The channel specializes in television programming for children through original children's television series and movies, as well as third-party programming. It is marketed mostly toward young children, with the exception of their weekend primetime block that is aimed at pre-teens and teenagers ages 9–14, and the Disney Junior programming block aimed towards children ages 2–5. In recent years, the diversity of viewers has increased with an older audience, typically teenagers, young adults and young families.
Since November 19, 2010, the channel is offered with an alternate Spanish-language audio feed, either via a separate channel as part of a Spanish-language network package sold by cable and satellite providers or via a separate audio track with the SAP option, depending on the system.
It currently airs Dog with a Blog and many other shows.
Conception and launch (1977–1983)
In early 1977, Jim Jimirro of Walt Disney Productions brought forth the idea of a cable television network with material from the studio. Since the company was focusing on the Epcot Center, Disney chairman Card Walker turned down the proposal. Disney tried again in 1982, planning a partnership with the satellite unit of Group W, though the deal never came to fruition. In late 1982, the Disney Channel was formed under the leadership of its first president, Alan Wagner. Disney later invested US$11 million on two transponders of Galaxy 1, a Hughes Communications satellite, and spent US$20 million on programming.
In 1983, Walt Disney Productions announced its launch of the family-oriented cable channel. The Disney Channel launched nationally on April 18, 1983 at 7 a.m. ET with the Disney Channel-produced series Good Morning, Mickey! The channel's programming during its run as a premium channel, carrying through to its transition to a basic cable channel, targeted children and teenagers during the daytime, families during primetime and adults at night. At the time of its launch, Disney Channel was a premium channel that aired for 16 hours a day, from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. ET/PT. During its first full year, the channel was available to more than 532,000 subscribers in the U.S. In April 1984, the channel extended its programming day to 18 hours a day by adding two hours to its late night schedule, with the channel now broadcasting daily from 7 a.m.-1 a.m. ET/PT.
Early years (1983–1997)
In the channel's first years, shows that aired during its broadcast day included Welcome to Pooh Corner and You and Me Kid along with several foreign animated series and movies including Asterix, The Raccoons, Paddington Bear, and the Australian western Five Mile Creek; the original late night schedule featured reruns of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. As filler material, the channel also featured D-TV, a series of MTV-style music videos which showed popular music interwoven with classic Disney animation. Outside of daytime programs for children, the network also aired movies and original specials (largely concert specials), primarily during the nighttime hours.
Subscribers initially received a monthly program guide/magazine, though it was phased out by the time the channel began targeting itself as a commercial-free basic channel. Disney Channel received a special citation from President Ronald Reagan in 1984. As a premium channel, The Disney Channel would air week-long free previews four times a year, as well as two free preview weekends periodically (with ads targeted to non-subscribers), in the same manner as other premium channels such as HBO, Cinemax and Showtime. On December 1, 1986, Disney Channel began broadcasting 24 hours a day.
Early in 1986, the musical sitcom Kids Incorporated, about a pre-teen (and later teen-to-young adult) gang of friends who formed a pop group, mixing their everyday situations with variety-show and music video style performances. It became a hit for the channel, spawning many future stars in both music and acting during its nine-year run, including Martika (who went by her real name of Marta Marrero in the show's first season), eventual Party of Five co-stars Scott Wolf and Jennifer Love Hewitt (billed as Love Hewitt), and Stacy Ferguson (later known as "Fergie" of The Black Eyed Peas).
In 1988, Good Morning, Miss Bliss, a starring vehicle for Hayley Mills of Polyanna and The Parent Trap fame, made its debut; the series was cancelled after 13 episodes due to low ratings. NBC picked up the series in 1989, retooled as Saved by the Bell, with Miss Bliss actors Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Dustin Diamond, Lark Voorhies and Dennis Haskins carried over to the new show; Saved by the Bell achieved major success on NBC's Saturday morning lineup (producing two spinoffs in the process) and in worldwide syndication.
In early 1989, the channel revived one of the company's early TV staples with The All-New Mickey Mouse Club, which was an immediate hit that proved Disney's basic variety show formula could still work, unlike in the short-lived 1970s revival. The latest version contained many of the classic elements from "theme days" to updated mouseketeer jackets, but the scripted and musical segments were more contemporary. MMC had a stellar young cast, launching the careers of future stars Christina Aguilera, JC Chasez, Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Keri Russell and others.
