Number of commercial TV stations in the U.S. 1950-2017

In 2017, there were 1,761 commercial television stations on the air in the United States, slightly fewer than in previous years but still over a thousand more than in 2000. Over one hundred TV stations were sold in the U.S. in 2017, and as of October 2018 almost 120 stations had been sold that year.

Major English-language commercial networks in the United States include NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox, all of which have terrestrial TV stations of their own and are also aired on pay TV.

Advertising and commercial television

Whilst a 2017 survey revealed that the majority of U.S. adults who took part were very dissatisfied with the amount of commercials on cable and satellite TV, the very nature of commercial television is that it mainly relies on advertising to survive.

As an example, NBCUniversal generates billions of U.S. dollars in broadcasting TV ad revenue every year, and the cost of a 30-second spot during the broadcast of NBC’s ‘Thursday Night Football’ has been known to exceed half a million dollars. Companies ranging from Toyota to Taco Bell spend millions on TV advertising every week, and without that regular revenue source many TV stations would struggle to stay financially afloat.

Number of commercial TV stations in the United States from 1950 to 2017

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Release date

December 2017


United States

Survey time period

1950 to 2017

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Statistics on "Television in the U.S."

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