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The five major U.S. English-language commercial broadcast network logos
The five major U.S. English-language commercial broadcast network logos

In the United States, for most of the history of broadcasting, there were only three or four major commercial national terrestrial networks. From 1946 to 1956, these were ABC, CBS, NBC and DuMont (though the Paramount Television Network had some limited success during these years). From 1956 to 1986, the "Big Three" national commercial networks were ABC, CBS, and NBC (with a few limited attempts to challenge them, such as National Telefilm Associates [and its NTA Film Network] and the Overmyer Network). From 1954 to 1970, National Educational Television was the national clearinghouse for public TV programming; the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) succeeded it in 1970.

Today, more than fifty national free-to-air networks exist. Other than the non-commercial educational (NCE) PBS, which is composed of member stations, the largest terrestrial television networks are the traditional Big Three television networks (ABC, CBS and NBC). Many other large networks exist, however, notably Fox and The CW which air original programming for two hours each night instead of three like the original "Big Three" do, as well as syndication services like MyNetworkTV and Ion Television which feature reruns of recent popular shows with little to no original programming. Fox has just about the same household reach percentage as the Big Three, and is therefore often considered a peer to ABC, NBC, and CBS since it has also achieved equal or better ratings since the late 1990s; as of 2019, it also programs the equivalent amount of sports programming as the Big Three. Most media outlets now include Fox in what they refer to as the "Big Four" TV networks.

The transition to digital broadcasting in 2009 has allowed for television stations to offer additional programming options through digital subchannels, one or more supplementary programming streams to the station's primary channel that are achieved through multiplexing of a station's signal. A number of new commercial networks airing specialty programming such as movies, reruns of classic series and lifestyle programs have been created from companies like Weigel Broadcasting, Luken Communications and even owners of the major networks such as Fox Corporation (through the Fox Entertainment subsidiary), ViacomCBS, The Walt Disney Company (through the Walt Disney Television subsidiary) and Comcast (through the NBCUniversal subsidiary). Through the use of multicasting, there have also been a number of new Spanish-language and non-commercial public TV networks that have launched.

Free-to-air networks in the U.S. can be divided into five categories:

Each network sends its signal to many local affiliate television stations across the country. These local stations then air the "network feed," with programs broadcast by each network being viewed by up to tens of millions of households across the country. In the case of the largest networks, the signal is sent to over 200 stations. In the case of the smallest networks, the signal may be sent to just a dozen or fewer stations.

As of the 2016–17 television season, there are an estimated 118.4 million households in the U.S. with at least one TV set.[1]

Major

Table of networks

All of the networks listed below operate a number of terrestrial TV stations. In addition, several of these networks are also aired on pay television services.

American television networks
Name Owner (Subsidiary) Launch Date % of U.S. households reached # of households viewable # of Full-Power Affiliates # of Low-power/Class-A affiliates Language Description Notes
NBC NBCUniversal

(Comcast)

1939[2] 97% 114,848,000 226 ~338 English Major commercial network
CBS ViacomCBS

(National Amusements)

1941[2] 215 ~299
ABC Walt Disney Television

(The Walt Disney Company)

1948[2] 229 ~266
Fox Fox Corporation 1986[3] 223 ~202
The CW ViacomCBS (National Amusements) (50%)

WarnerMedia (AT&T) (50%)

2006[4] 204 ~11
PBS Corporation for Public Broadcasting
(main steward, not owner, of service)
1969[5] 96% 113,664,000 349 ~342 Public Non-Commercial
MyNetworkTV MyNetworkTV, Inc.

