An independent station, in the television broadcasting industry, is a television station which is not affiliated with any broadcast network. The programming schedules of these stations mainly carry a mix of syndicated, brokered and local programming in time periods when network programs would otherwise air (such as during primetime, from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific or 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. Central/Mountain). Stations affiliated with minor networks The CW and MyNetworkTV can also be considered as quasi-independent stations as those networks only program two hours per night in primetime (from Sunday to Friday for the CW and from Monday to Friday for MyNetworkTV), leaving weekends and all other times to their affiliates to program.
Independent stations are most common in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in Canada, although they are not as common as they were in the past due to the formation of networks like FOX, UPN and the WB (the latter two later merging in 2006 to form the CW) in the United States and the Global Television Network and Citytv in Canada leading to many then-independent stations joining those networks in their respective countries. Independent stations were also once common in the United Kingdom and Australia as alternatives to respective state-owned networks the BBC and the ABC, but those stations subsequently joined British commercial network ITV and Australian commercial networks Seven Network, Nine Network and Network Ten, which made traditional independent stations in those countries uncommon. In Japan, independent stations are those TV stations that are not affiliated with any network whose main stations are based in Tokyo. In Europe and the rest of the world, independent stations are all but non-existent as all TV stations in those areas are either owned by state broadcasters or by commercial networks.
Independent stations generally follow one of the following formats:
- General entertainment independents, the format used by most independent stations in the United States and a few in Canada, consisting of shows acquired from program syndicators (such as feature films, first-run programs and off-network reruns of sitcoms and dramas), some brokered programming (mainly religious programming and infomercials) and some local programming (mainly newscasts and public affairs shows). In past decades, independent stations traditionally carried animated cartoons (generally in the mornings and afternoons on weekdays before and after school and on Saturday mornings), off-network and first-run sitcoms, dramas and Westerns, movies, game shows, professional wrestling shows, variety shows, religious programs and locally produced news, talk, sports (in particular, live broadcasts of games of local sports teams in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and the NHL) and children's shows. Independent stations also sometimes aired network shows that were not carried by local network affiliates. Since the late 1990s, programming on independent stations has consisted mainly of syndicated courtroom, talk and reality shows and local morning news shows in daytime hours, along with off-network sitcom and drama reruns, game shows and newsmagazines in early prime and primetime hours and infomercials in overnight hours (and, on some stations, on weekend mornings and afternoons).
- Religious independents, stations carrying syndicated and/or local religious programming that are not affiliated with religious networks (like the Trinity Broadcasting Network or Daystar). Some religious independents also carry non-religious mainstream programming, mainly the off-network sitcoms and dramas also carried by general entertainment independents (which may be subject to editing for content by the religious stations carrying such shows), to attract viewers and generate revenue for those stations.
- Non-commercial educational independents, educational stations which are not affiliated with the PBS network; these stations produce their own local educational, news, public affairs, documentary and lifestyle programs as well as acquiring educational content via syndication.