List of United States over-the-air television networks

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The five major U.S. broadcast network logos

In the United States, for most of the history of broadcasting, there were only three or four major commercial national broadcast 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 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 television programming; the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) succeeded it in 1970.

Today, more than 50 national broadcasting networks exist. Other than the non-commercial educational (NCE) PBS, which is composed of member stations, the largest broadcast 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. Most media outlets now include Fox in what they refer to as the "Big Four" television 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 The Walt Disney Company and NBCUniversal. Through the use of multicasting, there have also been a number of new Spanish-language and non-commercial public television networks that have launched.

Broadcast networks in the United States can be divided into four 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 2014-15 television season, there are an estimated 116.3 million households in the United States with at least one television set.[1]

Table of broadcast networks[edit]

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

Major English-language commercial networks[edit]

Television networkFounded % of U.S. households reached# of households viewableNetwork type# of Full-Power Affiliates# of Low-power/Class-A affiliates and transmitters
NBC1946[2]97%112,811,000Commercial226~338
CBS1948[2]97%112,811,000Commercial215~299
ABC1948[2]97%112,811,000Commercial229~266
Fox1986[3]97%112,811,000Commercial223~202
The CW2006[4]95%110,485,000Commercial204~11

Public television networks[edit]

Television networkFounded % of U.S. households reached# of households viewableNetwork type# of Full-power affiliates# of Low-power/Class-A affiliates and transmitters
PBS1969[5]96%111,648,000Nonprofit349~342
CreateJanuary 10, 200670%81,410,000Public TV/instructional2140
WorldAugust 15, 200759%68,617,000News and documentaries1600
V-me200747%54,661,000Spanish educational511
MHz WorldView / MHz Networks200131%36,053,000Educational/international291
NHK World18%20,934,000Japanese news and information70
France 24December 6, 200614%16,282,000International news54
FNX (First Nations Experience)9%10,467,000Native American programming62
MiND (MiND: Media Independence)May 15, 20079%10,467,000Multicultural, educational20
Classic Arts Showcase19946%6,978,000Non-commercial performance art video clips33
DW-TV (Deutsche Welle)19532%2,326,000Multicultural12
Minnesota Channel20052%2,326,000Educational television, public affairs, ethnic and local programming170

Spanish-language networks[edit]

Television networkFounded % of U.S. households reached# of households viewableNetwork type# of Full-power affiliates# of Low-power/Class-A affiliates and transmitters
Univision1986[6]55%63,580,000Spanish commercial4613
Telemundo195454%62,424,000Spanish commercial4826
UniMás2002[7]62%[8]54,332,000Spanish commercial3510
MundoFox201254%[8]58.956,000Spanish commercial2539
LATV200150%[8]43,928,000Bilingual (English/Spanish) entertainment2716
Azteca200141%[8]45,084,000Spanish commercial1428
Estrella TV200927%[8]47,396,000Spanish commercial2819
TeleXitos201230%34,680,000Classic TV shows150
TeLe-Romántica201218%20,808,000Telenovelas/lifestyle311
CNN en Español199716%18,496,000News16
ZUUS Latino201213%15,028,000Music videos127
Inmigrante TV201012%13,872,00051
Mega TV20065%5,780,000Spanish commercial31
Multimedios19682%2,312,000Spanish commercial62
Tr3s[9]19980.7%809,200Spanish music videos05
MexicanalAugust 23, 20050.45%520,200Mexican programming01

Genre-based and general entertainment television networks[edit]