By 1989, The Disney Channel had a total of about five million pay subscribers nationwide. In 1991, eight cable providers volunteered to move The Disney Channel to their expanded basic cable packages, instead of offering it as a premium channel; Jones Intercable was the first provider to carry the channel as a basic network, initially carried on the Basic Plus tier on its Fort Myers and Broward County, Florida systems as a test run. Soon after, other cable systems began to transition the channel to their basic tiers, either as an experiment or full-time. Even as larger multiple system operators such as Cox Communications and Marcus Cable began to offer The Disney Channel on their basic tiers, Walt Disney Company executives continued to deny any plans to convert the channel to an ad-supported basic service, referring to the switches to basic on some systems as part of a five-year "hybrid" strategy; allowing providers to offer it as either a pay service or a basic service.
Also in 1991, The Disney Channel tested a two-channel multiplex service on two cable systems. By 1992, Nielsen Media Research estimated that a third of The Disney Channel's subscriber base were adults without children in the home; and by 1995, its subscriber base expanded to 15 million cable homes, eight million of which received the channel through a premium subscription. In 1996, Anne Sweeney was appointed to oversee The Disney Channel, and the channel began offering a nightly primetime film.
Transition to basic cable (1997–2002)
In 1997, the channel continued its transition from a premium cable channel to a basic cable service, with some markets not carrying the channel on basic cable until as late as 2004. It was at this time that the channel began increasing its viewership. Around this time, the channel began to shift its target audience more toward kids, but continued to cater to families at night. Though Disney Channel was no longer considered a premium channel, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association had long continued to register the channel among the U.S. premium channels in its subscription base rankings (however, the channel now appears in the NCTA's list of the top-ranked basic cable channels by number of subscribers).
On April 6, 1997, The Disney Channel shortened its name to simply "Disney Channel" (however, promos that ran until September 2002 often referred to the channel only as "Disney" and the logo often omitted the "Channel" in the network's name) took on a revamped look including the introduction of a new logo, which featured a 1930s-era Mickey Mouse on a black Mickey ear-shaped TV. The channel also began to carry break interruptions within shows, featuring promos for its programming (and eventually promotions for Disney feature film and home video releases); the reasons for the channel's decision not to include traditional commercial advertising include the possible confusion to younger viewers as to the difference between regular programming and advertisements, and the prevention of license fee increases for acquired feature films (however while Disney Channel does not air commercial advertisements, it does utilize underwriter sponsorships by companies such as Best Western and Mattel).
By this point, the network was split into three programming blocks: Playhouse Disney, comprising shows aimed at preschoolers; Vault Disney, featuring classic Disney material such as Zorro, The Mickey Mouse Club, the Walt Disney anthology television series, older television specials and features such as The Love Bug; and the most distinct one, running from afternoon to late evening for teenagers, called Zoog Disney (which was introduced in August 1998, shortly after the Toon Disney cable channel was launched), that used anthropomorphic robot-like characters with human voices called "Zoogs" as its hosts.
The Zoog Disney brand later expanded from September 2001 to August 2002, when the entire weekend lineup outside of the Vault Disney and Playhouse Disney blocks was branded as "Zoog Weekendz" at that point. The Zoogs' original looks were two-dimensional, though they were given a three-dimensional design and mature voices in 2001, which was phased out after less than a year. Disney Channel's original programming during this period began with Flash Forward in 1997 and continued with shows like The Famous Jett Jackson, So Weird, Lizzie McGuire, Even Stevens and Kim Possible, among others.
In 1999, Disney Channel began notifying cable operators who continued to carry the network as a premium service that they must move the channel to their basic cable tiers or remove it altogether, stipulating that it would not renew carriage agreements with providers (such as Time Warner Cable and Comcast, which were the last remaining major cable providers offering the channel as a premium service) that chose to continue carrying the network as a pay channel. By 2001, Disney Channel was available to approximately 70 million cable and satellite subscribers, largely consisting of those who already received the channel via a basic tier as well at the remnants of its pay subscriber base. By this time, the music videos and concert specials that the channel ran since the 1997 rebrand were dropped, citing the inability to receive a stake in revenue from the artists' CD sales and lack of exclusivity for the videos; soon after, the channel began to incorporate music videos from songs featured in Disney's feature films and performed by artists on Radio Disney and signed by Disney's in-house record companies Hollywood Records and Walt Disney Records.
Success and changing focus in the 2000s (2002–2007)
By 2002, Disney Channel was seen in 80 million cable homes nationwide. That September, Disney Channel was gradually remodeled once more with the "Zoog" brand phased out from on-air usage (though Zoog Disney continued as a separate website until 2003, when it was merged with Disney Channel's primary website). On September 16, 2002, the Vault Disney block was discontinued in favor of same-day repeats of the channel's original and off-network series, primarily to contribute to the network's then-upcoming "hip" image; the removal of the block resulted in Disney Channel not featuring any programming targeted at adult audiences for the first time in the channel's history – with the only programming that intentionally targets the entire family being the channel's primetime feature films; as of June 2011, Disney Channel is the only one of the largest American children's cable networks that does not target both kids during the daytime, and a family/adult audience at night (Nickelodeon, The Hub and Cartoon Network each feature program blocks that target such a dual audience).
