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
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.
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 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 DiC animation studio now owned by Cookie Jar Entertainment. 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.)
- 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 a lack of other choices.
- 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 Me TV, using the NBC Universal syndication and movie libraries and limited original programming.
- 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.
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
(Note that, as the CRTC is more conservative in its licensing than the FCC, non-national networks have a strong presence.)
- English Broadcast Networks
- 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 RO for flagship CHRO. 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).
- Global Television Network, formally owned by the now bankrupt media company Canwest before being sold to the cable 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.
- Omni Television, a chain of multicultural stations (two in Toronto, branded as Omni.1 and Omni.2 respectively, along with Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver) owned by Rogers which primarily broadcast ethnic programming throughout much of the day (including foreign-language newscasts), along with sitcoms and other syndicated fare marketed towards mainstream viewers.
- The Omni brand was also used for two religious stations in Winnipeg and Vancouver that Rogers had acquired in 2004; they followed a roughly similar format, except with religious programming instead of ethnic programming. In 2008, Rogers offloaded the two stations onto the Vision TV owner S-VOX (later acquired by Zoomer Media), who re-branded them under a similar format as JoyTV, Meanwhile, Rogers would buy Vancouver's multicultural broadcaster Channel M (a locally-owned station of a similar style, who wrestled away Rogers' bid for a multicultural station in Vancouver), and moved the Omni brand there instead.
- NTV, which is technically an independent station and not a network per se (CJON-TV in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador), but carries news from CTV and both news and entertainment programs from Global. Was Newfoundland and Labrador's CTV affiliate until 2002.
- 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), the E! station in Red Deer, Alberta (CHCA-TV) went completely silent, CHBC in the Okanagan switched to Global (primarily due to its popular newscasts), and the Jim Pattison Group stations became affiliates of City. CHCH is now heavy on local news and movies, 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).
- 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, although headquartered in Winnipeg. Available nationwide on cable.
- French Broadcast Networks
- Télévision de Radio-Canada (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.
- English Educational Networks
- TVOntario (owned by the Ontario government)
- Knowledge Network (cable channel in British Columbia owned by the provincial government)
- 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)
- 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.
- French Educational Networks
- Télé-Québec (educational network owned by the Quebec government)
- TFO (the French equivalent of TVO, owned by the Ontario government). 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 English
- 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)
- Movie Central (formerly Superchannel; Western Canada only) and The Movie Network (TMN) (formerly First Choice; Eastern Canada only). Both partner to form HBO Canada.
- MuchMusic (long Canada's answer to MTV. Interestingly, its parent company, Bell Media, the owners of CTV, also owns MTV Canada.)
- MuchMore (formerly MuchMoreMusic)
- 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.
- TSN (The Sports Network), Canada's version of ESPN.
- The Weather Network (often abbreviated TWN)
- Treehouse TV (24/7 network catering to preschool audiences. Owned by Corus Entertainment, which also owns YTV.)
- Canadian Multichannel Networks (cable and satellite) 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 d'Information (RDI), operated by the CBC as the French equivalent of the CBC News Channel.
- 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 English)
- CityNews Channel, a sister to Citytv in Toronto.
- CP24, a local cable news channel in Toronto operated by CTV. 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, scheduled to launch in March 2013 as a sister to Global BC (CHAN-DT in Vancouver).
- Local 24-Hour News Networks (in French)
- La Chaîne des Nouvelles (LCN), operated in Quebec by the TVA network.
- Defunct Channels
- 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
- 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