Television networkFounded % of U.S. households reached# of households viewableNetwork type# of Full-power affiliates# of Low-power/Class-A affiliates and transmitters
MyNetworkTVSeptember 5, 2006[4]91%105,196,000Commercial/syndication service162~40
Me-TV201091%[8]97,104,000Classic television series15521
This TV200885%[8]94,792,000Movies and TV shows11418
Bounce TV201172%[8]78,608,000African-American programming868
Antenna TV201170%[8]80,920,000Classic television series and movies8012
GetTV201467%77,921,000Classic movies624
Ion TelevisionAugust 31, 1998 (as PaxTV)64% (OTA only)73,984,000[10]Commercial/syndication service6522
qubo200765%[8]72,828,000Commercial (Children's)61 [11]4
Cozi TV201350%58,150,000Classic television series/movies/lifestyle4011
GritAugust 18, 201449%56,987,000Action/westerns/men's Interest450
EscapeAugust 18, 201448%55,824,000Suspense/drama/women's interest332
Movies!201344%[8]49,708,000Feature films325
Retro TV200535%40,705,000Commercial, reruns2462
ZUUS Country200925%[8]35,836,000Country music videos256
The Works201421%24,423,000News and entertainment92
Soul of the South NetworkMay 27, 201319%22,097,000African-American programming616
AMGTV[12]20069%28,726,530Commercial, family213
FamilyNet1979/19882%2,312,000Classic television series114
Launch TV20149%10,467,000Independent programming116
The Family Channel2008 (as My Family TV) 2014[8]9%10,476,000Classic television series and movies524
HeartlandNovember 1, 20128%9,304,000Country music/lifestyle1018
PBJSeptember 20118%9,304,000Children's/classic cartoons432
TheCoolTV20096%5,780,000Music videos23
Mi Casa BroadcastingSeptember 20142%2,326,000English-language Hispanic programming05
Punch TV URBT201212.5%16,744,500Urban & Independent programming17
Heroes & IconsSeptember 29, 20144.35%13,584,212Classic television series and films32

News, sports and lifestyle networks[edit]

Television networkFounded % of U.S. households reached# of households viewableNetwork type# of Full-Power Affiliates# of Low-power/Class-A affiliates and transmitters
Live Well NetworkApril 27, 200965%[8]73,984,000Health/lifestyle643
Ion Life200565%[8]72,828,000Health/lifestyle;
occasional movies
60 [11]3
Tuff TV200922%[8]25,432,000Male interest programming333
WeatherNation TV201118%20,934,000Weather202
Biz Television200918%20,934,000Business and financial information210
AccuWeather Channel200616%18,608,000Weather264
America One200311%12,716,000Commercial/sports/lifestyle233
TouchVisionSeptember 16, 20138%9,248,000News and information23
Untamed Sports TV20081%1,156,000Sports/outdoors22
Frost Great Outdoors20110.5%578,000Outdoors/shopping05
Pursuit Channel20080.15%173,400Sports and recreation03

Shopping networks[edit]

Television networkFounded % of U.S. households reached# of households viewableNetwork type# of Full-power affiliates# of Low-power/Class-A affiliates and transmitters
QVC198659%68,204,000Commercial/infomercial4813
HSN1985[13]59%68,204,000Commercial/infomercial4146
JewelryTV[14][15]199315%17,340,000Commercial/infomercial415
Corner Store TVUnknown7%8.092,000Commercial/infomercial06
ShopHQ19912%2,312,000Commercial/infomercial20

Program Guide networks[edit]

Television networkFounded % of U.S. households reached# of households viewableNetwork type# of Full-power affiliates# of Low-power/Class-A affiliates and transmitters
TV Scout201210%11,590,000EPG010

Religious television networks[edit]

Television networkFounded % of U.S. households reached# of households viewableNetwork type# of Full-power affiliates# of Low-power/Class-A affiliates and transmitters
Daystar198256%64,736,000Religious2366
enlace[16]2006?45%52,020,000Spanish-language religious programming379
TBN197344%50,864,000Religious3910
Smile of a Child TV[16]December 24, 200544%50,864,000Religious children's programming3512
JUCE TV[16][17](formerly JCTV)200344%50,864,000Religious youth programming/music videos3610
The Church Channel[16]2002?44%50,864,000Religious359
SonLife Broadcasting Network201035%40,460,000Religious525
3ABN198429%33,524,000Religious2133
3ABN Latino200322%25,432,000Spanish religious0124
Peace TV200620%23,120,000Religious (Islamic)09
Almavision200218%20,808,000Spanish religious011
Dare to Dream Network201017%19,652,000Religious0101
3ABN Proclaim!201014%16,184,000Religious0109
Cornerstone Television[18]1979[19]14%16,184,000Religious217
TCT19776%6,936,000Religious85
The Walk TVJanuary 11, 20105%5,780,000Religious312
CTN19795%5,780,000Religious115
God TV19955%5,780,000Religious22
WHT1985[20]5%5,780,000Religious74
Tele Vida Abundante5%5,780,000Spanish religious1 ??
EWTN19812%2,312,000Religious (Catholic)13
Hope ChannelOctober 10, 20031.5%1,734,000Religious06
The Word Network20001.5%1,734,000Religious22
La Familia Cosmovision2002?1%1,156,000Spanish religious01
TLN19731%1,156,000Religious10
Tvida Vision20050.7%809,200Spanish religious02
The Worship Network[13]19920.6%693,600Religious01
GLC19820.25%289,000Religious50
Television networkFounded % of U.S. households reached# of households viewableNetwork type# of Full-power affiliates# of Low-power/Class-A affiliates and transmitters