Primetime movies were also cut from two-three features per night to a single primetime feature per night. The channel also phased out original drama and reality series, shifting its original programming focus to live-action sitcoms and animated series. A month later, at 2:00 p.m. ET on October 7, 2002, Disney Channel introduced a new on-air appearance with a new logo designed by CA Square (using an outline of Mickey Mouse's head as its centerpiece) that was adopted by its international sister channels in May 2003, and unveiling a new graphics designed to fit the network's new look. After these changes, Playhouse Disney became the only program block introduced in 1997 to remain (however, it was rebranded as Disney Junior in February 2011). Around the same time, Disney Channel began supplying its original programming to corporate sister ABC for the network's Saturday morning children's program block. Moreover, Disney Channel began using a series of bumpers that are still in use, primarily featuring actors and animated characters from its original programs, drawing the Disney Channel logo using a glow stick.
Anne Sweeney, a veteran cable executive, took control of Disney-ABC Television Group in 2004 and successfully remade Disney Channel into "the major profit driver in the company." By 2008, Condé Nast Portfolio was reported that the channel "[had] been adding a million viewers a month—every month—for the last five years", and also called it "the greatest teen-star incubator since the NBA stopped drafting high schoolers." Sweeney's successful strategy was to discover, nurture and aggressively cross-promote teen music stars whose style and image were carefully targeted to pre-teens and teenagers.
Around that time as Disney Channel's intended target audience became preschoolers, pre-teens and young adolescents, the channel began to quickly gain in popularity, even outside its main target audience, created increased competition with Viacom-owned Nickelodeon and made teen idols out of some of its stars. Though Disney Channel has increased its viewership to rival that of Nickelodeon, Disney Channel has yet to officially unseat Nickelodeon in the Nielsen ratings as the highest-rated basic cable channel among total viewers (ages 2+) and all kid demos in its annual ratings.
In 2003, Disney Channel premiered its first ever musical made-for-cable film, The Cheetah Girls; it received 84 million viewers worldwide. The success of The Cheetah Girls led to the creation of other music-themed original programming such as the original movie High School Musical and the original sitcom Hannah Montana. In 2005, That's So Raven became the network's highest-rated series since the network's move to basic cable; as well as being the first original series to beat the 65-episode limit (the highly controversial programming rule implemented in 1998, had guaranteed any original series would end after 65 episodes to prevent production costs from increasing; however this rule is no longer enforced); the series eventually hit 100 episodes, becoming the channel's longest-running original series until 2011 and became the first to spawn a spin-off, Cory in the House. The Suite Life of Zack & Cody also debuted in 2005, becoming a hit for the channel. 2006 saw the debut of the hit original movie High School Musical and the series Hannah Montana, the latter of which launched the career of its star Miley Cyrus (who appeared alongside her father, popular 1990s country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, in the series). On July 28 of that year, the channel saw the debut of the its first multiple-series crossover, That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana (involving That's So Raven, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and Hannah Montana).
Disney Channel today (2007–present)
In 2007, the network began to drop many of its reruns of off-network programs, and also began a new schedule arrangement featuring a rotation of hour-long blocks of its original series and other programs. Two new series also premiered, the That's So Raven spin-off Cory in the House (which ended after two seasons), and the more successful Wizards of Waverly Place, starring Selena Gomez, David Henrie and Jake T. Austin. The year also saw the premiere of High School Musical 2 on August 17, 2007. The film's premiere broke records for the network; with 17.2 million viewers, it displaced an edition of Monday Night Football as the highest-rated basic cable program of all time, the highest-rated program of Summer 2007 on both broadcast and cable, and the highest-rated premiere of a made-for-cable movie.
2008 saw the debut of Phineas and Ferb, the first original animated series to be broadcast in HD, and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody spin-off, The Suite Life on Deck, along with Disney Channel Original Movies such as Camp Rock, Minutemen and The Cheetah Girls: One World. The Suite Life on Deck became the number one series in kids ages 6–12 in 2008.
