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Once upon a time, there were companies that transmitted radio and television signals to the extent of their signal strength. These companies bought entertainment content from a single source. The content sources bought the content they resold from a wide variety of entities called "studios".

The companies with the transmitters thought it would be a good idea to have a brand to identify with. The companies that sold content thought it would be a good idea for that brand to be related to them.

The studios thought, "What the hell. You want to buy content? Call it whatever you want, just send money."

The notion of "network" was born.

In today's world -- where distribution of content is by cable, satellite, DVD, or internet -- the folks with the transmitters are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Viewers care less about the "network" brand. The shows are becoming more relevant than the networks that broadcast them, meaning that the show is the brand. Which means that the "studio" is now what it is all about, for the viewer. Not so much for the networks.

Other than the "big three four", the purpose of "network" now mostly serves to identify a niche outlet on cable/satellite; for example, the Food Network and Animal Planet tend to have a lot of cooking shows and wildlife shows, respectively. Going back to "the show is the brand" concept, many if not most "home-brew" "networks" and "channels" on the Web (say, on YouTube) are really best described as shows.

Related tropes:

Not to be confused with Network, a film about TV networks.

Networks Worldwide:

United States, Broadcast Television

The Big Four

Other Broadcast Networks

Defunct Broadcast Networks

Spanish-Language Networks

  • Azteca America
  • Estrella TV
  • TeleFutura
  • Telemundo
  • Univision; effectively America's #5 network based on ratings if you count it among the English networks.
  • V-me (airs on PBS stations as a subchannel)

Networks which air almost exclusively over digital subchannels (e.g., anything which is a .2 or .3 channel)

  • Create (owned by a consortium of WNET Newark/New York, WGBH Boston, and American Public Television and airing on PBS affiliates; mostly features craft, how-to, and travel programming)
  • The Local AccuWeather Channel (often not labeled beyond showing national forecasts from AccuWeather, shows Exactly What It Says on the Tin; is carried mostly by former NBC Weather Plus carriers and other stations. Formerly on ABC O&O's before their contract ended with ABC.)
  • PBS World (effectively PBS's Plus One channel if you consider it plus one day for their news and documentary programming.)
  • Retro Television Network (original broadcast equivalent of TV Land. Used to have the NBC Universal libraries, but that deal was not renewed by new NBCU owner Comcast, leaving the network with spread out rights of other series from the few series not owned by the Big Five studios, very low cost Canadian Content dramas, car shows on the weekend, ancient reruns of the talk show Crook & Chase and syndication flop Cold Case Files; the latter examples Comically Missing the Point of what "Retro" means. Depending on the affiliate, additional programming - such as an extended newscast, extended weather information, first run syndication programs or new episodes of a network program that was pre-empted by local coverage and programming - might be run. Because of this, many stations have been fleeing to Me TV and Antenna TV, who are Friendly Enemies that grabbed that important NBCU deal out from under RTV's nose.)
  • This TV (airs almost exclusively series and movies from the libraries of MGM (at least what hasn't been sold off yet; you're not going to find their Golden Age films at all here, as those are the property of Turner Entertainment now), along with cartoons like Heathcliff and The Catillac Cats and Inspector Gadget from the old Di C animation studio now owned by Cookie Jar. Owned by Chicago's Weigel Broadcasting and MGM).
  • Antenna TV (a new network from Tribune which shows mainly classic programming from the Sony Pictures library, which includes All in The Family and that show's numerous Spin-Off programs, along with library shows from the producer of Three's Company, and share the NBC Universal library with Me TV.)
  • Me TV (This TV's sister network via Weigel. Started out as a local channel in Chicago committed to classic television which has been very well received by viewers in the Windy City, then eventually split into two channels (one drama, one comedy). Expanded to Milwaukee when Weigel bought a home shopping station to put it on there. Went national in December 2010 with a schedule mainly consisting of archive shows from the CBS and Paramount libraries, and shares NBC Universal content with Antenna TV.)
  • Universal Sports (NBC's channel for mostly Olympic sports competitions outside of Olympic years; carried on all ten of the network's owned-and-operated stations, as well as several others. Soon to leave the subchannel realm to go cable-only based on Comcast doing what they can to make the Olympic rights a premium property.)
  • NBC Plus (previously known as NBC Weather Plus, an automated weather network that was mostly shut down when NBC acquired a stake in The Weather Channel in 2008; formerly carried on most of the network's affiliates; as NBC Plus, it is restricted now to a few stations that keep it running out of a lack of other choices; others have replaced it with a locally-programmed "Nonstop" channel, which shows Headline News-like newscasts and lifestyle programming on a repeating loop)
  • Live Well Network (lifestyle network owned by ABC; so far, it is confined to the network's eight owned-and-operated stations and a few other stations here and there)
  • Bounce TV (a network programmed mainly to African-American audiences; hoping to be a broadcast equivalent to BET, though without that network's notoriety)
  • Music Video networks like TheCoolTV (which specializes in a eclectic blend of music videos) and The Country Network (nothing but country videos) which take advantage of the Network Decay prevalent with MTV and CMT
  • Qubo

