"As with any personal relationship," it was pointed out in 1976, "the network-affiliate marriage relies on give and take all year. There are good moments and bad, but the parties are bound together by common interest." That interest was the ability to connect with the potential television-viewing public throughout the country. "Without its affiliates, each network would have only the handful of stations it owns to telecast its news, entertainment and sports programs. That would make it impossible to generate the advertising revenue needed to pay for the programing – much less make a profit on it," it was explained. 

Affiliates were the local TV stations nationwide which had exclusive rights to network programing in its area. "The reason to have a network is economic," Henry Aurandt founded WTVE in 1979 said. However "the network-affiliate marriage gets complicated. The reason: affiliates don't always want everything the network has to offer and can, either because they don't like a particular show or have something else they would rather run instead, refuse to telecast, or clear, the network offering. Or they can move it to a different time period." As stated, "You can have the best program in the world, but if it's not watched by the public because it's not cleared, it's really no good." Hence the networks must  continually romance their affiliates each spring.

Richard Salant of CBS remarked, "It's a delicate and complex thing. It's like the Constitution: if either side were to go all the way in asserting its rights, the whole thing would fall apart." The most important program on any network affiliate was said to be the local news because "it creates for you, hopefully, a positive image in the community, and it's really the benchmark for your broadcasting day from an audience point of view. More people will watch (you) because of the news image than for any other reason." One advertiser made the observation in 1994, "People don't look for Channel 13. They look for 'The Simpsons' or 'Murphy Brown'. If you're really into 'Murphy Brown' or 'The Simpsons' you'll find them."

It was mentioned in 1986, "Networks prefer a local affiliate that is a 'VHF' (very high frequency) station rather than a 'UHF' (ultra high frequency), because VHFs tend to reach more people through a more powerful signal, and their lower channel numbers are easier to dial." As clarified, "Without its network, each local station would have to put up its own money to produce and buy programs to fill its entire schedule. Network programing, on the other hand, costs nothing; in fact, the affiliates are paid by the networks to run it...The station reap less money but is freed from any capital risk and at the same time is airing top-quality shows that draw big audiences." Affiliates could also sell ad time during its own program time and the periods between the end of one network show and the beginning of another. However when the network program went on air on the affiliate station, the commercial revenues from within the program belonged to the network.

Non-affiliated local stations were known as "independent stations". They "usually stuck with reruns, sports and movies in prime time." According to 1974 statistics from the Federal Communications Commission, 81% of the affiliated stations were profitable while only 38% of the independents were. "The fact is that affiliated TV stations are far more successful financially than independents." Kay Masters of the Evening Independent told readers in 1985, "Programing a television station is like building a house of cards. The strength (lead-in audience) – or weakness – of one show affects the programs that surround it. If the hand is steady and the program a hit, an entire time period's lineup benefits. If there is a slip and the program flops, ratings can crash like tumbling cards. Someone has to deal the hand, to decide which program is an ace and which is a potential joker." The operations manager of one local TV station confessed, "Being No. 1 is an enviable position…When you are No. 1, it's harder to make changes because of success, but you know you've got to change and yet, you can't risk losing the audience you have, to gain the audience you didn't have." Another added, "You don't program by personal wants or desires. If you do that, you can fall into a bad trap. I don't mean to say that being No. 1 is the main criterion. We try to program for as many tastes as we can. We have shows on the air that will get small rating but we feel are successful because they serve the purpose.”

The professor of journalism ethics, Edward Wasserman, told The Miami Herald in 2004, "Those affiliates (independent owned stations, not network owned) are hugely profitable, and if our analysis was correct, they are heading for extinction. Why? Their technology is obsolescent. Over-air TV signals have a limited radius so networks need local stations to retransmit programs. But now (in 2004) some 90% of households get TV via cable or satellite. TV will migrate to the Net, and if networks can reach a national audience online, why bother with costly affiliation contracts. The surviving TV ex-affiliates will be local-content specialists, with intensely local-news and current affairs programing the heart of their operations. They would partner with other information providers and become an online portal that links to coverage from parts of their communities that are now voiceless."

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