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.
In the USA, other than the "big
, and NBC
), 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.
Not to be confused with Network
, a film about TV networks.
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United States, Broadcast Television
The Big Four
Other Broadcast Networks
Defunct Broadcast Networks
Networks which air almost exclusively over digital subchannels (e.g., anything which is a .2 or .3 channel)
- Azteca America
- Estrella TV
- MundoFOX, FOX's sister network which carries archived programming dubbed in Spanish, along with the myriad of series airing on FOX's networks in Latin America
- UniMás (formerly Telefutura), a sister network to Univision
- Telemundo; the #2 Spanish network. A sister to NBC.
- Univision; effectively America's #5 network based on ratings if you count it among the English networks, but the #1 Spanish network. When it beat NBC for the #4 slot for the February 2013 sweeps, it was a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for Univision, but the exact reverse for NBC.
- V-me (airs on PBS stations as a subchannel)
- 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 MeTV 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 DiC animation studio now owned by Cookie Jar Entertainment. Owned by Chicago's Weigel Broadcasting and MGM).
- Movies!, a Weigel/Fox cooperative mainly carrying classic films from the 20th Century Fox library in widescreen; with Fox Movie Channel's rebranding and Flanderization as the FX Movie Channel, effectively the new home for classic Fox films.
- Antenna TV (a 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 shares the NBC Universal library with MeTV.)
- MeTV (Movies!' 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.)
- 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) was 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 apathy or being blocked from other sub-net affiliates.
- NBC-owned stations replaced it with a locally-programmed "Nonstop" channel, which showed Headline News-like newscasts and lifestyle programming on a repeating loop. The Chicago affiliate of NBC Nonstop aired some hockey games of the Chicago Wolves AHL team, based in suburban Rosemont, Illinois.
- The NBC Nonstop channels morphed into Cozi TV in 2012. Cozi is another retro channel in the vein of Antenna or MeTV, using the NBC Universal syndication and movie libraries and some of the Nonstop local programming.
- Live Well Network (lifestyle network owned by ABC, carried by that network and several other large chains mainly bound to ABC affiliation, though the network is neutral on-air to its Disney ownership)
- 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 ZUUS Country (nothing but country videos) which take advantage of the Network Decay prevalent with MTV and CMT.
- Qubo, a children's oriented network carried on Ion's stations, airing mostly educational animated series and a late-night block of classic Filmation shows. Formally ran the Saturday morning block on NBC and Telemundo before it got axed for PBS Kids Sprout shows.
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
- Internet Video On Demand
- Crackle: Owned by Sony
- Hulu: A joint venture by Fox, NBC and ABC
- Netflix: The Video On Demand by subscription section of its own company.
United States, Radio
Major English Broadcast Networks
Minor English Broadcast Networks and Systems
- CBC, the national, government-owned network.
- CTV, owned by Bell Media (formerly CTVglobemedia), a division of a Canadian telecommunications and mass-media giant Bell Canada (who first took ownership of the network in 2000 as part of a joint venture with The Globe & Mail newspaper known as Bell Globemedia). Founded in 1961, CTV has the honour of being Canada's most-watched TV network.
- Global Television Network, formally owned by the now bankrupt media company Canwest before being sold to the Calgary-based cable and telecommunications company Shaw.
- City, originally an independent station in Toronto (CITY-TV, now CITY-DT, leading to its long-time brand of Citytv until a new name of just "City" was phased in late 2012), expanded into a network of its own through a chain of acquisitions by former owner CHUM Limited and Rogers Media. Was formally a sister to A-Channel until CHUM got bought by CTV; due to Executive Meddling by the CRTC, CTV was forced to find a different buyer for Citytv.
- NTV (CJON-TV in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador), which is technically an independent station and not a network per se (branding itself as "Canada's Superstation"), but carries news from CTV and both news and entertainment programs from Global. Was Newfoundland and Labrador's CTV affiliate until 2002.
In Canada, while there are major broadcast networks recognized by the CRTC (either that, or big enough to just be called networks by the media
), there are also smaller groups of commonly-owned stations referred to as "television systems", which carry similar brands and share programming (but may not have a single consistent lineup between markets). The distinction has since become blurred from a regulatory standpoint (especially given that unlike in America, there are relatively fewer "affiliates" in Canada's major networks), but smaller groups of this nature are typically considered systems.
Far North broadcast networks, broadcasting in English and Native languages
- CTV Two, a secondary network to CTV. Its stations were originally known as "The New XX" (last two letters of the callsign, such as "The New VR" for flagship CKVR, and "The New WI" for CHWI in Windsor. They were known internally as the NewNet stations) when formed by CHUM as a spin-off of CITY-TV in Toronto. Took on the A-Channel brand in 2005 after CHUM switched the A-Channel chain in Western Canada (which it had obtained through its purchase of Craig Media) to Citytv, was acquired by CTV in 2007 and later re-launched as just A and later CTV Two.
- Also formerly ASN (a cable channel in Atlantic Canada, once the region's version of CityTV) and Access (an educational TV channel in Alberta).
