Live television refers to a television production broadcast in real-time, as events happen, in the present. From the early days of television until about 1958, live television was used heavily, except for filmed shows such as I Love Lucy and Gunsmoke. Although videotape was invented in 1957, it cost $300 per one hour reel (equivalent to $2,528 in 2015) meaning it was only very gradually adopted. Some genres, such as soap operas, did not completely abandon live broadcasts until the mid-1970s. Today, television networks provide most live television for morning shows with television programs such as: Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, This Morning, etc. broadcast live in the UK, Sunrise live in Australia, Canada AM live in Canada, and Today, Good Morning America & CBS This Morning in the U.S. airing live only in the Eastern Time Zone. (the only exceptions being CBS This Morning – Saturday and the Sunday edition of Weekend Today which air live in the Eastern & Central time zones). Spanish language morning shows (such as Despierta America & Un Nuevo Día), unlike their English speaking counterparts, air live in the Eastern, Central, & Mountain time zones. (tape delayed in the Pacific time zone).

Most other daytime talk shows (as well as late night programs) are taped before a live studio audience earlier in the day, and edited for later broadcast. During prime time, the Miss America Pageant, and talent shows (such as Dancing With The Stars) air live in the Eastern & Central time zones. Other talent shows (such as American Idol, The Voice, & America’s Got Talent) will pre-record audition rounds and broadcast the live rounds in the Eastern & Central time zones where viewers have the opportunity to vote for their favorite contestants. Most local television station newscasts are broadcast live in the U.S. as they are an essential medium for providing up-to-the-minute weather forecasts and breaking news stories. Broadcast television networks in the United States typically air their evening newscasts live in the Eastern & Central time zones. (a separate « Western Edition » is broadcast live to viewers in the Pacific Time Zone.) When a major national breaking news event occurs, broadcast television networks will break into regularly scheduled programming and will televise a live « special report » in all time zones. Local television stations break into regularly scheduled programming in the event of severe weather warnings or major local breaking news stories that occur within their viewing area.

Cable news outlets (such as CNN & Fox News Channel) air continuous live programming during the day, and air rebroadcasts of earlier live shows during the late night hours, except in cases where breaking news occurs. In general, a live television program was more common for broadcasting content produced specifically for commercial television in the early years of the medium, before technologies such as video tape appeared. As video tape recorders (VTR) became more prevalent, many entertainment programs were recorded and edited before broadcasting rather than being shown live. Entertainment events such as sports television and The Academy Awards continue to be generally broadcast live in all U.S. time zones. The advent of the Internet and social media outlets (e.g. Facebook & Twitter, which resulted in numerous « spoilers ») prompted NBC to begin broadcasting the Golden Globe Awards live in all time zones in 2009, and CBS began offering it’s affiliates in the Mountain & Pacific time zones a live broadcast of the Grammy Awards in 2016. (with stations in the Pacific time zone airing a rebroadcast of the Grammys immediately after the live broadcast during prime-time.) Most other award shows in the USA typically air live in the Eastern & Central time zones.

The PBS NewsHour airs live on PBS stations in the Eastern Time Zone. Sunday morning news programs in the USA such as Meet The Press on NBC, This Week on ABC, & Fox News Sunday air live in the Eastern Time Zone (including select markets in the Central Time Zone), while CBS Sunday Morning & Face The Nation on CBS air live in the Eastern & Central time zones. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on NBC airs live only in the Eastern Time Zone. CBS airs the Thanksgiving Parade live in the Eastern, Central, & Mountain time zones. (taped delayed in the remaining time zones) The McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade broadcasts live from Chicago, IL in all USA time zones on WGN America.

Other events that air live nationally in all USA time zones include Presidential and Congressional election coverage, Presidential Inaugurations, the State of the Union Address, Presidential news conferences, Presidential Addresses to the Nation, the Tournament of Roses Parade, and funerals of major national or international public & religious figures. (i.e. former presidents or a Pope) Local television stations air live local election coverage & special events. (such as large scale parades, big city marathons, funerals of major local public & religious figures, inauguration ceremonies of big city mayors and governors, installation masses of cardinals or bishops in a major Catholic archdiocese.