Cable television is a system of delivering television programming to consumers via radio frequency (RF) signals transmitted through coaxial cables, or in more recent systems, light pulses through fibre-optic cables. This contrasts with broadcast television (also known as terrestrial television), in which the television signal is transmitted over-the-air by radio waves and received by a television antenna attached to the television; or satellite television, in which the television signal is transmitted over-the-air by radio waves from a communications satellite orbiting the Earth, and received by a satellite dish antenna on the roof. FM radio programming, high-speed Internet, telephone services, and similar non-television services may also be provided through these cables. Analog television was standard in the 20th century, but since the 2000s, cable systems have been upgraded to digital cable operation.
The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (June 2022)
A "cable channel" (sometimes known as a "cable network") is a television network available via cable television. When available through satellite television, including direct broadcast satellite providers such as DirecTV or Dish Network, as well as via IPTV providers such as Verizon FIOS and U-verse TV, this is referred to as a "satellite channel". Alternative terms include "non-broadcast channel" or "programming service", the latter being mainly used in legal contexts. The abbreviation "CATV" is used in the US for cable television and originally stood for community antenna television, from cable television's origins in 1948; in areas where over-the-air TV reception was limited by distance from transmitters or mountainous terrain, large community antennas were constructed, and cable was run from them to individual homes.