(Fox Corporation)

2006[4] 97%[6] 100,640,000 151 ~30 Commercial/syndication service
MeTV Weigel Broadcasting 2010 84% 99,456,000 176 29 Classic series
PBS Kids PBS 1994 83% 98,272,000 269 0 Children's programming Non-Commercial
Court TV Katz Broadcasting, LLC

(E. W. Scripps Company)

2019 80.49% 95,300,160 True crime/court news
Antenna TV Nexstar Media Group 2011 80% 94,720,000 114 27 Classic series and films
Dabl ViacomCBS 2019 77.70% 91,996,800 Lifestyle
True Crime Network Tegna Inc. 2014 76% 92,936,000 62 10 True Crime/Investigation
Court TV Mystery Katz Broadcasting, LLC

(E. W. Scripps Company)

75% 88,800,000 124 25 Suspense/drama/women's interest Launched as Escape
Grit 120 16 Action/westerns/men's Interest
Create American Public Television, WGBH-TV, & WNET 2006 86% 87,616,000 238 1 Public TV/instructional Non-Commercial
Laff Laff Media, LLC

(E. W. Scripps Company)

2015 74% 111 22 Comedy
This TV Entertainment Studios 2008 89 29 Classic series and films
Bounce TV Bounce Media LLC

(Katz Broadcasting, LLC)

(E. W. Scripps Company)

2011 73% 86,432,000 112 11 Black-centric programming
Ion Television Ion Media

(E. W. Scripps Company)

1998 (as Pax TV) 72% (OTA only) 85,248,000 109 25 Commercial/syndication service
Comet Sinclair Broadcast Group (operator: MGM Television) 2015 66% 78,144,000 100 17 Science Fiction
GetTV Sony Pictures Television

(Sony Corporation)

2014 66 20 Classic series and films
Circle Circle Media (Gray Television, Inc. & Opry Entertainment Group, Inc.) 2020 62.60% 195,620,130 96 0 Country music/lifestyle
Heroes & Icons Weigel Broadcasting 2014 58% 68,672,000 57 30 Classic series and films
World American Public Television, WNET, WGBH Educational Foundation, & National Educational Telecommunications Association 2007 59% 68,617,000 160 0 News and documentaries Non-Commercial
QVC Qurate Retail Group 1986 68,204,000 48 13 Shopping
HSN Qurate Retail Group 1985[7] 41 46
Decades CBS Television Stations & Weigel Broadcasting 2015 57% 67,488,000 53 6 Classic series and films/Historical documentaries
Movies! Fox Television Stations

Weigel Broadcasting

(both owning 50%)

2013 52 18 Feature films
Cozi TV Comcast 56% 66,304,000 66 31 Classic series and films/Lifestyle
Quest Tegna Inc. 2018 65% 78,200,000 29 TBD Adventure programming
Start TV Weigel Broadcasting 46% 54,464,000 25 6 Female lead Procedural dramas
Buzzr Fremantle & RTL Group 2015 45% 53,280,000 20 37 Game shows
Charge! Sinclair Broadcast Group 2017 43% 50,912,000 52 4 Action series and films
Rev'n Reach High Media Group.

(Henry Luken III)

2014 42% 49,728,000 1 44 Automotive
Retro TV Reach High Media Group

(Henry Luken III)

