Why Are TV Shows Called Programs? (Answered)

Many of us are so used to calling TV shows “programs” that we don’t even think about why this might be. We tend to just use words like this without considering where the words came from. If you have suddenly asked yourself why TV shows are referred to in this way, there is actually any explanation for this language being used.

Originally, the word programming was used for TV in the early days because program is a word that is used to describe the series of events for a concert, a show, a dinner, or even a play. The offerings were lined up in a specific order before they were shown on TV, hence the use of the word program. People often think that the use of the word program is due to what TV can do to rewire our brains, but this was not a concept that was in play at the time that TV shows were created.

Programs Continue to be Used to Talk About TV Shows Today 

Possibly due to the link with computers, which run “programs”, people still refer to TV shows as programs even today. This is one of the most common words that is used to explain that something is scheduled or is offered on a routine basis, and the use of computer technology has cemented this use of the word in most people’s minds.

While this was not the original intent behind the use of the word with regard to TV time, it still does make sense to call these shows “programs”. Modern TV audiences have a hard time imagining that, at one time, TV shows were only shown during specific hours of the day. This was part of why the word “program” was associated with the time that the TV was displaying content. We live in a 24-hour entertainment world these days, which makes it tough to imagine the TV going blank overnight and for specific holidays.

While conspiracy theorists will likely tell you that the use of the word program refers to mass brainwashing done by the TV, this is not related to the reason for the naming convention for TV shows.

Will the Word Change Over Time?

It is possible that the use of the word program will fall out of favor over time. Language changes as social awareness changes and as technology takes on new identities. The rise of streaming services will likely have an impact on the names that are used to describe TV offerings. We could see a distinct difference in the names used to describe TV over time because of these alterations.

Programming will likely always be used to describe factors related to computer processes, but it is possible that what we think of as TV will change so completely over time that the use of the word program will no longer make sense. The English language can change exponentially over a relatively short period of time, so anything is possible with regard to common slang or common-use words.

This article was last updated on February 16, 2023 .

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!
Categorized as TVs

By Adam

The Display Blog staff account. We know display.