2009 saw the premiere of Sonny with a Chance (starring Demi Lovato) in February, and JONAS (starring the Jonas Brothers) in May; along with the original movies Dadnapped, Hatching Pete, Princess Protection Program and Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie. Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie also became the highest-rated cable program of 2009, excluding sporting events, premiering to 11.4 million viewers and becoming the second highest-rated DCOM premiere in history. The premiere of the crossover special Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana (involving Wizards of Waverly Place, The Suite Life on Deck and Hannah Montana) also beat out its competition, both cable and broadcast network programming, on the night of its premiere with 9.1 million viewers (making it the highest-rated episodes of Wizards and On Deck to date).
In 2010, the channel launched its first original sitcom intentionally targeted at family audiences: Good Luck Charlie, starring Bridgit Mendler and Jason Dolley. Later in 2010, the channel also premiered the new animated series Fish Hooks, and the buddy sitcom Shake It Up. 2010 also saw the premieres of four original movies: Starstruck, Den Brother, Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam and Avalon High. Two other made-for-TV movies produced for Disney Channel in association with Canadian specialty cable channels debuted as well (Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars, produced in association with pay services Movie Central and The Movie Network; and 16 Wishes, produced in association with Family Channel).
Hannah Montana and The Suite Life on Deck ended their runs in 2011; Sonny with a Chance meanwhile, was retooled as So Random! (focusing on the show within a show) due to Demi Lovato's announcement that she would not return to the series following her treatment for bulimia and bipolar disorder, in order to focus on her music career. In addition, five new series (So Random!, A.N.T. Farm, PrankStars, Jessie and Austin & Ally) were also added to the lineup in 2011, along with six Disney Channel Original Movies (The Suite Life Movie, Lemonade Mouth, Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure, Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension, Geek Charming and Good Luck Charlie, It's Christmas!). The Teletoon original movie My Babysitter's a Vampire, premiered on June 10, 2011 with its spin-off television series premiering two weeks later on June 27.
In January 2012, Wizards of Waverly Place ended its run on the channel, becoming Disney Channel's longest-running original series with 106 episodes (the record for the channel's longest-running series was formerly held by That's So Raven, which ran for 100 episodes). In May 2012 it was indicated that So Random!, a spin-off of Sonny with a Chance, had been canceled after only one season.
In June 2012, Disney announced that by 2015, it would no longer advertise or promote any food or beverage that does not meet strict nutritional guidelines, on any of its media properties aimed at children, which includes Disney Channel. Disney believes that it is the first media company to take such a stance on stopping the marketing of "junk food" to children.
Disney Channel broadcasts original series such as Phineas and Ferb, Fish Hooks, Good Luck Charlie, Shake It Up, A.N.T. Farm, Jessie, Austin & Ally, and Gravity Falls. Repeats of former Disney Channel original series include The Suite Life on Deck and Wizards of Waverly Place. Reruns of Disney XD original series includes Pair of Kings, Kickin' It, Lab Rats and Kick Buttowski. Acquired programing from other networks includes My Babysitter's a Vampire. Upcoming original series includes Code 9. Unlike the most basic cable channels in the U.S., Disney Channel's original scripted programs (including those featured on the Disney Junior block) feature tag scenes during the closing credits. The channel also airs short-form programs known as "short shows", which air more commonly on the Disney Junior block. Music videos, mainly featuring Walt Disney Records and Hollywood Records artists as well as songs featured in newer Disney feature films are frequently aired, though the full versions of these music videos typically air only during the video's premiere and as filler between programs, while shorter versions usually air during promo breaks during the current program). Repeats of former Disney Channel original series include The Suite Life on Deck and Wizards of Waverly Place. Reruns of Disney XD original series includes Pair of Kings, Kickin' It, Lab Rats and Kick Buttowski. Acquired programing from other networks includes My Babysitter's a Vampire. Upcoming original series includes Code 9. Unlike the most basic cable channels in the U.S., Disney Channel's original scripted programs (including those featured on the Disney Junior block) feature tag scenes during the closing credits. The channel also airs short-form programs known as "short shows", which air more commonly on the Disney Junior block. Music videos, mainly featuring Walt Disney Records and Hollywood Records artists as well as songs featured in newer Disney feature films are frequently aired, though the full versions of these music videos typically air only during the video's premiere and as filler between programs, while shorter versions usually air during promo breaks during the current program).The original sitcoms produced for Disney Channel that are geared toward teenage girls (with shows like Hannah Montana and Lizzie McGuire) and also airs a moderate amount of animated series geared more towards upper-elementary and middle school-age children. Disney Channel has aired some programming more appealing to teenage boys with Aaron Stone and other such Disney XD shows in 2009. Acquired series produced by Walt Disney Television, Touchstone Television and other production companies outside of the Walt Disney Company portfolio previously made up most of the schedule; however since Disney Channel began increasing its reliance on original series, television series acquired for broadcast on the channel have become very limited and primarily confined to the Disney Junior block.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Disney Channel aired classic Disney animated shorts that were made when Walt Disney headed his namesake company; they were removed from the lineup in 2000, however their presence has returned as of 2009 with the addition of the short series have a laugh!. On December 14, 2008, it was announced that Disney Channel in the U.S. would bring back the animation block, which aired from 12–6 a.m. ET. The animated block was added to Disney Channel during the late night hours after Christmas Day 2008.
