The following is a list of events affecting American television in 2021. Events listed include television show debuts, finales, and cancellations; channel launches, closures, and re-brandings; stations changing or adding their network affiliations; and information about controversies and carriage disputes.
After 36 years, Alex Trebek's final episode of Jeopardy! aired, originally intended to air Christmas Day. Trebek died of stage 4 pancreatic cancer on November 8, 2020, ten days after the episode was recorded. Beginning with the January 11 episode of the show, a series of guest hosts headed by the show's highest-winning champion, Ken Jennings, will act as the show's host for the remainder of the season. Jennings himself will host the first few weeks of episodes that will be aired following Trebek's last episode.
Nickelodeon airs its first ever NFL game, a special version aimed at younger viewers who were new to watching football, of the wildcard playoff between the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears (a game that also aired on sister network CBS), which added classic Nickelodeon gags such as CGI-created slime cannons which sprayed the end zones when a touchdown was scored, and prerecorded explanations of penalties from the star of Young Sheldon, Iain Armitage, with announcer and former NFL star Nate Burleson making special analogies, such as comparing how successfully completing football plays is similar to childhood activities like studying in school. Although the game was aimed at children, it was reportedly enjoyed more so by their Generation X and millennial parents, who grew up watching the channel in its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s.
The 63rd Grammy Awards will air on CBS with Trevor Noah as the host. The awards were originally scheduled to be held on January 31, but were moved to March after Los Angeles County began experiencing a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
The 74th Tony Awards are to air on CBS. Originally scheduled for June 7, 2020 from Radio City Music Hall, the ceremony was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 25. Since then, an early June nominations announcement was postponed due to the George Floyd riots, and Broadway theatre has shut down for the remainder of 2020, rendering any traditional ceremony with full cast performances and attendance likely impossible. On August 21, 2020, it was announced the ceremony will be held virtually sometime in the fall, with nominations revealed October 15 and ceremony details to be announced on a later date. The ceremony would later be postponed to early 2021 as a result of the continued uncertainty of the pandemic.
On July 24, 2020, the Twitter accounts of G4TV and G4's Attack of the Show! and X-Play, reactivated to post a teaser video of a G4 revival in some form, slated for 2021 (the form of distribution, whether as a return as a wireline network or a digital component of a service such as Peacock, was not divulged). The teasers were timed for Comic-Con@Home, the first virtual streaming edition of the annual fan convention, San Diego Comic-Con International. Consequently, G4's website also redirected to a nonstop game of Pong (which if won, redirects to a mailing list sign up for updates), once again reflecting back to the network's original launch in 2002 and their shutdown in 2014.
AMC Networks rebranded Urban Movie Channel — launched in 2014 as the first streaming service dedicated to television programs and films aimed at Black audiences, and content made by Black filmmakers — as Allblk, citing the original name no longer fit the brand, its audience or culture. The service will also increase original programming, with five new series initially slated to debut in 2021.
Following its acquisition of the network's satellite slot from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Allen Media Group will relaunch the former channel space of family-oriented digital multicast network Light TV as TheGrio.TV (branded after the Black cultural news and entertainment website acquired by parent company Entertainment Studios in 2016), adopting a focus around movies, television series, news and lifestyle content aimed at African American audiences. There has been some confusion however, as Light TV continues to run on some affiliates and online, while some former Light TV affiliates have stopped carrying the network in the run-up to TheGrio.tv.
CBS All Access will adopt the Paramount+ name currently used in certain international markets. The rebranding will occur amid an ongoing expansion of the service — originally developed as a subscription platform for CBS featuring original programs, content from the CBS television network and CBS Television Distribution, and live streams of local CBS stations, CBS' ad-supported OTT services and events from CBS Sports — to include content from other television and film brands owned by ViacomCBS (including Paramount Pictures, MTV, BET, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon).
Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper fame announced in an interview on the November 9, 2018 edition of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon they were returning to the fold of the former Scripps Networks Interactive networks now owned by Discovery, Inc. to launch a new full-time network based on their Magnolia lifestyle brand after taking a year's hiatus to consider other offers outside of HGTV. The Gaines will have the minority stake in the network. Discovery announced on January 16, 2020 it would launch October 4 in the same year. Coronavirus-caused filming restrictions that would affect the network's debut lineup forced Discovery to delay the network's launch date indefinitely on April 21, 2020, with some programming to launch as a part of Discovery+ instead to build word-of-mouth for the linear network launch.
Paramount Network will convert from a mix of movies, original unscripted programs, and off-network shows to an all-movie channel (consisting of both new original productions and content from the Paramount Pictures library). The renamed Paramount Movie Network will continue to carry at least one scripted series or miniseries each quarter (among them, existing drama series Yellowstone, which will modify its episode format to meet the network's new focus). Along with discontinuing unscripted programming, certain Paramount Network original programs (such as Bar Rescue and Lip Sync Battle) will move to other ViacomCBS-owned cable channels.
Following the completion of its acquisition of Ion Media, on January 14, the E. W. Scripps Company announced that it will shutter three Ion networks — Ion Plus (a secondary schedule of programming from Ion's content distributors), Ion Shop (all-paid programming) and Qubo (children's programming) — and allocate their spectrum space on Ion Media's stations to offer networks from existing Scripps subsidiary Katz Broadcasting (consisting of Court TV, Court TV Mystery, Bounce TV, Laff and Grit). This will eventually consolidate Ion's operations into Katz, and replace expiring contracts with other broadcasters that carried the Katz networks outside of mainstream Scripps markets, while offloading those networks on mainstream Scripps stations with limited spectrum capacity during the ATSC 3.0 transition. (Ion's namesake flagship channel will continue as a Scripps-owned network.)
On January 12, 2021, CNN announced that it would shut down the CNN Airport network, which was available in numerous airports across the United States. The network, which carried a mixture of family-friendly news and entertainment programs from select WarnerMedia networks (as well as some high-profile sporting events), had been seeing declining viewership since the financial crisis of 2007–08 as a result of the increased proliferation of Wi-Fi-enabled devices which themselves allow access to the mainline CNN network; the decline was accelerated in 2020 when global commercial air travel declined greatly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This section outlines affiliation changes involving English and Spanish networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS, The CW, Univision, etc.), and format conversions involving independent stations. Digital subchannels will only be mentioned if the prior or new affiliation inolves a major English and Spanish broadcast network or a locally programmed independent entertainment format.
In late 2019, when owner Entravision Communications released its third-quarter earnings, it announced that it would not pay the 20-year lump sum renewal for the station's license. As a result, the station is expected to cease operations at the end of its concession in December 2021 after broadcasting as an English language station for most of its 42-year history. The closure of XHRIO-TDT leaves Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon to depend on American television stations for English-language content.
Vermont PBS announced on February 17, 2017 that it will sell the broadcast license for WVTA, which transmits from Mount Ascutney, for $56 million in the FCC spectrum auction. In a statement, the member network said that its other signals will be upgraded to cover the viewing area (southeastern Vermont and southwestern New Hampshire) served by WVTA.