Television is a medium used to disseminate information, news, and entertainment that includes moving pictures and sound. About 2,900 television broadcasting and cable and subscription programming establishments were active in the United States in 2020, generating total annual revenue of $140 billion, according to the market research group First Research. About 96 percent of U.S. households owned televisions in 2019. Television is the most popular mass media in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. Today major news events from anywhere in the world are often broadcast globally, allowing people to follow occurrences in other countries and witness catastrophes and successes.

In the United States, local television stations are affiliated with one of the national networks (such as FOX, ABC, CBS, and NBC). This means the local station has a contract with the network to allow it to broadcast a large amount of its programming in addition to locally produced programming, such as local news shows. Most scripted programming, reality shows, and game shows, all of which can be expensive to produce, are provided by networks. These stations broadcast their signal for free.

In contrast, cable networks provide programming only to paid subscribers. Many cable channels specialize in areas of interest, such as comedy, food, or sports. Others offer original programming very different from what airs on broadcast networks. In 2019, there were about 46.7 million cable television subscribers in the United States, down from the 49 million subscribers in 2015. Cable companies continue to lose ground as more viewers switch to streaming video available through the Internet. Broadband subscribers, on the other hand, continue to grow, from more than 55 million in 2015, to more than 101 million in 2019. Providers, such as Netflix and Hulu, offer their subscribers programs on-demand. This mainly includes movies and television shows already released through other channels, but...