Since 2003, Disney Channel has typically imposed an unwritten "6-to-a-cast" rule as its original series generally have a maximum of six contract cast members, with So Weird being the last series before 2003 to have more than six actors appearing as series regulars (since then however, Shake It Up had become the first series to feature seven contract cast members in season two). The channel's series also have a smaller writing staff compared to other broadcast and cable network scripted television series (usually around 6 and 8 credited staff writers, instead of the 8 to 11 writers standard with most scripted series). Most of its series also employ are produced in the videotaped multi-camera setup that involves filming before a studio audience or utilizing a laugh track; its multi-camera series also utilize a simulated film look (the FilmLook image processing for series that debuted between 2003 and 2008; the HD-compatible 'filmizing' technique for all newly-commissioned and returning original series produced in high definition after 2009, which reduce the videotape frame rate to 24 frames per second).
A film is broadcast every weekday afternoon and most nights during the week, but not necessarily a theatrically released feature film. Disney Channel airs new original films, called Disney Channel Original Movies (or DCOMs), about 4–6 times a year, and those are frequently broadcast during the prime-time slot. In 2000, Disney Channel claimed to produce a new movie each month; this only lasted throughout that same year. Disney Channel began producing its Original Movies in 1997 with the premiere of Northern Lights. The number of DCOMs per year began to increase – from two in 1997 to three in 1998 to a high of twelve in 2000.
High School Musical 2 is currently the most successful DCOM in popularity and awards, setting a cable record for most viewers of a basic cable program, when its August 2007 debut scored 17.2 million, a record that stood until the December 3, 2007 Monday Night Football matchup between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens on corporate sibling ESPN surpassed it with 17.5 million viewers (it still remains the most-watched scripted program in cable television history). The Cheetah Girls films are also notably successful, with huge merchandise sales, sold-out concert tours and soundtrack sales. The first film was the first TV movie musical in Disney Channel history. It saw over 84 million viewers worldwide. The second movie was the most successful of the series, bringing in 8.1 million viewers in the U.S. It scored an 86-date concert tour, and was on the top 10 tours of 2006; the tour broke a record at the Houston Rodeo that was set by Elvis Presley in 1973. The concert sold out with 73,500 tickets sold in three minutes.
Film rights for much of the channel are shared by sister network ABC Family. The network also has rights to many films not released by Disney (either because the studio does not have a children's network or has one that is incompatible with their focus), such as Warner Bros.' (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (known in the US as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), Universal Pictures (Beethoven, An American Tail, The Land Before Time), The Weinstein Company (Hoodwinked, The Magic Roundabout), Sony Pictures (Stuart Little, Stuart Little 2, Hook), Lionsgate (Happily N'ever After), 20th Century Fox (Ice Age, the Home Alone film series, Catch That Kid), Paramount (Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!!)). Also, another non-Disney Christmas themed film, such asThe Polar Express have aired. Other non-Disney films over the years have included Little Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Another Cinderella Story and Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown just to name a few. Films produced by current Disney subsidiary The Jim Henson Company have also aired on Disney Channel in the past, although most of them are not presently owned by Disney, including The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Buddy, The Muppet Movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets From Space, The Muppets' Wizard of Oz and The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. Bagdasarian Productions films have also aired on Disney Channel, although most of them are not presently owned by Disney, including The Chipmunk Adventure, Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein, Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman, Spirited Away and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Between 1986 and 1998, films made up most Disney Channel's evening and overnight schedule. It now only airs films usually each afternoon and in primetime Monday through Thursday nights. Many of the channel's earliest original movies (particularly those made from 1997 to 2002) have seldom been aired by Disney Channel in recent years, except for some holiday-themed movies; in January 2009, the channel began airing these older original movies on Friday and Saturday nights at 3 am ET/PT; since June 2010, movies also air on Sundays in late night and since July 2010, the movies start at 2:30 am ET/PT and some of the late-night weekend movies are aired without promo breaks. A Disney Channel Original Movie used to air twice in a row on the night of its premiere; this tradition ended with the January 2006 premiere of High School Musical. Encore presentations of Disney Channel Original Movies however, still sometimes air on the channel in prime time on the Saturday and Sunday after its original Friday night debut (Camp Rock, Dadnapped, Starstruck, and Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars are the only exceptions to this rule). Camp Rock and Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior are currently the only DCOMs to air on a non-Disney Channel branded network domestically as they have both aired on sister channel ABC Family, and Camp Rock has also aired on ABC as part of The Wonderful World of Disney. On September 13, 2010, Disney Channel began airing theatrically released films in a 4:3 letterbox format on the channel's primary SD feed, broadcasting them in a similar manner to how they are aired on the HD feed.
