TBS (which stands for Turner Broadcasting System) was originally known as WTCG, a UHF terrestrial television station owned by media mogul Ted Turner that broadcast from Atlanta, Georgia, during the late 1970s. WTCG reportedly stood for "Watch This Channel Grow" (although the "TCG" officially stood for Turner Communications Group, the forerunner to Turner Broadcasting System).
TBS is a national cable channel, available throughout the entire United States. Until October 1, 2007, the national TBS feed could not be viewed within its home market of the Atlanta Metropolitan Area, due to the over-the-air presence of WTBS, which carried a nearly identical schedule, plus the required public affairs programming and E/I programming for children.
The operations of WTBS (channel 17) and TBS Superstation were split in October 2007, with the over-the-air channel becoming WPCH-TV, a general-entertainment independent station focused on the Atlanta area only. For the first time, the national TBS feed is available to cable and satellite subscribers within channel 17's viewing area.
Due to a technicality, cable and satellite companies in Canada are only permitted to carry the over-the-air Atlanta station, and therefore most now carry WPCH ("Peachtree TV") instead of the nationwide TBS channel that other American viewers receive. This dated back to prior to the change, when TBS programming was offered to Canadian viewers through WTBS, not the national cable channel. Many cable companies were apparently unaware of the changeover until after it occurred. As a result, should Canadian cable companies wish to air "cable" TBS, it will be several months before the necessary approvals are received.
WTCG, which dated back to 1967 as a terrestrial station, had been microwaved since the early 1970s to many areas of the Southeastern United States by cable companies picking up the UHF channel 17 signal up off-air and microwaving (sometimes several times) the signal back to their headends. At 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on December 17, 1976, WTCG's signal was beamed via the Satcom 1 satellite to four cable systems in Grand Island, Nebraska; Newport News, Virginia; Troy, Alabama; and Newton, Kansas. All four cable systems started receiving the sleepy 1948 Dana Andrews and Cesar Romero film Deep Waters, which had been in progress 30 minutes. Instantly, WTCG went from its status as a small independent television station that was available only in Georgia and neighboring states to a major coast-to-coast network operation. WTCG became a so-called "superstation" and set a precedent for today's basic cable television.
HBO had moved to satellite transmissions to distribute its signal nationally in 1975, but that was a service cable subscribers were required to pay extra to receive. Ted Turner's innovation signaled the start of the basic cable revolution.
The channel 17 transmitter is located at 1018 West Peachtree Street Northwest, with the antenna located on a large self-supporting tower. The building at this site was once home to the studios of WAGA and, later, channel 17, during its first three years under the callsign WJRJ. Soon after being purchased by Turner, the studios were moved to the former Progressive Club site, a few blocks west.
Currently, the focus of TBS is comedy-related, focusing mostly on sitcom reruns and originally-produced reality series, using the slogan "Very Funny." It is intended as a direct contrast to sister network TNT, which currently focuses on drama-related programs.
On September 1, 2007, a high definition version of the "Superstation" feed of TBS was launched. A digital version of WTBS could already be viewed over-the-air in Atlanta prior to September 1, which was replaced by the "Superstation" HD simulcast, instead of simulcasting Peachtree TV.
Dropping the Channel 17 ID and local advertisers in markets outside of Atlanta
Initially WTCG was identified as "Channel 17" both locally in Atlanta and on cable systems outside of Atlanta. Also, the same exact shows that ran locally ran nationally. In 1979, Turner changed the callsign to WTBS, branding it "Superstation WTBS" with "17" as part of the logo.
In 1981, Turner decided to have almost all shows continue to air both locally and nationally, but to separate the feeds. The station would be known locally in Atlanta as "Superstation 17". The terrestrial signal would continue to air local commercials as well. Nationally, though, the station would not mention the channel number "17" and would have logos identifying it only as "Superstation WTBS". Separate national advertising would air on the superstation feed. Additionally, a handful of national shows (mostly movies) were preëmpted locally in order to broadcast FCC-mandated news, public service, and children's programming. This continued until the switchover to Peachtree TV. Programming on WTBS has always been Syndex proof and TBS is licensed to run all programming not only for the marker Atlanta, but nationally. Most of these shows run nationally are also syndicated in local markets on the respective local stations.
The WTBS-TBS split
In late June 2007, Turner Broadcasting announced that WTBS would change call letters and become WPCH-TV, and would be branded as Peachtree TV. According to Turner, the new channel 17 would offer sitcoms and movies geared specifically toward an Atlanta audience. The new station would also broadcast 45 Atlanta Braves baseball games next season. The change occurred on October 1. In addition, the channel 17 change allowed Atlanta cable and satellite television viewers, for the first time since the early 1980s, to receive the national TBS signal as of that date.
In Canada, most cable and satellite companies previously carried WTBS's local Atlanta signal instead of the national TBS channel. Following the change, Canadian systems were legally required to continue carrying the local Peachtree TV signal, instead of switching to the national TBS feed.
Evolution of the TBS logo
Over the years TBS has had several logos and name changes. From 1979 the name was SuperStation WTBS. In 1987, the "W" from the "TBS" name was dropped to emphasize the network's national programming prominence, but on WTBS in Atlanta is called Superstation 17. In September 28, 1989, SuperStation TBS was renamed to TBS Superstation to reflect the strong national standing of the network. In 1990, the word Superstation was removed from the on-air logos and ads and remained that way until December 17, 1996, when TBS celebrated its 20th national anniversary by bringing back the word "Superstation."
