All about the most popular TV channels in the US

American TV shows are well-known due to streaming services, but before such services took over the world by storm, cable TV and stations broadcast the shows that most people love. With a large country like the US, you’d expect a wide selection of channels to be available on your TV, no matter which state you live in. But which channels have become so popular in the country to date? Take a look at some of them here:

NBC

NBC stands for National Broadcasting Company and is one of the ‘Big Three’ of TV networks in the United States. The network’s logo is a stylised peacock, symbolising how it became a pioneer in colour television broadcasting in the mid-1950s. Owned by Comcast, it currently has 13 stations and over 200 affiliates across the US.

History

NBC was founded on June 19, 1926 by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), making it the oldest major broadcast network in the United States. General Electric (GE), which owned RCA, sold and repossessed NBC decades later. In 2003, French company Vivendi formed a merger with GE for its entertainment assets, leading to the creation of NBC Universal.

In 2011, Comcast purchased a controlling interest in NBC Universal, making it the new owner of NBC.

Most well-known programs

NBC has always been a notable part of people’s television experience due to its shows that have been loved by many over the years. Here’s a list of programs NBC is known for:

  • Saturday Night Live. This variety show features satirical skits and stand-up comedy featuring cast members that include Pete Davidson, Heidi Gardner, and Kate McKinnon. Special guest stars occasionally grace the SNL stage to host the show such as Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, and Alec Baldwin.
  • House M.D. This TV drama first aired in 2004 and ran for eight seasons. It stars Hugh Laurie as Dr Gregory House, a medical genius who provides the correct diagnoses and treatment for different patients at the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. House ended in 2012 but its episodes are available on NBC’s website.
  • Law and Order. This crime drama first aired in 1990 and has more than 20 seasons on its run. Each episode of the show has two parts: the first being the investigation of the featured crime and the second being the prosecution of the defendant. The show had starred numerous actors including S. Epatha Merkerson and Sam Waterston.
  • Psych. This show is a detective comedy drama that premiered in 2006 and ran for eight seasons until 2014. It stars James Roday as Shawn Spencer, a freelance consultant who works with the Santa Barbara Police Department. Spencer pretends to be a psychic but still manages to help the police solve complicated crimes.
  • The Office. This mockumentary sitcom stars Steve Carell, John Krasinski, and Jenna Fischer, among others. The show first aired in 2005 and it ran through nine seasons until 2013. The Office follows the activities, antics, and relationships of the employees of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc.

CBS

Another member of the ‘Big Three’ of US television networks, CBS stands for Columbia Broadcasting System, signifying its ties with the Columbia record label. CBS currently has over 240 owned and operated and affiliated stations across the United States, making it one of the top 200 most successful companies in the country.

History

CBS was founded on January 27, 1927 as a radio station under the name United Independent Broadcasters. It was rebranded to Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System four months later as its main investor was the Columbia Record Label. A year after that, the network became known as CBS as the record label was no longer its owner.

CBS dominated the airwaves in the US in the succeeding decades due to its soap operas. The network got in a controversy in the late 1930s due to the way it adapted H.G. Wells’ The War of The Worlds. Lots of people thought the community of Grover’s Mill, New Jersey was being attacked by invaders from Mars due to the breaking news-style narration of the story. It soon led to a law banning faux news bulletins from radio dramas.

CBS became a pioneer of the American TV landscape in the 1950s and became largely successful even when it repeatedly changed owners in the 1990s. In 1994, CBS became affiliated with the Westinghouse Electric Corporation. In 2000, CBS’ former subsidiary Viacom took over the network. Currently, the network is owned by Paramount Global.

Most well-known programs

Known for its eye logo, CBS can easily be spotted while channel surfing. Some of its most iconic programs include:

  • NCIS: Los Angeles. This show is an action series that combines military and police procedural drama and stars Chris O’Donnell, LL Cool J, and Linda Hunt, among others. Premiering in 2009, NCIS: Los Angeles follows the activities of special agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s Office of Special Projects.
  • Dexter. This mystery crime drama follows Dexter Morgan who is a forensic technician by day and a serial killer who claims the lives of the guilty by night. The show ran from 2006 to 2013 and stars Michael C. Hall as the titular character. Dexter was nominated for over 20 Primetime Emmy Award categories during its run.
  • How I Met Your Mother. Premiered in 2005 and ended in 2014, this sitcom stars Neil Patrick Harris, Cobie Smulders, and Josh Radnor, among others. The show narrates how Ted Mosby’s life was like as a single man living in New York and culminates in him finally meeting Tracy McConnell, the love of his life.
  • Blue Bloods. This crime and police drama first aired in 2010 and stars Tom Selleck, Bridget Moynahan, Will Estes, and Len Cariou. The show revolves around a family of police officers from New York City with the patriarch Frank Reagan as the city’s Police Commissioner.
  • The Big Bang Theory. Another sitcom known all over the world, this show ran from 2007 to 2019 and stars Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, and Kaley Cuoco, among others. The show follows the lives of scientists Sheldon and Leonard who live in the same apartment building as waitress Penny and fellow scientists Howard and Raj.

ABC

The American Broadcasting Company serves as the flagship property of the TV division of Walt Disney and is the third member of ‘The Big Three’ of American television networks. ABC is dubbed ‘The Alphabet Network’ because of its initialism. Currently, the network owns and operates eight stations and is affiliated with over 230 across the US.

History

The ABC was first created as a radio station under the name NBC Blue Network. In 1943, the station became independent and started entering the TV landscape in 1948. In the 1950s, the ABC merged with United Paramount Theatres, a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures. Three decades later, the network purchased an 80% interest in cable sports channel ESPN. In 1995, the ABC was purchased by Disney.

Most well-known programs

Over the past two decades, ABC became the home of beloved productions that tell their own stories or serve as continuations from franchises owned by Disney. Here are some familiar titles from the network:

  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This action series takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and follows a team from the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. This team handles strange cases involving the evil organisation Hydra or other alien species. The show ran from 2013 to 2020 and stars Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, and Chloe Bennet, among others.
  • Lost. This mystery adventure series tells the story of how the survivors of a plane crash survive on the mysterious tropical island where they ended up. The show ran from 2004 to 2010 and stars Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway, and Evangeline Lilly, among others.
  • Castle. This show combines the crime/mystery genre with comedy and drama and stars Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic. The series follows mystery novelist Richard Castle as he gets questioned for a copycat murder based on one of his novels. Castle meets Kate Beckett, the detective handling the murder case, and the two help each other solve different crimes. The show ran from 2009 to 2016.
  • The Good Doctor. This medical drama is based on the Korean show of the same name and stars Freddie Highmore as Shaun Murphy, an autistic young surgeon who also had Savant syndrome. The show premiered in 2017 and follows Murphy’s residency at the fictional San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital.
  • Grey’s Anatomy. This show premiered in 2005 and remains to be one of the most popular medical dramas in the US. It stars Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey, the daughter of a famous surgeon, as she develops her career from a surgical intern to chief of general surgery at the fictional Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital.

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