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Basic Cable Channels

Most cable and satellite companies separate their stations into two groups: basic cable and premium cable. Premium channels are available at a higher cost than their basic cable counterparts, allowing service providers to charge premium fees, whereas basic cable channels are available to most television subscribers.

Basic channels are broadcast on an unencrypted wave that makes them more accessible by most subscribers. While there is some sort of fee paid to the cable companies to receive the basic channels, the payments are much lower than those required to gain access to the premium channels. Basic channels also air more commercials than premium channels because the lower customer fees do not cover the costs of transmitting the channels.

Depending on the provider, the number of basic cable channels can vary widely. Typically, cable companies offer somewhere between 30 and 70 channels in their basic cable watching television

All of these main networks are available to basic cable channels subscribers:

— Founded in 1943, the ABC is one of the major networks available to basic cable customers. Although it has faltered some in the success of its programming in the early 2000s, this network is now Disney-owned, and it has produced some major television hits lately, including “Once Upon a Time,” “Modern Family,” and “Dancing with the Stars.”

NBC — As the oldest broadcasting network, NBC has been on television since its launch in 1939. The station enjoyed a heyday of comedy programming in the 1990s, which included “Friends” and “Seinfeld,” but it has seen some diminished ratings in recent years. The network relies on a combination of comedies, dramas, and reality programming, such as comedy “The New Normal” and reality series “The Voice.”

CBS — Current network powerhouse CBS began broadcasting on television in 1941, and despite being frequently under-the-radar in the early 2000s, current programming such as “2 Broke Girls,” “Mike and Molly,” “The Good Wife” have breathed new life into the station.

FOX — Launched in 1987, FOX brings the National Football League to television weekly in the fall and early winter. In addition to this yearly programming, FOX is responsible for juggernaut reality show “American Idol” and the newly popular “The Following” starring Kevin Bacon.

CW — The CW is the newest of the five main networks on basic television, and it was recently launched in 2006. Although just a fledgling network in comparison to the other stations, the CW has grown its fan base with cult favorites “The Vampire Diaries,” “Gossip Girl,” and “The Carrie Diaries.”

PBS — This non-profit television station has continued running through the generous donations of viewers, bringing educational programming to children each day for over half a century. Long-time favorites “Sesame Street” and an updated version of Mr. Rodgers titled “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” air in the mornings, while new critical and commercial hits such as “Downton Abbey” draw an adult crowd in the evenings.

Beyond these main networks, there are a number of other stations that are common to basic cable packages across all services. Cable providers can set the number and range of channels available in each package, making some basic cable groupings a list of only 30 channels while others can have nearly 70 channels. Provided here is a catalog of common channels for basic cable providers, listed along with some of their highest-rated original programs. Anyone interested in these channels should check their specific service with their potential provider before starting a subscription:

TBS — late-night talk show “Conan,” comedies “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” and “Are We There Yet?”

TNT — “Southland,” “Falling Skies,” and the re-booted “Dallas”

A&E — “Duck Dynasty,” “Hoarders,” and various iterations of “Storage Wars”

Lifetime — drama “Army Wives,” reality favorites “Dance Moms” and “Project Runway”

USA Network — WWE events, original dramas “Psych,” “Burn Notice,” “White Collar”

Nickelodeon — top animated programs “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “The Fairly OddParents,” and “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness;” comedies “Big Time Rush” and “Marvin Marvin;” and preschool favorites “Dora the Explorer,” “Max and Ruby,” and “Team Umizoomi”

ABC Family — popular teen programs “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” “Pretty Little Liars,” and “Switched at Birth”

Animal Planet — “Finding Bigfoot,” various iterations of “Animal Cops,” “Pit Boss,” “River Monsters”

Discovery Channel — “Cash Cab,” “How It’s Made,” “Man vs. Wild,” “MythBusters”

TLC — “19 Kids and Counting,” “Extreme Couponing,” “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” “My Strange Addiction,” “Cake Boss”

HGTV — “House Hunters,” “Love it or List it,” “Property Brothers”

History Channel — “Ice Road Truckers,” “MonsterQuest,” “Modern Marvels”

CMT — “Redneck Island,” “Chainsaw Gang,” “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team”

The Weather Channel — “Daily Planner,” “First Forecast,” “Weekend Now”

FX — dramas “Sons of Anarchy,” “Justified,” and “American Horror Story;” comedies “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Louie,” and “The League;” and animated favorite “Archer”

MTV — reality series “The Real World,” “16 and Pregnant,” “Buckwild”

VH1— reality series “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew,” “Single Ladies,” “Basketball Wives”

Comedy Central — “The Daily Show,” “South Park,” “The Colbert Report,” Tosh.0,” “Workaholics

AMC — “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead,” “The Killing”

CNN — broadcasts 24-hour news and news commentary programs

ESPN — broadcasts 24-hour sports and sports commentary programs