TLC (tv channel)

This article is about the TV channel in the United States and Canada. For other uses, see TLC.
Launched 1972 (1972) (as Appalachian Community Service Network)
November 1980 (1980-11) (as The Learning Channel)
1992 (1992) (as TLC)
Owned by Discovery Communications, Inc.
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
480i (SDTV)
Slogan Life Surprises.
Country United States
Language English
Broadcast area National
Headquarters Silver Spring, Maryland, United States
Formerly called Appalachian Community Service Network (1970–1985)
The Learning Channel (1985–1992)
Sister channel(s) Discovery Channel
Oprah Winfrey Network (50%)
Animal Planet
Hub Network (50%)
Destination America
Discovery Fit & Health
Investigation Discovery
Military Channel
Website DirecTV 280 (HD/SD)
1280 (VOD)
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 providers Check local listings for details
Verizon FIOS 639 (HD)
139 (SD)
Bell Fibe TV (Canada) 521
AT&T U-verse 1250 (HD)
250 (SD)

TLC (formerly an abbreviation of The Learning Channel) is an American basic cable and satellite television network that is owned by Discovery Communications. Initially focused on educational content, by 2001, the network began to primarily focus towards reality-style series involving lifestyles, family life and personal stories.[1]

As of August 2013, approximately 97,842,000 American households (85.68% of households with television) receive TLC.[2]


Early history

The channel was founded in 1972 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA as the Appalachian Community Service Network,[3][4] and was an informative and instructional network focused on providing real education through the medium of television; it was distributed at no cost by NASA satellite.

The Learning Channel: “a place for learning minds”

ACSN was privatized in 1980, and its name was changed to "The Learning Channel" in November of that year, the name was subsequently shortened to "TLC."[5] (NASA immediately launched NASA TV as the ACSN's internal replacement). 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 channel was geared toward an inquisitive and narrow audience during this time, and had modest ratings except for Captain's Log with Captain Mark Gray, a boating safety series which aired on TLC from 1987 to 1990 and achieved between a 4.5 to 6 share 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 discussions to purchase 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.[6][7]

The Learning Channel continued to focus primarily on instructional and educational programming through much of the 1990s, but began to air shows less focused on education and themed more toward 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.

"Life Unscripted": a new direction

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.[5] "Ready Set Learn", the network's children's program block, was slowly reduced through the years as the network deliberately redirected viewers towards the full-day lineup of children's programming on Discovery Kids until the block was dropped completely 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 from 1999 to 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 time). Much of the old, more educationally focused programming can still be found occasionally dispersed amongst other channels owned by Discovery Communications. Most of TLC's 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.

"Live and learn"

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 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 played on life lessons.

"Life surprises"

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,[8] and Little People, Big World were joined by 17 Kids and Counting (which became 18 Kids and Counting and then 19 Kids and Counting as the the Duggars, the family that the series centers on, expanded), 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 high definition simulcast of TLC was launched on September 1, 2007. It is currently available on many cable and satellite systems in the United States, Mexico 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.


The Americas


TLC's American feed is available in Canada on most cable and satellite providers, as it is authorized for carriage as a foreign cable television service by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission; it features the same programming schedule as that seen in the United States.

Latin America

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). On November 1, 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.


United Kingdom

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 slate of themed channels. TLC relaunched in the UK and Ireland on April 30, 2013.[9]


On October 3, 2011, TLC Greece debuted on the Conn-x TV IPTV and OTE TV satellite services.


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.

The Balkans

TLC Balkans was also launched on October 1, 2010, replacing the European version of the "Travel & Living Channel" in Slovenia, Serbia and Bulgaria. TLC Balkans' playout is from Belgrade and Serbia.


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 September 1, 2010, the Asia Pacific versions of Discovery Travel & Living were relaunched as TLC, with the acronym standing for "Travel and Living Channel".[10]


An Indian version was launched in 2006 under the jurisdiction of Discovery Channel. It was relaunched as TLC on September 1, 2010.


South Africa

On September 1, 2011, the South African feed of TLC replaced the Discovery Travel & Living channel on TopTV.


The channel has been criticized as a classic case of channel drift for departing from the original nature[11] of its programming, by airing shows of a controversial nature with what is described as having no educational value.[12] TLC programs that have come under fire from critics and the media include Toddlers & Tiaras,[13] Sarah Palin's Alaska,[14] 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.[15]


External links

  • TLC official website
  • TLC UK official website
  • TLC Norway official website
  • TLC Poland official website
  • TLC Russian official website
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