English-language commercial networks[edit]

Conventional networks[edit]

Minor and digital multicast networks[edit]

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 ShopHQ.

Nomenclatures for commercial networks[edit]

Nicknames referring to the major American networks (most established by the industry publication Variety as "slanguage") are as follows:

Additionally, both The WB and UPN were referred to as "weblets" by Variety, because of their smaller audiences and reduced program schedules. The CW and MyNetworkTV have more often been called "netlets," which utilizes the same definition.

Spanish-language commercial networks[edit]

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 Gala TV) have certain stations which can be received in parts of the United States 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 CW affiliate XETV-TDT in Tijuana) maintain affiliations with U.S.-based English or Spanish networks, but mainly target 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 television 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.

Non-commercial networks[edit]

Public/cultural/educational non-commercial[edit]

Religious[edit]

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

Defunct networks[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Nielsen estimates 116.3 million TV homes in the U.S., up 0.4%". Nielsen N.V. May 5, 2014. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Although ABC, NBC, and CBS were founded prior to 1946, those companies did not begin continuous over the air TV broadcasting until 1946 (NBC) and 1948 (ABC and CBS).
  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)
  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. MyNetwork TV was created by the Fox Broadcasting Company to give programming to several Fox-owned UPN affiliates, upon the shutdown of UPN.
  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. ^ Date at which the Spanish International Network (founded in 1962) was reorganized and became Univision.
  7. ^ UniMás was originally launched as Telefutura in January 2002, before rebranding under its current name in January 2013.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "The Top 25 Digital Broadcast Networks". tvnewscheck.com (NewsCheckMedia). June 17, 2014. Retrieved July 10, 2014. 
  9. ^ Mas Musica TV was purchased by Viacom in January 2006; it merged with MTV en Español to form MTV Tr3s on September 25 of that year.
  10. ^ http://www.ionmedianetworks.com/business/ion-television
  11. ^ a b These channels are available over the air on digital channels or digital subchannels only.
  12. ^ "Stations for Network - AMG TV". RabbitEars.Info. SatelliteGuys. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Network founded by Lowell "Bud" Paxson
  14. ^ Jewelry Television has around three direct affiliates; most other stations carrying its programming are indirectly affiliated with the network through Shop at Home.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ a b c d These networks are carried only on the digital subchannels of local TBN affiliates, and are owned by TBN.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Although Cornerstone Television was founded in 1970, the network did not begin even limited broadcasts until 1979.
  20. ^ Date at which WHTV acquired two additional stations. World Harvest Television is a product of LeSea Broadcasting.
  21. ^ Andrew Dodson (October 25, 2013). "TV Scout Brings Program Grid To Over-The-Air TV". TVNewsCheck. Retrieved November 22, 2013. 
  22. ^ Sara Bibel (May 21, 2013). "Season-to-Date: Univision Increases Total Viewers, While ABC, Fox and NBC Decline". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved January 30, 2015. 
  23. ^ "Exitos is NBCUniversal Largest Subchannel Network - Subchannel Report". Across Platforms. 
  24. ^ Michael Insalaco. "22 Spanish Networks Are On Full-Power Subchannels - Subchannel Report". Across Platforms.  Report data posted here.
  25. ^ Diana Marszalek (December 1, 2014). "Telemundo Stations Debut Classic TV Diginet". TVNewsCheck. Retrieved February 6, 2015. 
  26. ^ Michael Kokernak. "La Familia cable network to nest SOI TV programming". Across Platforms. 
  27. ^ "Programming Reports - SOI TV". Comcast.