The majority of households have more than one set.
The peak ownership percentage of households with at least one television set occurred during the 1996–97 season, with 98.4% ownership.
As a whole, the television networks that broadcast in the United States are the largest and most distributed in the world, and programs produced specifically for U.S.-based networks are the most widely syndicated internationally.
Due to a recent surge in the number and popularity of critically acclaimed television series during the 2000s and the 2010s to date, many critics have said that American television is currently undergoing a modern golden age.
In the United States, television is available via broadcast (also known as "over-the-air" or OTA) – the earliest method of receiving television programming, which merely requires an antenna and an equipped internal or external tuner capable of picking up channels that transmit on the two principal broadcast bands, very high frequency (VHF) and ultra high frequency (UHF), to receive the signal – and four conventional types of multichannel subscription television: cable, unencrypted satellite ("free-to-air"), direct-broadcast satellite television and IPTV (internet protocol television).
There are also competing video services on the World Wide Web, which have become an increasingly popular mode of television viewing since the late 2000s, particularly with younger audiences as an alternative or a supplement to the aforementioned traditional forms of viewing television content; the 2010s saw the development of several virtual MVPD services offering "skinny" tiers of channels originally developed for cable and satellite distribution at a reduced base price compared to providers using the more established pay television distribution methods.
Individual broadcast television stations in the U.S. transmit on either VHF channels 2 through 13 or UHF channels 14 through 36. During the era of analog television, broadcast stations transmitted on a single universal channel; however due to the technical complexities of the present digital television standard, most stations now transmit physically on an RF channel (or "minor channel") that is mapped to a virtual channel (or "major channel"), which – with some exceptions – typically differs from their physical allocation and corresponds to the station's former analog channel.
The UHF band originally spanned from channels 14 to 83, though the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has reduced the bandwidth allocation for UHF three times since then. Channels 70 to 83 were cut for emergency and other telecommunications purposes in 1983.
In 2009, channels 52 to 69 were removed by mandate at the completion of the transition from analog to digital television.
In 2020, transition away from channels above 36 was completed to make room for its use by telecommunications companies, after a 2017 spectrum auction.
As in other countries, television stations require a license to broadcast legally (which any prospective broadcaster can apply for through the FCC) and must comply with certain requirements (such as those involving programming of public affairs and educational interest, and regulations prohibiting the airing of indecent content) to retain it; the FCC's Board of Commissioners maintains oversight of the renewal of existing station licenses approaching their expiration, with individuals or groups who wish to oppose the granting of a renewal to a licensee based on any disagreement over rule compliance or any other issues inclined to contest it for consideration of revocation. Free-to-air and subscription television networks, however, are not required to file for a license to operate.
Over-the-air and free-to-air television do not necessitate any monthly payments, while cable, direct broadcast satellite (DBS), IPTV and virtual MVPD services require monthly payments that vary depending on the number of channels that a subscriber chooses to pay for in a particular package. Channels are usually sold in groups (known as "tiers"), rather than singularly (or on an a la carte basis).
Most conventional subscription television services offer a limited basic (or "lifeline") tier, a minimum base package that includes only broadcast stations within the television market where the service is located, and public, educational, and government access (PEG) cable channels; in many smaller markets, this tier may offer stations from adjacent markets that act as default network affiliates for areas not served by a local affiliate of one or more of the major broadcast networks; however, since the digital television transition in the late 2000s, these have been replaced in some cases by digital subchannels that have agreed to provide a particular network's programming within the local market.
Elevated programming tiers commonly start with an expanded basic package, offering a selection of subscription channels intended for wide distribution (primarily those that launched between the 1970s and the 1990s); since the upspring of digital cable and satellite television during the mid- and late 1990s, additional channels with more limited distribution are offered as add-ons to the basic packages through separate tiers, which are commonly organized based on the programming format of the channels sold in the tier.
A la carte subscription services in the U.S. are primarily limited to pay television (more commonly known as "premium") channels that are offered as add-ons to any programming package that a customer of a multichannel video programming distributor (also known as a cable or satellite "system" or "provider") can subscribe to for an additional monthly fee.
La primera producción de importancia en color de TVE (no la primera retransmisión) fue, sin embargo, en 1969. El Festival de la Canción de Eurovisión aquel año se realiza desde el Teatro Real de Madrid con equipo en color prestado por la BBC. Sin embargo, aunque para el exterior (Europa, y vía satélite para Chile, Puerto Rico y Brasil) se realiza a todo color, por falta de equipos modernos, la emisión dentro de territorio español y la copia a magnetoscopio que se conserva en el archivo de RTVE son en blanco y negro.
