In 1998, Lowell "Bud" Paxson (most famous for unleashing the Home Shopping Network on America's credit cards) established PAX as the seventh commercial broadcast television network in the United States. Paxson was a born-again Christian who felt that the major networks were too raunchy and violent, and wanted PAX to be The Moral Substitute. Despite airing a few notable original dramas (such as Doc, which starred Billy Ray Cyrus, and Sue Thomas FB Eye), it didn't take.
A problem that dogged PAX from day one was that its initial station roster was descended from PAX's spiritual predecessor, a network named "inTV", also owned by Paxson, whose entire schedule consisted of infomercials . In addition, PAX was made up mostly of second-string independent stations purchased by Paxson which either carried religious programming or didn't step up their game with the rise of Fox, UPN, and The WB in the last 15 years and lagged behind everybody else. Most of these stations were high on the UHF dial and weren't licensed to the largest city in their market . In addition to the infomercials and rare original series, most of the schedule consisted of (often Bowdlerised) reruns of older programs like Remington Steele, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, and Bonanza; public-domain movies; and several Game Shows (including the third incarnations of Supermarket Sweep and Shop Til You Drop).
The network changed its name to "i" (for "independent") in 2005, and then to "ION" in 2007. Its schedule now consists mainly of infomercials (with an industry Running Gag was that the "i" name stood for "infomercial"), movies, and reruns of various shows, which change frequently. As of 2011, they seem to fixate on NCIS, Ghost Whisperer and Criminal Minds, and added new episodes of Flashpoint in a unique deal with CBS to air it outside the Summer months. The editing stopped in 2005 (except for certain movies which have to meet FCC regulations) when Paxson left the network; it might shock viewers who remember the old PAX to see Scarface on a network that was formerly home to Promised Land and Hope Island. They managed to sign a deal with the Arena Football League to air games starting March 2012.
The network programs two digital subchannels (Ion Life, with health programs, and Qubo, with children's entertainment) on its stations. Both subchannels have more feature programming than the main feed, with the latter also airing on some NBC and Telemundo stations (it was created in conjunction with NBCUniversal, which owns the aforementioned networks). A remnant subchannel of the Paxson era, The Worship Network , left the Ion airwaves in January 2010 but remains on some satellite systems. DirecTV and some Comcast systems air an infomercial-free version of the main Ion feed, a reaction to threats of the network being dropped by the both of them.
Not to be confused with the manga ION, the play by Euripides, the Saturn car model, or the chemical entity.
Original series include:
- Body And Soul (2002-03, with repeats in 2006)
- Doc (2001-04, with repeats into 2006)
- Durham County (2007-10)
- Flashpoint (second half of Season 4 and entirety of Season 5; the first three and a half seasons aired on CBS)
- Hope Island (1999-2000)
- Just Cause (2002-03, with repeats into 2004)
- Little Men (1998-99)
- Mysterious Ways (2000-02)
- Palmetto Pointe (August-October 2005)
- The Ponderosa (2001-02, with repeats in 2005-06; prequel of Bonanza)
- Sue Thomas FB Eye (2002-05, with repeats into 2006)
- Twice In A Lifetime (1999-2001)
- Young Blades (January-June 2005, with repeats into 2006)
- America's Most Talented Kids (2004-05, moved from NBC; repeats of both aired into 2006)
- Animal Tails (2003-04)
- Balderdash (2004-05)
- Beat the Clock (2002-03)
- Candid Camera (2001-04, moved from CBS)
- Dirty Rotten Cheater (January-April 2003)
- Ed McMahon's Next Big Star (2001-02; remake of Star Search)
- The Emeril Lagasse Show (April-July 2010)
- Hollywood Showdown (January-November 2000, moved to being a GSN exclusive)
- It's A Miracle (1998-2004, with repeats into 2006)
- Lie Detector (March-June 2005)
- Miracle Pets (2000-05)
- On The Cover (2004-05)
- The Reel-To-Reel Picture Show (August-September 1998, with repeats into October)
- Shop Til You Drop (2000-02/2003-05, with repeats in 2002-03 and 2005-06)
- Supermarket Sweep (2000-03, with repeats into 2004)
- Totally Pets (2003-04)
- ↑ (mostly the infamous Alumaloy infomercial, produced for approximately $6.47 and a couple bus tokens)
- ↑ (for example, the Washington DC market needed two PAX stations to make it in: one in West Virginia, the other in Virginia)
- ↑ (which carried a Fun for Some format of nature scenery and light music combined with Bible verses projected on the screen)