Remote controls that come packaged with a television, cable box or other device typically don't need to be programmed, but universal remote controls generally do. The process of programming a remote control varies by manufacturer.
Televisions and devices that control them use unique infrared flashing frequencies to work properly; programming a remote control involves setting up the remote to use the correct frequencies. Many universal remote controls have an automatic setup feature; users engage this mode and press a button until the television or device responds. They then program the remote to use that setting. Many models also allow users to manually enter codes specific to different manufacturers, though this may require several attempts before finding the correct code.