On This Channel?

January 9, 2019

Many of the first major players in cable TV in the early 1980s are still intact today — CNN is still a 24-news network, ESPN is all sports all the time, and HBO plays movies and sports events.  Elsewhere, there’s been a lot of “changing channels” so to speak, as lots of networks have changed hands, formats, and even names.

Fox Channel

Twentieth Century Fox launched this offshoot of its Fox Sports Channel in 2005…severely overestimating Americans’ interest in soccer (at the time). In 2013, the parent company got rid of soccer and renamed it FXX, using it to air only comedy shows launched on its more successful FX general entertainment channel.


Satellite provider DirecTV once had a channel called Freeview, which played mostly old concerts. Then the powers that be realized they could put original content there, and in 2005 renamed it The 101 Network (because it was on channel 101). Its most popular shows were programs exiled from other channels, such as the legal drama Damages from FX and the sports soap Friday Night Lights from NBC. In 2011, it changed names to Audience Network.


This was a channel of the “old media” (television) that broadcast shows about “new media,” like the internet and video games. It didn’t work, and in 2014, it became the guy-friendly Esquire Network.

Court TV

Back in the ‘90s, this aired live footage of the most salacious courtroom events of the day, including the murder trials of O.J. Simpson and the Menendez brothers. By the mid-2000s, the explosion of reality TV led the network to confine its court stuff to the day, and air “docu-series” at night. The transition was complete in 2008 with a renaming to truTV, a banner that allowed it to air reality shows, sports, and anything else unscripted.

Discovery Health

In 1998, the Discovery Channel created this offshoot focusing on shows about health and physical well-being. After a brief period as Discovery Fit & Health, ownership changed hands and it became the Oprah Winfrey Network. (That channel, now abbreviated to OWN, also focused on health, albeit mental and spiritual health.)

America’s Talking

Talk shows were the reality shows of the ‘90s…which is to say there were hundreds of them on TV, day and night. NBC got in on the fad in 1994 with an all-talk-show cable channel called America’s Talking. It flopped quickly and spectacularly, and by 1996, NBC had partnered with Microsoft to turn America’s Talking into a 24-hour cable news network called MSNBC.