Disney Channel occasionally airs "special edition" airings of its high-profile original movie premieres: sing-along versions of The Cheetah Girls trilogy, High School Musical, High School Musical 2 and Camp Rock have aired in which lyrics are displayed on screen for viewers to sing with the songs in the films; the channel also airs "What's What" editions of its high-profile original movies using a format that mimics the former VH1 series Pop-Up Video in which facts about the movie and its stars pop up on screen at various points during the film.
In part because the network does not air commercials and advertises only network programming, films typically run short of their allotted time slot interstitial programming airs to fill an entire two-hour slot, usually an episode of a Disney Channel original series for a film running about 90 to 100 minutes, an 11-minute-long episode of an original animated series for a film running 105 minutes, and any film longer than 105 minutes has the remaining time filled with a music video, promotions, and/or shorts such as Shaun the Sheep, Have a Laugh! or Take Two with Phineas and Ferb.
- Disney Junior - Disney Channel currently programs shows targeted at preschool-age children on Monday through Fridays from 6 a.m.–2 p.m. and weekends from 6–9 a.m. ET/PT, called Disney Junior, which debuted on February 14, 2011. During the summer months, the block ends at 9 am ET/PT on weekdays. As of 2010, the only programming featuring classic Disney characters is Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on Disney Junior, and the Have a Laugh! short films on the network itself. Current programming in this block includes Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Special Agent Oso, Imagination Movers, Handy Manny, Little Einsteins, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Jungle Junction, 3rd and Bird, Babar and the Adventures of Badou and Doc McStuffins. Disney Junior is the successor to Playhouse Disney, another preschool-targeted block which debuted in September 1997. Disney Junior became its own basic cable and satellite channel on March 23, 2012, replacing Soapnet. The Disney Junior channel is a direct competitor to Nickelodeon's Nick Jr. channel, NBC and ION's qubo and PBS and Comcast's PBS Kids Sprout.
- Weekend evening blocks - Disney Channel airs first-run or recent episodes of its original series over the course of three nights, branded as "Disney Channel (day of week) Night", with first-run episodes premiering on Friday and/or Sunday evenings. The Friday night schedule features A.N.T. Farm, Phineas & Ferb, Jessie and Fish Hooks, while Sunday nights feature Good Luck Charlie, So Random!, Shake It Up and Austin & Ally. Since October 2010, programming on both night's schedules has been somewhat fluid as while all series have a permanent place on the Friday and Sunday primetime schedules, episode premieres of all Disney Channel original series are subject to being rotated on and off the schedule depending on the schedule for that given week as they usually air as part of a 90-minute block from 8–9:30 p.m. ET/PT on Friday evenings and 7:30–9 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday evenings. Saturday nights usually feature repeats of recent episodes of the channel's original series and occasional film telecasts, after an attempt in early 2009 to use the night to launch a beachhead against Nickelodeon's Saturday night block with the premiere of JONAS and the move of Wizards of Waverly Place from Fridays to Saturdays proved unsuccessful. Encores of each night's programs typically air between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. ET/PT each night.
- Toonin' Saturdays - A Saturday morning animation block that debuted on June 17, 2011, the "Toonin' Saturdays" lineup primarily consists of double-episode airings of Disney Channel original animated series Fish Hooks and Phineas and Ferb. Occasionally, new first-run episodes of either series will be featured in the block, though new episodes may also sometimes air in their original Friday night time slots.
- Zoog Disney – Launched in August 1998, Zoog Disney was a program block that aired on weekend afternoons. The hosts for the block were "Zoogs", animated anthropomorphic characters resembling robots, but given human voices, with most of the Zoog characters acting like teenagers. The block tied television and the internet together, allowing viewer comments and scores from players of ZoogDisney.com's online games to be aired on the channel during regular programming in a ticker format (which the channel continued to use after the block was discontinued, and is used in a significantly decreased capacity as of May 2010). The Zoogs were given a more three-dimensional redesign and mature voices in 2001, but were phased out after less than a year. With the entire block phased out by September 2002. From September 2001 to August 2002, the entire Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon and primetime lineup was branded as "Zoog Weekendz".