Main articles: Terrestrial television and List of United States over-the-air television networks The United States has a "decentralized", market-oriented television system, particularly in regard to broadcast television.
The nation has a national public television service known as the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Local media markets have their own television stations, which may either be affiliated with or owned and operated by a television network.
Stations may sign affiliation agreements with one of the national networks for the local rights to carry their programming; these contracts can last anywhere from one to ten years, although such agreements often last on average between four and six years. Except in very small markets with a limited number of commercial stations (generally, fewer than five), affiliation agreements are usually exclusive: for example, if a station is affiliated with NBC, it consequently would not air programs from ABC, CBS or other conventional broadcast networks but may carry specialty services intended to be carried on digital television signals on one or more subchannels.
Arrangements in which television stations carried more than one network on its main signal (which often resulted in some network programs being not being cleared to air locally by the station, thereby limiting their national carriage and resulting in viewers having to rely on an out-of-market station receivable in their area that airs the locally pre-empted show through an affiliation with that same network to see it) were more common between the 1940s and the 1960s, although some arrangements continued as late as 2010.
Today, programming from networks other than that with which the station maintains a primary affiliation are usually carried over digital subchannels, which increasingly since the mid-2000s, have allowed one of the major broadcast networks to expand their national coverage to markets where they would have previously either had to settle for a secondary affiliation with a full-power television station (which maintain transmitting power as high as 1,000 kilowatts and outputs a signal extending as far as 80 miles [130 km] from the transmitter site), or an exclusive or primary affiliation with a low-power station with more limited signal coverage (which maintain a reduced transmitting power not exceeding 100 kilowatts, with a more limited signal radius covering an area 30–60 miles [48–97 km] from the transmitter).
However unlike in other countries, to ensure local presences in television broadcasting, federal law restricts the amount of network programming that local stations can run.
Until the 1970s and 1980s, local stations supplemented network programming with a sizeable amount of their own locally produced shows, which encompassed a broad content spectrum that included variety, talk, music and sports programming. Today however, many (though not all) stations produce only local news programs, and in some cases, public affairs programs (most commonly, in the form of news and/or political analysis shows); the remainder of their schedules are filled with syndicated programs, or material produced independently and sold to individual stations in each local market.
The method of most commercial stations – those that rely, at least partly, on advertising for revenue – acquiring programs through distributors of syndicated content to fill time not allotted to network and/or local programming differs from other countries worldwide where networks handle the responsibility of programming first-run and syndicated programs, whereas their partner stations are only responsible for the programming of local content. The international programming model is used in the U.S. by some smaller networks and multicast services, which are more cost-effective for their affiliate stations since they require little to no acquired or locally produced programming to fill airtime at the local level.
The federal government has imposed limits on how many stations an individual owner can hold. The earliest limits restricted owners from holding more than five stations across the entire country, and no more than one in any given market. As of 2017, these limits have been relaxed substantially.
Since 1999, an ownership group is now legally allowed to own up to two signals in a market (which can amount to many more actual channels through digital transmission); since the early 1990s, some broadcasters have also used a shell company to circumvent certain ownership restrictions by way of a local marketing agreement; groups can cover up to 78% of the United States with their signals under the "UHF discount" (originally passed in 1985 to benefit UHF television stations that, prior to the 2009 digital transition, often had spotty signal quality), which allows broadcasters to count ownership of UHF stations by 50% of the station's audience reach.
(The "discount" was repealed by the FCC under Chair Tom Wheeler and his Democrat-led board in 2015, but was reinstated by Wheeler's successor and former board colleague, Ajit Pai and his fellow Republican commissioners in April 2017.)
All four of the major television networks directly own and operate a number of stations, concentrating mostly on the largest metropolitan areas. The largest ownership group in terms of coverage of the U.S. is the E. W. Scripps Company, whose stations cover 65% of the nation; Scripps primarily operates affiliates of the six major networks, most maintaining full-scale local operations and/or news departments, though its reach greatly expanded in 2021 through its purchase of Ion Media (corporate parent of namesake flagship network Ion Television), whose stations by contrast are entirely centrally operated and do not maintain local programming, which it acquired to have that group's stations serve primarily as pass-through outlets for Scripps’ various multicast network properties.