- E! Network (formerly CH, after flagship station CHCH Hamilton) Secondary network to Global, formed from the leftovers of Canwest's acquisition of Western International Communications in 2000; the group owned affiliates of several networks, but the majority of its Western stations switched to Global, and the rest became part of CH.
- 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), the E! station in Red Deer, Alberta (CHCA-TV) went completely silent, CHBC in the Okanagan became a semi-satellite of Global BC (it was worth keeping since its news programs were still doing well), and the Jim Pattison Group stations became affiliates of Citytv instead. CHCH is now heavy on local news in the daytime and programs its primetime lineup with leftover syndicated and network shows, while CJNT tried to be a multicultural independent with some programming from its Hamilton sister, until its owners gave up and sold it to Rogers (who affiliated it with City). As a condition of the deal, Rogers and its former owner chipped in resources for a new, proper multicultural station in Montreal.
- Omni Television, a group of multicultural stations (two in Toronto, branded as Omni.1 and Omni.2 respectively, along with Omni Alberta in Edmonton and Calgary, and Vancouver, known as Omni BC) owned by Rogers which primarily broadcast ethnic programming throughout much of the day (including foreign-language newscasts), along with overflow programs from City, sitcoms, The Late Show and The Late Late Show, and other syndicated fare to attract advertisers so they can pay the bills. Also contained a pair of religious stations with a similar format for a period, which are now known as.......
- Joytv, a multi-faith religious station in Vancouver (okay, actually Fraser Valley, but close enough) and formerly Winnipeg, which have a very similar format to the Omni stations, but with religious and family-oriented syndicated fare. In fact, they were Omni stations for a period: the Fraser Valley station was originally owned by the non-profit Trinity Television, known as NowTV, and supported by both donations and advertising. Facing financial issues, Trinity sold it (along with a yet-to-have-launched Winnipeg station) to Rogers, who re-purposed the Omni brand from its Toronto stations on them. When Rogers bought Citytv in 2007, it was forced to sell these two stations because they now owned more than one English-language station in Winnipeg and Vancouver (you can usually only own more than one station in a market if they broadcast in different languages, like the Toronto Omni stations). They were eventually sold to the non-profit S-VOX (who also owned Vision TV), who re-branded them under a similar format as Joytv in September 2008 (they had branded using their call letters as an interim measure). S-VOX later sold its broadcasting outlets to Moses Znaimer's Zoomer Media.
- Concurrently, Rogers reached a deal to purchase Vancouver's Channel M (who infamously swayed the CRTC away from Rogers' bid for a multicultural license by being locally owned), giving Rogers a proper multicultural station in B.C.. It was re-branded as Omni BC in September 2008.
- In September 2013, the Winnipeg station dropped all non-religious programming and re-branded as Hope TV. Conveniently, two of Canada's religious networks (Miracle Channel and Grace TV) had effectively affiliated with TBN and Daystar, so there may have been method to that madness.
French Broadcast Networks
- CBC North
- APTN, the Aborginal Peoples' Television Network (formerly TV Northern Canada). Mostly rebroadcasters of flagship station CHTY-TV Yellowknife, although headquartered in Winnipeg. Available nationwide on cable due to must-carry requirements (its one of the few legal "networks" in the eyes of the CRTC).
English Educational Networks
- Ici Radio-Canada Télé, the French arm of CBC.
- TVA, the leading French language private network, owned by the conglomerate Quebecor (a company better known in English Canada for the Sun newspaper chain).
- V, a network that literally called itself the Black Sheep (and was the closest French equivalent to CITY-TV) when it was known as TQS (Télévision Quatre-Saisons), before its bankruptcy and sale to Remstar in 2009. In the past, it was owned by the Pouliot family (who owned Montreal's CTV affiliate), Videotron Cable (who was quickly forced to sell it because they already owned TVA), Quebecor (who was forced to sell it when they bought Videotron because they already owned TVA), and a joint venture between Cogeco and CTVglobemedia.
French Educational Networks
- TVOntario (owned by the Ontario government)
- Knowledge Network (cable channel in British Columbia owned by the provincial government. They also acquired the BBC Kids specialty channel from Shaw and converted it into a commercial-free network. Despite this, it's still partially owned by the BBC's commercial arm.)
- Citytv Saskatchewan, formerly SCN, the Saskatchewan Communications Network (cable-only) (formerly owned by the Saskatchewan government and sold to Rogers Media, but still carries educational shows in the daytime)
- CTV Two Alberta (formerly Access) (formerly owned by the Alberta government and privatized, but still carries educational shows). Originally cable-only, then expanded to over the air with transmitters in Calgary and Edmonton.
Canadian Multichannel Networks (cable and satellite) in English
- Télé-Québec (educational network owned by the Quebec government)
- TFO (the French equivalent of TVO, owned by the Ontario government; they used to be run jointly, but have since separated). Mostly on cable in Ontario, with over the air transmitters only available in areas of Eastern and Northeastern Ontario. Also available on some cable systems in New Brunswick.