- Disney Nighttime – From 1983 to 1997, Disney Channel, during the premium channel era featured programming aimed at adult audiences, during the nighttime hours under the banner name "Disney Nighttime"; unlike the nighttime content aired on the channel's then-competitor premium channels at the time of its launch, the "adult" programming featured on Disney Channel was devoid of sexual and violent content. Disney Nighttime featured older feature films (similar to those seen at the time on American Movie Classics, and eventually Turner Classic Movies, with both Disney and non-Disney titles mixed in) and the traditional premium channel fare of original concert specials from artists ranging from Rick Springfield to Elton John.
- Vault Disney – Disney Nighttime was reworked into "Vault Disney" in September 1997, upon Disney Channel's first major rebrand. Originally a Sunday-only block, Vault Disney expanded to seven nights a week by 1999, and aired late nights from midnight to 6 am ET (except on Sunday nights from 1997 to 1999, when the block had a 9 pm ET start time on Sundays). The classic programming changed to feature only Disney-produced television series and specials such as Zorro, Spin and Marty, The Mickey Mouse Club and the Walt Disney anthology television series, along with older Disney television specials; older Disney feature films also were part of the lineup from 1997 to 2000, but aired in a reduced capacity. The block also featured The Ink and Paint Club, featuring classic Disney animated shorts, which became the only remaining program on the channel to feature these shorts by 1999, upon the removal of Quack Pack from the schedule.
Seasonal programming blocks
- Summer - The network runs summer programming blocks every year with differing themes titled "Disney Channel Summer" since 2012. Generally most of the network's series run new episodes through the summer and original movies premiere in these months to take advantage of the largest possible children's audience, as do most children's networks.
- Halloween - In October, Disney Channel airs Halloween programming in an annual event, titled "Monstober", which Disney announced they would continue to use due to its popularity in 2011. Halloween films such as the Halloweentown series have premiered in this month, along with Twitches, Twitches Too, The Scream Team, Mostly Ghostly, and Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie, along with Halloween episodes of the network's original series.
- 'Christmas - The network's December schedule usually focuses on Christmas programming, with the title of the branding changing every year. Christmas films such as the The Christmas Visitor, The Ultimate Christmas Present, Twas the Night, Beethoven's Christmas Adventure, and Good Luck Charlie, It's Christmas! have premiered in this month, along with Christmas episodes of the network's original series such as Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation. A Christmas in July week with encores of Christmas-themed programming is featured in that summer month.
- New Year's - A tradition going back to the Zoog Disney days in 2000, the network airs a marathon into the early morning of New Year's Day of programs, films and moments deemed the best by viewer vote on disneychannel.com, followed by an original series marathon on New Year's Day (the exception was 2011 due to New Year's Eve occurring on a Saturday that year). As with Christmas, the New Year's block's name changed yearly.
In the May 2010 Nielsen ratings, Disney Channel ranked No.1 for the 63rd consecutive month in the Kids 6–11 demographic and for the 62nd straight month among Tweens 9–14. Disney Channel is ranked as the second most watched cable channel among total viewers during primetime, behind USA Network in first place with an average of 2.8 million people.
According to Nielsen Media Research, the month of February 2011 had finished as Disney Channel’s most-watched February sweeps period in Total Day ratings in the network's history ever, earning an average of 1.7 million viewers among Total Viewers, along with 590,000 viewers with a 2.1 rating share among Kids 6–11 and 459,000 viewers with a 1.9 rating share among Tweens 6–9; 9–15; among the first two demos, the channel posted its 14th consecutive month of year-to-year gains in both demos. First-run episodes of Shake It Up, Wizards of Waverly Place and Good Luck Charlie earned six of television’s top 10 telecasts that month in key child demographics, with Phineas and Ferb ranked as the No.1 animated series on TV among Kids 6–11 and Tweens 9–14 for that month and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse ranked among TV’s top 10 programs for that month in Playhouse Disney's Kids 2–5 target demographic.
Disney XD is a digital cable and satellite television channel in the United States, which is aimed at males aged 7–14. The channel was launched on February 13, 2009, replacing predecessor Toon Disney, carrying action and comedy programming from Disney Channel and the former Jetix block from Toon Disney along with some first-run original programming and off-network syndicated shows. Like its predecessor Toon Disney and unlike parent network Disney Channel, Disney XD is advertiser-supported. The channel carries the same name as an unrelated mini-site and media player on Disney.com, which stood for Disney Xtreme Digital, though the "XD" in the channel's name is said to not have an actual meaning.