In March 2007, TBS Superstation began using an on-air bug that began reading "TBS.com" advertising their website's features and original online videos. Sister channel Turner Network Television has also began using a bug reading "TNT.tv" to advertise its website. ".com" is removed on days when original programming is shown, notably My Boys (on Mondays), The Bill Engvall Show (on Tuesdays), and Tyler Perry's House of Payne (on Wednesdays), in order to make room for a small, translucent, text only advertisement to the left of the bug advertising those shows.
On June 29, 1981, TBS Superstation began to use "Turner Time". While other television offerings generally began at the top and bottom of each hour, TBS decided to begin airing programs five minutes later, at :05 and :35.
By using "Turner Time," TBS Superstation programs were listed under their own time entry in TV Guide, thus enabling the program listings to catch potential viewers' eyes more readily. It also encouraged channel surfers who could not find anything interesting to watch at the top of the hour, to still be able to watch a TBS program without missing the first few minutes. Most importantly from a strategic standpoint, since shows ended five minutes later than normal, the off-time scheduling usually encouraged viewers to continue watching TBS rather than flip to watch another program already in progress.
TBS Superstation started to cut back Turner Time in 1997 and scrapped it completely by 2000. TBS now schedules programs conventionally, at the top and bottom of the hour.
One type of programming that TBS does not produce presently is news. Nevertheless, TBS Superstation did produce a twenty-minute newscast from 1975 to 1979. The program, entitled 17 Update Early in the Morning, was taped at the end of the workday and aired around 3 or 4 a.m. Eastern between movies. Its format was similar to NBC's Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update and was, to a certain extent, a forerunner to Comedy Central's The Daily Show. The time slot and the snide content were a reaction to FCC rules at the time requiring stations to carry some news and informational content—although TBS had to broadcast news, the FCC couldn't say when it aired or demand that the news have a serious tone. The news show was cancelled months before Turner began his serious news venture - CNN.
TBS Superstation also began airing its own newscast called TBS Evening News, which was produced by CNN. The one-hour program ran usually at 10 p.m. Eastern on weeknights during the early 1980s.
In the Atlanta area, WTBS on channel 17 simulcast 30 minutes of CNN Headline News at 6 a.m. This was only carried in Atlanta and those cable systems receiving the local feed. Currently as WPCH-TV, Headline News is simulcast for one full hour at 6 a.m.
TBS airs movies mostly of the comedy genre due to its format, and frequently airs them interspersed with other content and commentary. Dinner and a Movie includes cooking, while Movie and a Makeover adds fashion content.
Coverage of the formerly-Ted Turner-owned Atlanta Braves baseball team was perhaps TBS' signature program, due mainly to its high popularity in Georgia and neighboring states. Turner once famously tried to get Andy Messersmith to use his jersey, which was #17, to promote TBS Superstation in its early years. The back of the jersey read, "CHANNEL 17." Major League Baseball immediately stopped Turner from proceeding because team jerseys are not allowed to have advertising other than that of the jersey manufacturer.
- TBS carries all Division Series games and one of the two League Championship Series, taking them from Fox and ESPN. In addition, TBS carries the announcements of the All-Star teams and any possible games to determine division winners and wild card teams. Those were also carried previously on ESPN.
- The following year (2008), TBS began airing games every Sunday of the regular season for 26 weeks in all. No team may appear on the telecasts more than 13 times.
During the 2007 transitional year, TBS Superstation aired 70 regular-season Braves games. In 2008 and thereafter, only 45 games will be produced, and they will air on WPCH-TV in Atlanta. Turner sells the package to other stations or cable channels for broadcast in the remainder of the Braves' designated market.
The final Braves game aired on TBS on September 30, 2007. The first divisional playoff game (a tie-breaker) aired one day after, on October 1, 2007 (when the TBS/WPCH split occurred).
National Basketball Association games were aired before being moved entirely to Turner Network Television; some Atlanta Hawks (also owned by Turner) games were shown on TBS Superstation until the TBS and TNT telecasts became subject to blackout within 35 miles of the home-team's arena (this restriction was dropped when TNT gained the right to be the exclusive broadcaster of any game it chose to carry). Template:Main
Professional wrestling aired on TBS from 1971 to 2001 under several different companies including Jim Barnett-owned Georgia Championship Wrestling (1971–1984), future rival Vince McMahon owned World Wrestling Federation (1984–1985), Bill Watts' Mid-South Wrestling, and Jim Crockett, Jr.'s Jim Crockett Promotions (1985–1988), which eventually became Turner owned World Championship Wrestling (1988–2001). Through the early 1990s, the wrestling programs were among basic cable's highest-rated offerings, due to, like Braves baseball coverage, heavy viewership in the Southeastern U.S. Template:Main
In addition, select NASCAR Winston Cup Series (now Sprint Cup Series), Busch Series (now Nationwide Series), and Craftsman Truck Series races were aired on TBS up to the 2000 season. For several years in the late 1990s, the only Cup races aired on TBS were the two races from Lowe's Motor Speedway, and the July race at Pocono Raceway. TBS was also the home of the post-season exhibition races held at Suzuka Circuit in Japan from 1996–1998. Races were switched to TNT in 2001 as part of the then-new NASCAR TV deal, although the initial plans were for TBS Superstation to carry the races. Instead, Turner decided that NASCAR would better fit TNT's "We Know Drama" slogan. Template:Main
- Official Site of The Superstation
- History of TBS Superstation
- Clips of 17 Update Early in the Morning maintained by former anchor Bill Tush