United States, Cable and Satellite

United States Television Providers

 (With vast marketing campaigns, they often advertise themselves as networks in their own right with original content. See also Cable-Satellite Mudslinging.)

United States, Radio


 (Note that, as the CRTC is more conservative in its licensing than the FCC, non-national networks have a strong presence.)

  • English Broadcast Networks
    • CBC
    • CTV
    • Global Television Network
    • CTV Two (formerly A Network; before that, A-Channel; before that, as NewNet, with individual stations branded "The New [last two letters of call sign]", e.g. CHRO Pembroke = "The New RO") Secondary network to CTV.
    • City TV (formerly A-Channel sister network; now owned by Rogers Media)
    • OMNI, a CTV "multicultural" service which mixes American series with regional foreign programming and world newscasts available via broadcast in Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver but airing nationwide.
    • E! Network (formerly CH, after flagship station CHCH Hamilton) Secondary network to Global.
      • The economic meltdown killed this network in August 2009; Global sold off most of the E! stations (some of them for as little as $1), while the E! station in Red Deer, Alberta went completely silent. CHCH is now heavy on local news and movies.
  • Far North broadcast networks, broadcasting in English and Native languages
    • CBC North
    • APTN, the Aborginal Peoples' Television Network (formerly TV Northern Canada). Mostly rebroadcasters of flagship station CHTY-TV Yellowknife. Available nationwide on cable.
  • French Broadcast Networks
    • Radio-Canada (the French CBC)
    • TVA
    • TQS (after severe financial problems, TQS went bankrupt before being bought by Remstar and renamed V)
  • Canadian Multichannel Networks (cable and satellite)

UK, Television

  • The BBC (various channels, 1936-39; 1946-present)
    • CBBC Channel (2002-present)
  • ITV (1953-present)
  • Channel 4 (1982-present)
  • Channel Five (1997-present)
  • Sky 1 (1982-present)
  • Other Satellite & Cable Channels
    • FX (2004-present)
    • Dave (2007-present)
    • Al Jazeera (2006-present)
    • Baby TV
    • UK versions of other networks
  • Internet Video On Demand
    • See Saw, the Arqiva-owned remnants of Project Kangaroo, an attempt by The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel Five to "do" Hulu in the UK which was quashed by the broadcast and competition regulators, under the behest of Rupert Murdoch.
      • Online on-demand services operated by individual networks -- iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, and Demand Five respectively.
  • Former Channels
    • Setanta (1990-2009)
    • Bravo (1985-2011; no relation to the American channel)
    • Channel One (2007-2011; renamed from Virgin 1 in 2010)

UK, Radio



Middle East


Latin America and Brazil

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