A television network is a telecommunications network for distribution of television program content, whereby a central operation provides programming to many television stations or pay TV providers. Until the mid-1980s, television programming in most countries of the world was dominated by a small number of broadcast networks. Many early television networks (e.g. the BBC, NBC or CBS) evolved from earlier radio networks.
Television in the United States has long been dominated by the Big Three television networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, but Fox, launched in 1986, has gained prominence and is now considered as part of the “Big Four.” The Big Three provide a significant amount of television programs to each of their affiliates, including newscasts, prime-time, daytime television and sports television, but still have periods each day when each affiliate can air local programming, such as local news or syndicated programmes. Since the creation of Fox, the number of American television networks has grown, but the amount of programming they provide is often much less: for example, The CW Television Network only broadcasts for ten hours each week, leaving its affiliates free to broadcast a large amount of syndicated programming. Other networks are dedicated to specialist programmes, such as religious broadcasting or services in languages other than English, especially in Spanish.
The largest television network in the United States, however, is the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), a non-profit, non-commercial educational, publicly owned service. In comparison to the commercial television networks, there is no central unified arm of broadcast programming, meaning that each PBS affiliate has a significant amount of freedom to schedule television shows as they consent to.
Some public television such as Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) carry separate digital network through affiliates such as Georgia Public Broadcasting stations. In fact some programs from PBS were branded on other channels as GPB Kids, and PBS World. The way this works is by having each network sending its signal to many local affiliate television stations across the country. These local stations then air the “network feed,” and millions of households across the country tune in. 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.
The way this works is by having each network sending its signal to many local affiliate television stations across the country. These local stations then air the “network feed,” and millions of households across the country tune in. 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.
With the digital terrestrial television and the mandated DTV transition in the United States, several television networks have been created specifically to be transmitted on the digital subchannels of TV stations. These include Ion Life (which is almost always paired with Ion Television as most of the stations are network-owned), and ThisTV (which is carried on an assortment of unrelated stations).
Providers of pay TV generally on cable television pay the networks a certain amount per subscriber (the highest charge being for ESPN). Direct-broadcast satellite company can sell local television commercials, in which case there may be revenue sharing. Networks that consist entirely of home shopping or infomercials may instead pay the station or cable/satellite provider, which is known as brokered programming. This is especially common with low-power TV stations, and now even more so for the ones that are using this income to make the forced conversion to digital, which in turn provides them with several extra channels to transmit different program sources on.