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.
In countries where most networks broadcast identical, centrally originated content to all their stations and where most individual TV transmitters therefore operate only as large "repeater stations", the terms "television network", "television channel" (a numeric identifier or radio frequency), and "television station" have become mostly interchangeable in everyday language, with professionals in TV-related occupations continuing to make a difference between them. Within the industry, a tiering is sometimes created among groups of networks based on whether their programming is simultaneously originated from a central point, and whether the network master control has the technical and administrative capability to take-over the programming of their affiliates in real-time when it deems this necessary — the most common example being national breaking news events.
In North America in particular, many television networks available via cable and satellite television are branded as "channels" because they are somewhat different than traditional networks in the sense defined above, as they are singular operations – they have no affiliates or component stations, but instead are distributed to the public via cable or direct-broadcast satellite companies. Such networks are commonly referred to by terms such as "specialty channels" in Canada or "cable networks" in the U.S.
A network may or may not produce all of its own programming. If not, production houses such as Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures can distribute their content to the different networks, and it is common that a certain production house may have programs on two or more rival networks. Similarly, some networks may import television programs from other countries, or use archival programming to help complement their schedules.
Some stations have the capability to interrupt the network through the local insertion of TV commercials, station IDs, and emergency alerts. Others completely break away from the network for their own programming, known as regional variation. This is common where small networks are members of larger networks. The majority of commercial television stations are self-owned, even though a variety of these instances are the property of an Owned And Operated television network. The commercial television stations can also be linked with a non-commercial educational broadcasting agency. It is also important to note that some countries have installed nationwide television networks, so that individual television stations can act as common repeaters of nationwide programs.
On the other hand, televisions networks also undergo the impending experience of major changes related to cultural varieties. The emergence of cable television network has made available in major media markets on television, programs aimed at American bi-cultural Latinos. Such a diverse captive audience presents an occasion for the networks and affiliates to advertise the best programming that needs to be aired. This is explained by author Tim P. Vos in his abstract “A Cultural Explanation of Early Broadcast” where he determines Targeted group/non-targeted group representations and also the cultural specificity employed in the television network entity. He notes: Policymakers did not expressly intend to create a broadcast order dominated by commercial networks. In fact, legislative attempts were made to limit the network’s preferred position.
As to individual stations, modern network operations centers usually use broadcast automation to handle most tasks. These systems are not only used for Broadcast programming and for video server play-out, but use exact atomic time from GPS or other sources to maintain perfect synchronization with upstream and downstream systems, so that programming appears seamless to audience viewers.
Famous quotes containing the words television and/or network:
“There was a girl who was running the traffic desk, and there was a woman who was on the overnight for radio as a producer, and my desk assistant was a woman. So when the world came to an end, we took over.”
—Marya McLaughlin, U.S. television newswoman. As quoted in Women in Television News, ch. 3, by Judith S. Gelfman (1976)
“Of what use, however, is a general certainty that an insect will not walk with his head hindmost, when what you need to know is the play of inward stimulus that sends him hither and thither in a network of possible paths?”
—George Eliot [Mary Ann (or Marian)