2005 34% 40,256,000 15 83 Commercial, reruns
TheGrio.tv Entertainment Studios 2021 33% 39,072,000 14 0 Black-centric programming
QVC2 Qurate Retail Group 2013 31% 36,704,000 5 34 Shopping
Localish ABC Owned Television Stations (Walt Disney Television) 2009 25% 29,600,000 8 0 Health/lifestyle
TBD Sinclair Television Group (Sinclair Broadcast Group)(operated by Jukin Media) 2017 50 5 Talk/lifestyle
Heartland Reach High Media Group 2012 22.51% 23,342,140 2 44 Country music/lifestyle
JewelryTV[8][9] Multimedia Commerce Group, Inc. 1993 22% 26,048,000 4 30 Shopping
NewsNet NewsNet LLC 2018 19.21% 38,085,302 0 33 News
NHK World NHK 1998 18% 20,934,000 15 0 Japanese news and information Non-Commercial
The Action Channel Reach High Media Group 2016 21,312,000 2 38 Men's Interest
Biz Television Center Post Media, Inc. 2009 17% 19,788,000 5 34 Business and financial information
WeatherNation TV WeatherNation, Inc (Performance One Media) 2011 20 7 Weather
The Country Network TCN Country, LLC 2009 20,128,000 7 33 Country music videos
Soul of the South Television SSN Media Group, LP 2013 4 7 African-American programming
Stadium Sinclair Television Group, Inc. (Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.) & Silver Chalice 2017 15% 17,760,000 38 24 Sports
FNX (First Nations Experience) San Bernardino Community College District 2011 12% 14,208,000 22 7 Native American programming Non-Commercial
Newsmax TV Newsmax Media 2014 12% (OTA only) 14,208,000 0 23 News/Documentaries/Conservative Talk
ShopHQ iMedia Brands Inc. (Comcast [12.5%]) 1991 11% 13,024,000 5 6 Shopping
France 24 France Médias Monde (French Government) 2006 10% 11,640,000 4 International news Non-Commercial
MiND (MiND: Media Independence) WYBE 2007 9% 10,467,000 2 0 Multicultural, educational
Shop LC Vaibhav Global 8% 9,472,000 0 42 Shopping
AccuWeather Channel National Weather Service 2006 7% 8,148,000 13 4 Weather
YTA, formerly Youtoo America, formerly America One Center Post Media 1985 33% 34,984,000 1 34 Sports/lifestyle
Classic Arts Showcase The Lloyd E. Rigler – Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation 1994 6,978,000 3 3 Non-commercial performance art video clips Non-Commercial
The Family Channel ValCom & Reach High Media Group 2008[10] 5% 5,920,000 4 21 Classic series and films Called My Family TV until 2014.
QVC3 Qurate Retail Group 2016 0 5 Shopping
AMGTV Access Media Group 2006 4.39% 1 22[11] General Entertainment
Doctor TV Doctor Television Channel, Inc. (MSGPR, Inc.) 2014 2.22% 6,942,039 Health/lifestyle
DW-TV Deutsche Welle 1953 2% 2,326,000 5 1 Multicultural Non-Commercial
Minnesota Channel Twin Cities Public Television 2005 17 0 Educational television, public affairs, ethnic and local programming
Untamed Sports TV None 2008 1.29% 4,021,177 Sports/outdoors
Pursuit Channel Pursuit Media LLC 0.23% 716,644 Sports and recreation
Frost Great Outdoors Reach High Media Group 2011 0.02% 294,038 Outdoors/shopping
Univision Univision Communications 1986[12] 49% 94,100,000[13] 62 26 Spanish Spanish commercial
Estrella TV Estrella Media 2009 46% 64,232,000 38 29
Telemundo Comcast 1984[14] 61.60% 92,476,422 54 46
UniMás Univision Communications 2002[15] 43% 59,600,000[16] 35 24
Azteca HC2 Holdings
(Azteca name & brand licensed from TV Azteca)
2001 32% 37,248,000 14 28
LATV LATV Networks, LLC 27 16 Bilingual (English/Spanish) entertainment
TeleXitos NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises
(NBCUniversal Filmed and Entertainment)
2012 42.46% 32,661,468 25 1 Spanish commercial
Mega TV Spanish Broadcasting System 2006 6% 6,984,000 5 1
TeLe-Romántica Dreamhouse Entertainment, LLC
(managed by TeVe-Romance)
2012 0.46% 1,425,200 Telenovelas/lifestyle
Inmigrante TV 2010 0% 0 Spanish political news and commentary
Multimedios Grupo Multimedios 1968 2.22% 6,942,039 Spanish commercial
Daystar Word of God Fellowship 1982 56% 64,736,000 20 80 English Religious
SonLife Broadcasting Network 2010 44% 52,096,000 22 77
enlace[17] 2002 41% 48,554,000 37 9 Spanish Spanish-language religious programming
TBN 1973 40% 47,360,000 39 10 English Religious
Smile of a Child TV[17] Trinity Broadcasting Network 2005 35 12 Religious children's programming
Positiv[17][18](formerly JCTV and JUCE TV) Trinity Broadcasting Network 2003 36 10 Christian and Family-oriented movies
Hillsong Channel[17] Hillsong Church & Trinity Broadcasting Network 2002 35 9 Religious
3ABN 1984 27% 31,968,000 2 133
3ABN Latino 2003 20% 23,680,000 0 124 Spanish Spanish religious
Peace TV 2006 15% 17,760,000 7 English Religious (Islamic)
Dare to Dream Network 2010 13% 15,392,000 101 Religious
3ABN Proclaim! 2010 13% 15,392,000 109
Almavision 2002 8% 9,472,000 9 Spanish Spanish religious
TCT 1977 9% 27,992,924 8 8 English Religious
Cornerstone Television[19] 1979[20] 7.94% 24,796,415 2 12
Hope Channel 2003 6.74% 21,058,587 0 15
The Walk TV 2010 7.52% 23,506,549 3 12
CTN 1979 5% 5,780,000 11 5
God TV 1995 5% 5,780,000 2 2
WHT 1985[21] 5% 5,780,000 7 4
EWTN 1981 3.50% 10,928,781 1 7 Religious (Catholic)
The Word Network 2000 1.5% 1,734,000 2 Religious
TLN 1973 1% 1,156,000 1 0
Tvida Vision 2005 0.7% 809,200 0 2 Spanish Spanish religious
The Worship Network[7] 1992 0.6% 693,600 1 English Religious
Tele Vida Abundante 1985 0.32% 1,004,355 3 Spanish Spanish religious (Jewish)
GLC 1982 0.25% 289,000 5 0 English Religious

