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Broadcasting Network

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Definition: A broadcasting network is a collection of radio or tv stations that air programming from the same centralized source.

In television, the major U.S. broadcasting networks are ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS. The network airs programs that run on all of its stations -- like American Idol, which airs on the Fox network nationally in prime time.

A network may own a local station outright or have an affiliation agreement with a company that owns a station. That agreement is a contract binding the local station to the network for a set number of years. Occasionally, a station will switch affiliations.

In the mid 1990s, Fox was able to get several local stations in major cities to switch from the "big three" networks -- ABC, CBS or NBC -- to Fox. That gave Fox's Nielsen ratings a huge boost and helped it achieve parity with the other networks.

In cable television, some channels use the word "network" in their name even though they are a single channel and do not meet the definition of a network. The Food Network and the Game Show Network are two examples.

CNN's official name is the Cable News Network. While it is a cable channel, it does have agreements with many local stations across the country to share news stories and video, which makes it similar to a network. Those stations sign contracts with CNN to share resources, even though the stations are also affiliates of one of the broadcasting networks.

Stations do that to double their news resources. A station that's an affiliate of both CBS and CNN can use either source as it sees fit. CNN may have better video of a tornado touching down than CBS, so the station may choose to air CNN's video.

Also Known As: net, tv net, radio net, media net

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