A Network in the United States carries at least 3 forms of content; News programming of national and international events, typically aired in the morning and evening; entertainment programming that ranges from situation comedies, dramas, daytime dramas, “reality programming”; and sports programming that typically airs major league sporting teams. In the past, the networks owned the copyrights and most of the rights to the production of the games, but for the most part, in recent years such as the NFL; the networks pay the League millions of dollars to just air a game that is copyrighted by the League for their viewers.
There are four major networks, CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox. Secondary networks like The CW, and there’s Spanish speaking networks like Univision and NBC’s sister network Telemundo. Former networks on the secondary level were The WB and United Paramount Network. In the 1950s, the DuPont Network was the fourth, and it failed. It wasn’t until a generation till a fourth network would reappear called Fox, and actually had ties to the DuPont Network (the former owned-and-operated stations.)
Executive History (This is not a complete history nor should it be used as a primary source of information)
CBS, NBC and ABC started as radio networks. A lot of early entertainment began in radio. “Soap operas” nicknamed for daytime drama because many of the soap manufacturers sponsored or even was the production company had began in radio. Legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow had began his journalism career in radio for CBS, in a new medium in a new industry. The first reports of what would become of World War II was reported by him in their London bureau. Prior to the 1940s, AT&T had been part of broadcasting of what called the Blue Network, while NBC was known as the Red Network. But after the FCC banned AT&T from continuing in that business, would become of the American Broadcasting Company known as ABC.
Television was an experimental medium from the 1920s to the early 1940s; NBC and CBS were the first to try this. After World War II, there was a focus in getting TV throughout the country. By the late 1940s, some of the major markets had signed on, and by the mid 1950s, at least one or two station in major cities signed on full time in broadcasting.
If you are familiar with computer networking; TV networks kinda, sorta had this system. Initially networks paid local stations to be their affiliate to air their content, often shipped in film weeks in advanced or after the fact if it was a live program. By the 1960s, methods moved from actually shipping the content, to carrying it out via dark cable. Low fi methods such as kindescope was one; by the 1970s, major affiliates would receive the network programming and nearby affiliates would point to that major affiliate, creating a hub/spoke -like hierarchy.
By the 1980s, satellite, the common carrier for cable networks was ready enough for TV networks. In fact by 1984, the breakup of AT&T, kinda put the networks into a bind. Some smaller market affiliates used the Long Lines or long distance service to receive audio to some of those smaller affiliates in the use of microwave radio or just a literal dial into the master affiliate.
— to be continued —