Information on networks

Conventional commercial networks

Minor and digital multicast commercial networks

Additionally, several of the cable-oriented theme channels (e.g. music or shopping channels) have obtained broadcast clearances, usually on low-power stations, in many markets. Among these are Home Shopping Network, and EVINE Live.

Spanish-language commercial networks

Additionally, Televisa, which distributes programming to Univision in the United States, operates in Mexico, but the company's networks (Canal de las Estrellas, Canal 5 and Nueve) have certain stations which can be received in parts of the U.S. located along and near the Mexican border, and likewise with the American networks have affiliates located or receivable in Mexican border cities. Some Mexican border stations (such as the former English-language ABC/Fox/CW affiliate XETV-TDT in Tijuana) who formerly maintained affiliations with U.S.-based English or Spanish networks, but mainly targeted their programming at their American border city (more than the Mexican metropolitan area that they are based in or merely licensed to).

Although the English-language programming model in the U.S. traditionally relies on the network and its stations handling programming responsibilities, Spanish language networks handle most of the responsibility for programming, while affiliates are limited to breakaways from the network feed to provide local news, public affairs and/or entertainment programming as well as local advertising. As such, all Spanish language networks primarily available on broadcast TV operate national feeds that are distributed to cable and satellite providers in markets without a local affiliate. Spanish-language independent stations also exist, though (particularly with the launch of Estrella TV), these are very limited and mainly exist in large markets.

Public/cultural/educational non-commercial

Religious

Several religious networks allow their broadcast affiliates to carry their programming out-of-pattern through clearance arrangements, notably TBN, 3ABN, Hope Channel and World Harvest Television.

Defunct networks

This article needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (November 2010)

