Total Number of U.S. TV Stations Continues Decline

WASHINGTON—While viewers may have more options than ever on what to watch on TV, the number of TV stations providing content continues to decline, per the latest FCC report on total broadcast stations in the U.S.

The new report, which covers 2017 up until Sept. 30, tallies the total of TV broadcast stations at 7,890. That is down from the 2016 report at the same time of 7,963 and more than 500 less than what it was in 2012 (8,402). Part of the decline comes from the spectrum repack, which has results in 12 stations in the process of going off the air since selling their spectrum. 

The overall numbers may be decreasing, but the type of stations have proven to be fluctuating over that five year period. UHF Commercial TV stations have decreased from the 2016 number of 1,035 to 1,019; meanwhile, VHF Commercial TV stations have seen a slight uptick from 352 to 359. On the Educational TV side, UHF have netted a loss of two stations since 2012 (288 down to 287) and VHF has gained two (107 to 109).

Class A UHF and VHF stations have both seen a decrease in the five years, but VHF experienced a slight recovery in 2017, adding eight stations to bring its total to 24; UHF dropped from 401 in 2012 and 2016 to 379 in 2017.

A similar case occurred with UHF/VHF translators. While down from the 1,162 operating in 2012, VHF translators bumped up to 864 in 2017 from 501 in 2016. UHF translators actually grew from 2012 (3,013) to 2016 (3,292), but dropped to 2,886 in 2017.

For UHF low power TV stations, however, 2017 marked an overall growth from its 2012 numbers. FCC reported that 1,595 UHF low power stations are operational, up from 1,583 in 2012 and the 1,422 in 2016. VHF was the inverse; there were 397 VHF low power stations in 2012 and after totaling 553 in 2016, that number came back down to 369 this year.

In total, including radio stations, the FCC reported that 32,975 broadcast stations are currently operating in the U.S. The full statistics are available here.