|Launched||1972 (as Appalachian Community Service Network)
1980 (As The Learning Channel)
|Owned by||Discovery Communications, LLC|
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)
|Headquarters||Silver Spring, MD, United States|
|Sister channel(s)||Discovery Channel
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network (50%)
The Hub (50%)
Discovery Fit & Health
|Dish Network||183 (HD/SD)|
|C-Band (4DTV Digital)||604|
|Bell TV (Canada)||521 (SD), 826 & 1603 (HD)|
|Shaw Direct (Canada)||195 & 560 (SD), 272 & 362 (HD)|
|Available on most cable systems||Check local listings for details|
|Verizon FIOS||639 (HD)
|Bell Fibe TV (Canada)||521|
|AT&T U-verse||1250 (HD)
TLC (former acronym for The Learning Channel) is an American cable TV specialty channel owned by Discovery Communications. The channel was founded in 1972 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA. Initially focused on educational content, by 2001 the network began to primarily focus towards reality-style series involving lifestyles, family life, and personal stories.
A High Definition simulcast of TLC was launched on 1 September 2007. It is currently available on many cable and satellite systems in the United States and Canada, including Bell TV, Cogeco, Cox, Dish Network, DirecTV, Shaw Cable, Rogers Cable, Mediacom, insight Communications, Bright House Networks, Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS and Comcast. In the UK it is on Sky (UK & Ireland), Virgin Media and BT Vision.
The channel was founded in 1972 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA as the Appalachian Community Service Network, and was an informative and instructional network focused on providing real education through the medium of TV; it was distributed at no cost by NASA satellite. It was privatized in 1980, and in November 1980 its name was changed to "The Learning Channel", which was subsequently shortened to "TLC." The channel mostly featured documentary content pertaining to nature, science, history, current events, medicine, technology, cooking, home improvement and other information-based topics. These are often agreed to have been more focused, more technical, and of a more academic nature than the content that was being broadcast at the time on its rival, The Discovery Channel. The station was geared towards an inquisitive and narrow audience during this time, and had modest ratings except for "Captain's Log with Captain Mark Gray". This was a boating safety series which aired on TLC from 1987 to 1990 and achieved between a 4.5 to 6 in the ratings. "Captain's Log" was also the highest compensated series in the history of TLC, with over 30 times the compensation of any other series on TLC at that time and was allowed to sign yearly rather than quarterly contracts.
By the early 1990s, The Learning Channel was a sister channel to the Financial News Network (FNN) which owned 51 percent of the channel with Infotechnology Inc. After FNN went into bankruptcy in 1991, the Discovery Channel's owners went into talks of buying The Learning Channel. An agreement was made with FNN and Infotech to buy their shares for $12.75 million. The non-profit Appalachian Community Service Network owned 35 percent of the network, and was also bought out.
The Learning Channel continued to focus primarily on instructional and educational programming through much of the '90s but began to air shows less focused on education and more themed towards popular consumption and mass marketing; these would be later expanded.
TLC still aired educational programs such as Paleoworld (a show about prehistoric creatures), though more and more of its programming began to be devoted to niche audiences for shows regarding subjects like home improvement (HomeTime and Home Savvy were two of the first), arts and crafts (similar to Martha Stewart), crime programs such as The New Detectives, medical programming (particularly reality-based ones following real operations of real people and following them through the process), and other shows that appealed to daytime audiences, particularly housewives. This was to be indicative of a major change in programming content and target audience over the next few years.
Perhaps due to poor ratings from a narrow target audience, TLC began to explore new avenues starting in the mid-1990s, deemphasizing educational material in favor of entertainment. "Ready Set Learn", the network's children's block, was slowly reduced through the years as the network deliberately redirected viewers towards the full-day line-up of children's programming on Discovery Kids until completely evaporating in late 2008, while Cable in the Classroom programming, meant for recording by teachers, had completely disappeared by the early 2000s.
In 1998, the channel began to distance itself from its original name "The Learning Channel", and instead began to advertise itself only as "TLC".
During the period of 1999–2001, there was a huge shift in programming, with most programming geared towards reality-drama and interior design shows. The huge success of shows like Trading Spaces, Junkyard Wars, A Wedding Story and A Baby Story exemplified this new shift in programming towards more mass-appeal shows.
This came at a time when Discovery itself was overhauling much of its own programming, introducing shows like American Chopper (which Discovery moved to TLC for a stint). Much of the old, more educationally focused programming can still be found occasionally dispersed amongst other channels owned by Discovery Communications. Most programming today is geared towards reality-based drama or interests such as home design, emergency room dramas, other medical dramas, extreme weather, law enforcement, dating and human interest programs.
On March 27, 2006, the network launched a new look and promotional campaign, dropping the "Life Unscripted" tag and going with the new theme, "Live and learn", trying to turn around the network's reliance on decorating shows and reality TV programming. As part of the new campaign the channel's original name, The Learning Channel, has returned to occasional usage in promotions. The new theme also plays on life lessons.
In early March 2008, TLC launched a slightly refreshed look and promotional campaign, alongside a new slogan: "Life surprises". This new slogan came as TLC began to shift even more to personal stories, with a shift away from the once-dominating home improvement shows. Programs focused on family life became the core of the channel. Jon & Kate Plus 8, which by 2008 was the highest-rated program on TLC, and Little People, Big World were joined by 17 Kids and Counting (which became 18 Kids and Counting and then 19 Kids and Counting), and Table for 12 in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Also premiering on TLC in 2009 was Cake Boss, which focuses on the head baker at Carlo's Bakery and his staff, who mostly consist of his family.
The series Toddlers & Tiaras also debuted in 2008, and proved popular enough to spawn a spin-off in 2012, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, focusing on the family life of recurring contestant Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson.
A British version of the channel was originally launched in 1994 and was subsequently renamed Discovery Home and Leisure and later Discovery Real Time as part of Discovery's catalog of themed channels. TLC is to be relaunched in the UK and Ireland on April 30, 2013.
TLC's American feed is also available in Canada, one of a few American specialty channels allowed entry into Canada as per Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission regulation.
The Latin American TLC HD, was launched on December 1, 2009, exclusively in high-definition, in the same style as the American channel (most of TLC's programming is available in standard-definition on Discovery Home & Health).
A Norwegian version of the channel was launched on March 4, 2010 as TLC Norway, replacing the European version of Discovery Travel & Living in Norway.
On October 1, 2010, the Polish version of Discovery Travel & Living was relaunched as TLC Poland, replacing the European version of Discovery Travel & Living in Poland.
On July 4, 2011, a Dutch version was launched, time sharing with Animal Planet's standard definition feed. Animal Planet remains a 24 hour service for high-definition viewers.
On 1st September, 2011, the South African feed will replace the Discovery Travel & Living channel on TopTV by TLC with an all-new schedule.
On 1st November, 2011, the Latin American version of Discovery Travel & Living was relaunched as TLC: Travel & Living Channel, which now also has a dedicated feed for Brazil.
The channel has been criticized for departing from the original nature of its programming, by airing shows of a controversial nature with what is described as having no educational value. TLC programs that have come under fire from critics and the media include Toddlers & Tiaras, Sarah Palin's Alaska, LA Ink, Extreme Couponing, 19 Kids and Counting, Kate Plus 8, Sister Wives, Long Island Medium, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding.
In April 2012, TLC and Long Island Medium won the James Randi Educational Foundation's annual Pigasus Award, a tongue-in-cheek award for blatant promotion of paranormal or psychic claims. The show's star, Theresa Caputo, won the award for Best Performer.
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