As a former teacher in the public school system for ten years, Diane Preston Reilly was able to personally witness how young people idolized television characters. In the late 70’s while Diane was working on her doctorate in education the volume of research data she unmasked concerning television’s impact on youth and society, was very indicting.
The sobering results of her research, coupled with a deep burden and dedication to challenge young people, motivated Diane in the fall of 1980 to found Challenger Films,an Atlanta-based independent film production company. The mission of Challenger Films was (and still is) to produce wholesome programming for our nation’s youth by profiling positive, real-life role models.
THE WINNING EDGE made its debut on CBN in the fall of 1982. This inaugural airing consisted of vignettes or profiles of young achievers of varying lengths. They were used as "fillers" at the end of movies. It was then extended and developed as a Youth Study Program, emphasizing character qualities such as honesty, loyalty, self-discipline, faith, excellence, etc.
In 1986, Word, Inc. released a 12-part video format of THE WINNING EDGE. In 1987, WINNING EDGE “spots” were produced and aired on Turner Broadcasting. During this same period, Challenger Films began to develop a proposed TV series. The pilot program was aired on select stations in 1987.
THE WINNING EDGE pilot program was fully developed into a 13-week series which was accepted by ESPN in June of 1992. Two programs in the series, sponsored by Dominos Pizza, Wrigley’s Gum, and Burger King, were aired in August of 1992. The program received good Nielsen ratings by ESPN standards and ESPN received more letters requesting them to continue the series than any series they’ve run since 1986.
The next thrust of this thirteen week series was to prove this series would work with commercial television. The series subsequently aired on many network affiliates (CBS, Fox, Paramount, WB, etc.). Each station or broadcaster or sponsor involved with it reported it to be a very positive experience. Over the course of the next eight years, the series generated a tremendous amount of support mail (and good Nielsen ratings).
Since that time, Dr. Preston-Reilly has developed a fresh new version of the series, which began to air in the fall of 2008.
Challenger Films has continued to add new shows to the 26-week series of The Real Winning Edge. Each year it has aired, more stations have been added to our nation syndication list. The full series is now airing for 52 weeks on Fox owned and operated stations in most major markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas, and in national syndication, reaching over 85% of American households.