On May 26, 2010 Disney-ABC Television Group announced the launch of a new 24-hour preschool-targeted digital cable and satellite channel called Disney Junior, which made its debut on March 23, 2012; the Disney Junior channel (which is commercial-free, like parent network Disney Channel but unlike SOAPnet, which it replaced, and Disney XD) will compete with other preschooler-skewing cable channels such as Nick Jr., qubo and PBS Kids Sprout. The channel will feature programs from Disney Channel's existing library of preschool programs and movies from the Walt Disney Pictures film library. Disney Junior took over the channel space currently held by Disney-ABC Television Group-owned SOAPnet (a channel airing soap operas), with the closure of SOAPnet citing the continued decrease in popularity of the soap opera genre on broadcast television and the growth of video on demand (including the online streaming availability for soap operas) and digital video recorders negating the need for a linear channel devoted to the format. The former Playhouse Disney block on Disney Channel was rebranded as Disney Junior on February 14, 2011, and the 22 existing cable channels and program blocks bearing the Playhouse Disney name outside the United States have been in the process of rebranding under the Disney Junior name. Disney had previously announced plans for a preschool-targeted network in the U.S. in 2001, however the planned Playhouse Disney Channel did not come to fruition, though dedicated Playhouse Disney Channels did launch internationally.
This television channel, that launched on April 18, 1998, was aimed at children ages 6–12; the network's main competition were Turner Broadcasting/Time Warner's Cartoon Network and Boomerang, and Viacom/MTV Networks' Nicktoons. Unlike Disney Channel, Toon Disney was an advertiser-supported cable channel. The channel carried a format of reruns of Walt Disney Television Animation and Disney Channel-produced animated programming, along with some third-party programming, animated films and original programming. In 2002, the channel debuted a nighttime program block aimed at children ages 7–14 called Jetix, which featured action-oriented animated and live-action series. During Toon Disney's first year on the air, Disney Channel ran a sampler block of Toon Disney programming on Sunday nights for interested subscribers. The network ceased operations and was relaunched as the preteen male-oriented Disney XD, featuring a broader array of programming, on February 13, 2009.
- Disney Channel HD is a 720p high definition simulcast of Disney Channel, first broadcasting on March 19, 2008. Most of the channel's original programming since 2009 is produced and shown in HD, along with feature films, Disney Channel original movies made after 2005 and select episodes, films and series produced before 2009.
- Disney Channel On Demand is the channel's video-on-demand service, offering select episodes of the channel's original series and Disney Junior programming, along with select original movies and behind-the-scenes features to digital cable and IPTV providers.
- DisneyChannel.com, the network's website, features additional content relating to the channel's programming, streaming video, and other content.
Disney Channel has established channels in various countries worldwide including South Africa, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, India, Australia, New Zealand, Middle East, Scandinavia, the Baltic states, United Kingdom, Ireland, Caribbean, the Netherlands, and Flanders. Disney Channel also licenses its programming to air on certain other broadcast and cable channels outside the United States, regardless as to whether an international version of Disney Channel exists in the country. ==Criticism Disney Channel has received some criticism for their current programming direction. Experts criticize the company for programming that has pulled away from the characters that the network's parent company, The Walt Disney Company was based on: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy and thus more "traditionalist" fans of the network have gone so far to say that the network is no longer really a Disney Channel. Other critics disapprove of the marketing strategy made by Anne Sweeney, the President of ABC-Disney Television Group,which makes the programs on Disney Channel geared mainly toward pre-teen girls and teenage girls. Sweeney had also said that the main goal of the programming on Disney Channel was not to entertain, but to solely make money, officially stating that Disney Channel would be "the major profit driver for the (Walt Disney) Company."
In December 2011, Disney Channel has pulled an episode from its original series Shake It Up, titled "Party It Up". The network had also pulled an episode from its other original series So Random!, titled "Colbie Caillat". They both were pulled from the network's airing cycle due to eating disorder references.
From 1983 to 1997, Disney Channel's logo involves a Mickey Mouse head inside a TV screen. When the network split in 1997, a new logo was launched, with a 1930s Mickey Mouse inside a Mickey Mouse-shaped TV. The logo was slightly modified in 1999. In 2002, a new logo (designed by CA Square) was adopted internationally, which continued until 2010, when a curved cube logo was unveiled. In 2014, the logo underwent another refurbishment, and removed the Mickey Mouse head completely in favor of putting the trademark ears on the "i" of "Disney".