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Television is a medium used to disseminate information, news, and entertainment that includes moving pictures and sound. More than 2,900 television broadcasting and cable and subscription programming establishments were active in the United States in 2016, generating total annual revenue of $120 billion, according to the market research group First Research. Approximately 95.2 percent of U.S. households owned televisions in 2016. 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 2015 there were slightly more than 49 million cable television subscribers in the United States, but cable companies are losing ground as viewers switch to streaming video available through the Internet. Broadband subscribers numbered more than 55 million, continuing to grow a gap increasing since 2014. 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 original programming, for example Netflix's House of Cards, has become increasingly popular.
Television companies and networks employ people who work onscreen and behind the camera. Actors, news anchors, talk show hosts, sportscasters, musicians, and others all appear in programming. Off camera, producers, directors, writers, broadcast engineers, camera operators, editors, marketing professionals, executives, advertising sales workers, and many others keep the industry moving. Big stations in metropolitan centers may employ several hundred people, while a station in a small city may employ as few as 35.
Employment in television is expected to grow in coming years. Consolidation of stations under large networks; new technologies that require less specialized training to operate; and competition from cable systems, satellite, and streaming video will all influence the rate of growth and the type of jobs available. Television is evolving as it races to keep pace with new technology, and workers who remain savvy about digital devices and platforms will experience the most success.
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