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "Nielsen Estimates 118.4 Million TV Homes in the U.S. for the 2016-17 TV Season". www.nielsen.com.
  2. ^ a b c Although CBS and NBC were founded in 1926 and 1927, respectively and ABC was founded in 1943, those companies did not begin continuous over the air TV broadcasting until 1939 (NBC), 1941 (CBS) and 1948 (ABC).
  3. ^ a b DuMont's relationship with the Fox network via Metromedia is disputed, with Fox being either a modern re-incarnation, or at least a linear descendant of the DuMont Television Network (via former DuMont subsidiary Metromedia) according to radio personality Clarke Ingram.
  4. ^ a b On January 24, 2006, CBS and Time Warner announced the merger of The WB and UPN, forming one larger network, The CW in late 2006. See The CW for more information. The CW and MyNetworkTV are also carried on cable-only channels and digital subchannels of many currently operating television stations of several different affiliations, ranging from current WB and Fox affiliates, to even NBC and CBS affiliates. The WB and UPN shut down on September 18, 2006 to merge into The CW. MyNetworkTV was created by the Fox Broadcasting Company to give programming to several Fox-owned UPN affiliates, upon the shutdown of UPN. MyNetworkTV transitioned from a commercial network to a syndication service in 2009.
  5. ^ Although PBS was initially established in 1969, it assumed full-time broadcasts on October 5, 1970 to replace its predecessor, National Educational Television (NET).
  6. ^ "'The Walking Dead' Sets Broadcast Syndication Pact with MyNetwork TV".
  7. ^ a b Network founded by Lowell "Bud" Paxson
  8. ^ Jewelry Television has around three direct affiliates; most other stations carrying its programming are indirectly affiliated with the network through Shop at Home.
  9. ^ Prior to its shutdown in 2008, Shop at Home only broadcast its programming overnights, and thus full-time affiliates of the network carried Jewelry Television during the daytime hours.
  10. ^ "The Top 25 Digital Broadcast Networks". tvnewscheck.com. NewsCheckMedia. June 17, 2014. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  11. ^ "Stations for Network – AMG TV". RabbitEars.Info. SatelliteGuys. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  12. ^ Date at which the Spanish International Network (founded in 1962) was reorganized and became Univision.
  13. ^ Univision. "Univision Network". Univision Corporate. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
  14. ^ NetSpan (founded in 1984) was reorganized and became Telemundo continental U.S. network.
  15. ^ UniMás was originally launched as Telefutura in January 2002, before rebranding under its current name in January 2013.
  16. ^ Univision. "UniMás Network". Univision Corporate. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
  17. ^ a b c d These networks are carried only on the digital subchannels of local TBN affiliates, and are owned by TBN.
  18. ^ JCTV is carried on some analogue and digital television stations, digital subchannels of local Trinity Broadcast Network affiliates, and cable/satellite providers, while Smile of a Child and TBN Enlace USA are carried only on local TBN affiliates. All four networks are owned by TBN.
  19. ^ Cornerstone Television is not considered a television network in the traditional definition, rather it is a distributor of in-house produced programming. Although the main station, WPCB-TV in Pittsburgh is carried on many owned-and-operated translators, its full-power and LPTV "affiliates" typically air one or two Cornerstone-produced programs per week scheduled at different times than on WPCB and do not identify themselves as "Cornerstone Television" affiliates.
  20. ^ Although Cornerstone Television was founded in 1970, the network did not begin even limited broadcasts until 1979.
  21. ^ Date at which WHTV acquired two additional stations. World Harvest Television is a product of LeSea Broadcasting.
  22. ^ Sara Bibel (May 21, 2013). "Season-to-Date: Univision Increases Total Viewers, While ABC, Fox and NBC Decline". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
  23. ^ "Exitos is NBCUniversal Largest Subchannel Network – Subchannel Report". Across Platforms. Archived from the original on 2015-01-20.
  24. ^ Michael Insalaco. "22 Spanish Networks Are On Full-Power Subchannels – Subchannel Report". Across Platforms. Archived from the original on 2018-03-20. Retrieved 2013-10-07. Report data posted here.
  25. ^ Diana Marszalek (December 1, 2014). "Telemundo Stations Debut Classic TV Diginet". TVNewsCheck. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  26. ^ https://www.wlmb.com/radianttv/
  27. ^ https://radianttv.com/about/
  28. ^ https://radianttv.com/wheretowatch/
  29. ^ "Here's How to Keep Watching MHz Worldview Programming After March 1st | MHz Networks". 2020-02-01. Archived from the original on 2020-02-01. Retrieved 2020-04-09.
  30. ^ Michael Kokernak. "La Familia cable network to nest SOI TV programming". Across Platforms. Archived from the original on 2014-04-16.
  31. ^ "Programming Reports – SOI TV". Comcast. Archived from the original on 2013-09-01. Retrieved 2013-10-07.
  32. ^ Strother, Susan G. (January 17, 1991). "Tv Network Signs Off – Out Of Cash". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved January 20, 2015.
  33. ^ "Universal Sports TV Channel Slated To Shut Down Next Month". www.sportsbusinessdaily.com.