A television movie (also "TV movie", "TV-movie", "made-for-TV movie", etc.) is a photoplay that does not normally feature in movie theaters but is produced for, and released to, television only. It is commonly considered a type of movie, but some people restrict the latter term to those that do play in cinemas.
Earlier in the history of television, TV movies were produced with big stars and higher budgets. Very often, in the 1970s, TV movies were a source of controversy, like Linda Blair's movies Born Innocent and Sarah T. - Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, as well as Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway and Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn, which were vehicles for former Brady Bunch actress Eve Plumb.
Today, with the advent of cable television, TV movies tend to be inexpensively produced and often feature B-actors or stars whose career is in decline. They are typically made by smaller crews and they rarely feature expensive special effects. Some TV movies are notoriously melodramatic, with soap opera style plots; typical plots associated with the genre include "disease of the week" movies, or films about domestic violence. The series of Moment of Truth Movies that run on the Lifetime cable network exemplify these melodramatic tendencies. Certain actresses, such as Valerie Bertinelli and Michele Lee, have been stereotyped as TV-movie actresses due to the number of films in which they have appeared.
Often a successful series may spawn a TV movie sequel after ending its run, and TV movies may also be used as the first episode of a series, otherwise known as a pilot.
TV movies are often broadcast on major networks during sweeps season, or on cable networks that specialize in producing them such as HBO.
A variant is Direct-to-video movies.