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E! (an initialism for Entertainment Television) is an American basic cable channel owned by the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group division of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast.
As of January 2016, E! is available to 92.4 million households in the United States.
E! was originally launched on July 31, 1987, as Movietime, a service that aired movie trailers, entertainment news, event and awards coverage, and interviews as an early example of a national barker channel. The channel was founded by Larry Namer and Alan Mruvka.Early Movietime hosts included Greg Kinnear, Paula Abdul, Katie Wagner, Julie Moran, Suzanne Kay (daughter of Diahann Carroll), Mark DeCarlo, Sam Rubin and Richard Blade.
Controlling ownership was originally held by a consortium of five cable television providers (Comcast, Continental Cablevision, Cox Cable, TCI, and Warner Cable), HBO/Warner Communications, and various founding shareholders, with HBO directly programming and managing the network. In 1989, after Time-Life bought Warner Communications to fend off a takeover bid by Paramount, the new Time Warner company held four of the eight major ownership positions and took over management control of Movietime and renamed the network as E!: Entertainment Television on June 1, 1990; this name change was made to emphasize its widening coverage of the celebrity–industrial complex, contemporary film, television and music, daily Hollywood gossip, and fashion.
In 1997, Comcast, one of the minority partners, teamed up with Disney/ABC Cable Networks to buy the channel after Time-Warner had exercised their put agreement. Comcast increased the ownership stakes in the network through mergers with forerunners of TCI and Continental under various circumstances. In November 2006, Comcast acquired Disney’s 39.5% share of E! for $1.23 billion to gain full ownership of the network as part of a broader programming carriage agreement between Disney/ABC and Comcast.
In January 2011, Comcast Entertainment Group, the company’s television unit, became a division of the NBCUniversal Television Group, after Comcast acquired a 51% majority stake in NBCUniversal from General Electric. E!’s only sister networks prior to the NBC Universal merger were the now-defunct channels Style Network (then Esquire Network) and G4, along with Comcast’s sports networks: Versus, Comcast SportsNet and Golf Channel. In the case of Versus, E! staff produced that network’s Sports Soup and G4’s Web Soup, while the Orlando-based Golf Channel featured no crossovers with E! at all due to incompatible audiences and operations. Versus and Golf Channel were taken under the direct control of the NBC Sports division, with the former being renamed NBC Sports Network in January 2012, and are no longer connected to their former sister networks beyond advertising and in-house operations.
On July 9, 2012, the channel introduced a revised logo (the first change to its logo since the network rebranded as E! in 1990), removing the exclamation mark background behind the “E” but keeping the exclamation point underneath, along with a new slogan “Pop of Culture”, which coincided with the launch of the new series Opening Act. The network also started the process of introducing scripted programming (the first series, The Royals, premiering in March 2015), in addition to its existing reality and documentary series. The changes were announced during E!’s programming upfront presentation on April 30, 2012.