- Canal Savoir (local community owned French language educational channel in the Montreal area)
Canadian Multichannel Networks (cable and satellite) in French
- CBC News Channel (formerly CBC Newsworld)
- CTV News Network
- The Comedy Network (a Canadian version of Comedy Central)
- Family (a Canadian version of Disney Channel), formerly known as Family Channel (not related to the American one that formerly had the same name, originally owned by Pat Robertson, that is now ABC Family) Originally owned by Astral Media; new owners Bell Media announced in December 2013 that it would sell it and its sisters to DHX Media (a Mega Corp. in the world of children's television program ownership already, but not a channel owner yet)
- Movie Central (formerly Superchannel; Western Canada only; owned by Corus Entertainment) and The Movie Network (TMN; formerly First Choice; Eastern Canada only; owned by Bell Media). Both partner to form HBO Canada.
- MuchMusic (long Canada's answer to MTV, right down to the Network Decay, even though it still airs music videos more frequently than the original MTV. Interestingly, its parent company, Bell Media, the owners of CTV, also owns MTV Canada.)
- M3 (Like Much, but trying to skew more towards more older viewers with a "Hot Adult Contemporary"-type music slant and more "mature" dramas and sitcoms. Formerly MuchMore and MuchMoreMusic; its got MuchLessName than it once had before)
- Space (the main Canadian science fiction channel, it often broadcasts movies/shows/whatever from SyFy)
- Teletoon, essentially Canada's answer to Cartoon Network. Its parent companies, a partnership of Corus Entertainment (see below) and Astral Media, had incidentally launched a Canadian version of the Cartoon Network. Due to the acquisition of Astral by Bell Media, as of July 2013, Corus Entertainment is expected to redeem the rest of Teletoon soon, officially making it sister to YTV.
- TSN (The Sports Network), Canada's version of the Worldwide Leader (who in fact owns a minority stake in it too).
- The Weather Network (often abbreviated TWN), Canada's response to The Weather Channel (oddly enough, they also own a minority stake)
- Treehouse TV (24/7 network catering to preschool audiences. Owned by Corus Entertainment, which also owns YTV.)
- YTV, the Canadian version of Nickelodeon. Corus is also the owner of Canada's own Nickelodeon. Remember when we mentioned that Corus is buying their remaining stakes in Teletoon and Cartoon Network as well? A company that owns every single children's TV outlet in Canada?
- Not quite, because DHX (who is a mega corp for owning and producing children's programming itself) is buying Family, Disney XD, and Disney Junior. And BBC Kids is owned by Knowledge Network (BC's public broadcaster), so its not a complete monopoly. Let's make that "nearly every single children's TV outlet in Canada."
Local 24-Hour News Networks (in English)
- Canal D, which airs content similar to the Discovery Channel.
- MétéoMédia, the French equivalent of The Weather Network.
- Musique Plus, the French equivalent of MuchMusic.
- Musimax, the French equivalent of MuchMore.
- Le Réseau des Sports (RDS), the French equivalent of TSN.
- Télétoon, the French equivalent of Teletoon.
- VRAK.tv, essentially a French-Canadian version of both YTV and Family.
- Ztélé, a channel showing Speculative Fiction content.
Local 24-Hour News Networks (in French)
- CityNews Channel, a sister to Citytv in Toronto.
- CP24, a local cable news channel in Toronto operated by CTV's station there, CFTO-TV. Was ironically originally a sister to Citytv (the "CP" stood for "CityPulse", the name of Citytv's newscasts at the time).
- Global News: BC 1, launched in March 2013 as a sister to Global BC (CHAN-DT in Vancouver).
- La Chaîne des Nouvelles (LCN), operated in Quebec by the TVA network.
- Ici RDI (Le Réseau d'Information), CBC News Network's French expy.
- C Channel (five months in 1983). Essentially a prototype to the Canadian Bravo (unrelated to either the American Bravo or the now-defunct UK Bravo, although it does share more similarities with the American Bravo).
- CKXT-TV/-DT (2003-2011). Local TV station licensed to Toronto and serving southern and eastern Ontario with rebroadcasters in Hamilton, London and Ottawa. Originally owned by Calgary-based Craig Media (the owners of the original A-Channel in Western Canada that merged into Citytv) from its sign-on in 2003 to 2005 and branded as "Toronto 1", then sold to Quebecor and operated through TVA from 2005 to April 18, 2011 as SUN TV (as a sister to the Sun group of newspapers). Operated as a simulcast of Sun News Network from April 18, 2011 to the station's shutdown on November 1, 2011 (the Ottawa transmitter shut down earlier).
- The BBC (various channels, 1936-39; 1946-present)
- CBBC Channel (2002-present)
- ITV (1953-present)
- Channel 4 (1982-present)
- Channel Five (1997-present)
- Sky (1982-present)
- Other Satellite & Cable Channels
- Fox (launched as 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 Four 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)
Latin America and Brazil