The company traces its beginnings to June 12, 1946, when James Lindenberg, an American engineer established the Bolinao Electronics Corporation (BEC), which specialized in assembling transmitters. Realizing the potential of television in the country, he was the first to apply to for a license in the Congress of the Philippines to estabish a television station in 1949, which was granted a year later. By then, due to the scarcity of raw materials and import controls imposed that time, BEC was compelled to branch into radio broadcasting instead.
In 1952, the late Judge Antonio "Tony" Quirino (1917-1992), brother-then of the late President Elpidio Quirino (1890-1956) who was also looking to set up a television station, bought 70% of BEC and had it renamed Alto Broadcasting System (ABS, with Alto from Antonio Quirino's wife, Aleli and his name, Tony.) Lindenberg, however, remained as part-owner and served as general manager of the station. In 1953 DZAQ-TV 3 (the "AQ" part stands for Antonio Quirino) was introduced as the country's first television channel and made its first broadcast on October 23, 1953.
Martial Law era
|In September 21, 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos closed down any non-state broadcast services. ABS-CBN went off the air, as its studios were taken over by networks run by presidential crony Roberto Benedicto. The ABS-CBN Broadcast Center became the home of state-run TV stations Banahaw Broadcasting Corporation (BBC Channel 2), Government Television (GTV Channel 4, which took over the frequency rights of DZXL-TV 4 of CBN) and Kanlaon Broadcasting System (KBS Channel 9). Later on, the company was seized from the Lopez family, and then ABS-CBN Chairman and President Eugenio Lopez Jr. was imprisoned. In 1980, Channel 2 together with channels 9 and 13 was moved to the newly built Broadcast City in Diliman, Quezon City.|
The logo of ABS-CBN when it was revived in 1987
When Marcos was deposed in 1986, the network was sequestered and returned to the Lopezes. The network went back on the air on September 14 the same year. By March 1987, after ranking last among the country's five TV stations in Metro Manila and suffering huge losses, ABS-CBN was re-launched as the "The Star Network: Ang Pagbabalik Ng Bituin" ("The Return of the Star"). Eugenio Lopez Jr. took the risk despite the constraints. He hired Charo Santos-Concio and Freddie Garcia, who worked with GMA Network when ABS-CBN was closed during Martial Law.
Facility maintenance of the Broadcast Center was neglected and the need to upgrade was ignored for more than 13 years. Even after democracy was restored in 1986, ABS-CBN’s highest priorities were its programming and major investment in its facility continued to be deferred.
By August 1987, within six months of renewed operations ABS-CBN rose from the least-watched to the most-watched television network, and has dominated the ratings since, with dominance in Mega Manila for 16 years now. The following year, the network ventured into satellite broadcasting, furthering its reach through "Bridges On The Air, Link to the Future", a project that was supposed to take off in 1973 had Martial Law not interfered.
By 1990, the company had already recovered. ABS-CBN programs consistently drew large audience shares, averaging 40-50% in Metro Manila.
In June 1992 was also a significant year for ABS-CBN as it went public, opening PHP15 a share, the ABS-CBN Regional Network Group was established and began producing programs for the local audience, signed a historic lease with PanAmSat and switched from taped international telecasts to live satellite feeds.
ABS-CBN also got the exclusive Philippine broadcast rights for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, and the 1994 Miss Universe pageant held in the Philippines. In 1999, ABS-CBN solidified its grip on the top spot as the soap opera Esperanza gained average ratings of 58% of viewers in the Mega Manilla market, making it one of the most watched shows in Philippine history, followed by Pangako sa 'Yo in 2001, with average ratings of 56% in Mega Manila.
Aside from its flagship terrestrial network ABS-CBN 2 Manila, ABS-CBN broadcasts to many predominantly Filipino enclaves in the Middle East, United States, Europe, Australia and several other countries via The Filipino Channel or TFC. The network has also diversified into film (Star Cinema - ABS-CBN Film Productions, Inc.), music recording (Star Records), publishing (ABS-CBN Publishing), and interactive media (ABS-CBN Interactive).
The network has also introduced its second terrestrial channel, Studio 23 (UHF band) in 1996, as well as cable channels MYX (a music channel), ABS-CBN News Channel (a cable news channel), CinemaOne Global and CinenaOne (movie cable channel), the Lifestyle Network (home and lifestyle channel), Pinoy Central TV (regionally produced shows) and Hero (the country's first Tagalog-dubbed anime channel). The network's radio stations include DWRR 101.9 (FM-Manila) and DZMM 630-khz (AM-Manila).
ABS-CBN has established regional stations and news bureaus to handle operations in different areas throughout the Philippines. It also broadcasts to locations all over the world via The Filipino Channel, managed by ABS-CBN International. Shows are also available for live viewing and subscription via the Internet through ABS-CBN Interactive's ABS-CBNNow! service.
ABS-CBN affirms its social responsibility in its slogan, "In the Service of the Filipino", and through the work of the ABS-CBN Foundation. Through multimedia, the foundation has delivered E-TV (Educational Television) VCDs to hundreds of public schools in the country that benefitted students. The foundation is also the umbrella organization of such foundations such as the Knowledge Channel (KCh) Foundation, Bantay Bata (Children's Watch), Bantay Kalikasan (Environment Watch), and ABS-CBN Bayan Foundation (formerly, ABS-CBN Bayan MicroFinance).