|This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2008)|
|Launched||December 17, 1976|
|Owned by||Turner Broadcasting System|
|DirecTV||Channel 247 (SD/HD)|
|Dish Network||Channel 139 (SD/HD)|
|Available on most U.S. cable systems||Check your local listings|
|Verizon FiOS||Channel 52 (SD)|
Channel 552 (HD)
|Channel 112 (SD)|
Channel 1112 (HD)
TBS (Turner Broadcasting System) is an American cable television channel owned by Time Warner. It shows a variety of programming, with a focus on comedy, along with some sports coverage, including Major League Baseball and portions of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship. TBS originated as WTCG, a UHF terrestrial television station in Atlanta, Georgia. The "TCG" officially stood for Turner Communications Group, the forerunner to Turner Broadcasting System, but the station used "Watch This Channel Grow" as a promotional slogan.
TBS is a national cable and satellite channel, available throughout the entire United States. Until October 1, 2007, the national TBS feed could not be viewed within its home media 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.
TBS programming was previously made available to cable and satellite subscribers in Canada through the WTBS Atlanta feed. However, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission had only approved the Atlanta broadcast station signal to be carried on cable and satellite providers domestically across Canada, not the TBS cable feed. As a result, following the separation of TBS and WTBS/WPCH in 2007, Canadian cable and satellite subscribers now have access to WPCH/Atlanta (branded as "Peachtree TV"), instead of TBS. Most flagship TBS programming, such as postseason baseball and original series including Conan, is not broadcast on WPCH-TV, but is instead available through other Canadian channels.
WTCG, which dated back to 1967 as a terrestrial station, had been microwave-linked from that time to many areas of the Southeastern United States via cable companies picking up the UHF channel 17 signal by off-air and microwaving (sometimes several times) the signal back to their headends. Early programming included movies from the 1930s and 1940s; such old sitcoms as Father Knows Best, Green Acres, Hazel, I Love Lucy, and The Lucy Show; and such Japanese animated shows as Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, Marine Boy, The Space Giants, Speed Racer, and Ultraman. The station also carried sports, such as Atlanta Braves baseball, Atlanta Hawks basketball, Atlanta Flames hockey, and Georgia Championship Wrestling.
WTCG also bid very low on programming, causing network affiliates in the market to get the stronger shows. But, because of commitments that the affiliates had to their networks, they kept the shows only a few years and rarely renewed them, after which WTCG bought second-hand shows at much lower prices. By the mid-1970s, The Andy Griffith Show, The Flintstones, Leave It to Beaver, The Little Rascals, My Three Sons, Star Trek, The Three Stooges, and many others were added to the schedule.
In 1976, most markets below the top 20 lacked independent stations running general entertainment and generally had only ABC, NBC, CBS, and an educational station. Cable systems in such areas carried stations from neighboring markets and if possible the independent station (often 60 to 200 miles away). In some markets, however, this was not an option. This left cable systems with three markets lacking an independent station and two to three affiliates from each major network.
WTCG gets beamed via satellite
As a result, Ted Turner decided to offer his station nationwide through satellite, enabling WTCG to be received nationwide, especially in markets lacking even a distant independent station. At 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on December 17, 1976, WTCG's signal was beamed via the Satcom 1 satellite aimed to all cable systems across the Americas. The first broadcast was the 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 operation. WTCG became a so-called "superstation" and set a precedent for today's basic cable television. By 1978, WTCG was on cable systems in all 50 states.
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.
Initial change to WTBS
WTCG was renamed WTBS in 1979. The new call letters were acquired via a monetary donation to the MIT student radio station, now WMBR. In the late 1970s, WTBS continued to acquire second hand programming such as Popeye made for TV cartoons, The Brady Bunch, The Munsters, and others. They did manage to acquire reruns of All in the Family and Sanford and Son in 1979 as well as Little House on the Prairie and CHiPs in 1981. Other older shows would fall off the schedule. Movies from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s would also be mixed into the schedule more.
The channel 17 transmitter was originally located at 1018 West Peachtree Street Northwest (Now relocated to North Druid Hills, Georgia), with the antenna located on a large self-supporting tower. The building at this site was once home to the studios of WAGA-TV 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.
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. Many cable systems throughout the country even carried the channel on its customary channel 17 position.
In 1981, Turner decided to have 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 or per inquiry ads would air on the superstation feed.
In the 1980s, WTBS focused heavily on movies, running two during the day, and all movies after 8 p.m. with the exception of sports events. Other times, WTBS continued to run mostly classic sitcoms, and vintage cartoons. In 1986, with Ted Turner's purchase of MGM, WTBS now had the rights to the entire MGM library as well (including certain acquisitions by MGM). This gave WTBS many theatrical cartoons like Tom and Jerry as well as shows like Gilligan's Island and The Addams Family. WTBS began to run The Little Rascals, Tom & Jerry, Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons released prior to 8/1/1948, theatrical Popeye cartoons, and Three Stooges shorts under the banner Tom & Jerry and Friends between an hour and 90 minutes in the mornings and for an hour in the afternoons from 1986 to the mid-1990s. In the late 1980s, they decreased movies slightly during the day and began to add 1970s sitcoms like Happy Days, The Jeffersons, Good Times, One Day at a Time, and others to the evening lineup. Little House on the Prairie ran late mornings continuously from 1986 to 2003.
Music videos were also aired from 1983 to 1992 on its late night weekend lineup branded as Night Tracks with up to 14 hours of programming (barring constant preemptions from sporting events running overtime).
Beginning in 1991, a handful of national shows (mostly movies) were pre-empted 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. TBS was licensed to run all programming not only for the Atlanta market, but nationally. Most of these shows run nationally were also television syndication in local markets on the respective local stations through additional agreements.
TBS was also the home of World Championship Wrestling (WCW), with a weekly show airing on Saturdays, WCW Saturday Night in 1992 (the promotion was formally owned by Jim Crockett Promotions, which fell under the NWA umbrella). That show would run until 2000, and was the flagship program for WCW before WCW Monday Nitro launched on sister station TNT. Also, in 1998, another WCW show, WCW Thunder, debuted on Thursdays, and was moved to Wednesdays in 2000. The show would run up until 2001 when TBS executive Jamie Kellner determined that wrestling didn't fit the demographics of TBS or TNT and would not be favorable enough to get the "right" advertisers to buy airtime, even though Thunder was the highest rated show on the network at the time.
Throughout the 1980s to the early 1990s, TBS also carried the Electra teletext service on its VBI. Electra was discontinued in 1993 due to a lack of funding.
In the early 1990s, shows like The Flintstones, Brady Bunch, Scooby-Doo, The Jetsons, Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies, Gilligan's Island, and others remained on the schedule as other older shows such as Three Stooges, Little Rascals, Leave it to Beaver fell off and made way for more 1980s sitcoms such as Three's Company, Who's the Boss?, Growing Pains, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Saved by the Bell, and others. Original animated programming such as Captain Planet and the Planeteers, 2 Stupid Dogs, and SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron were added as well.
In 1996, Turner was bought by Time Warner. Among the programming changes instituted after the merger was the addition of later Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons, released no earlier than August 1, 1948.
Shift towards comedy
In 1997, TBS began to collect subscriber fees directly from cable operators, effectively making the national feed operating under the conventions of a basic cable network, though still technically a superstation. In exchange, TBS began to lease advertising slots to cable operators to carry local commercials; as a result the channel began to broadcast fewer Atlanta Braves season games to a national audience. In 1999, WTBS dropped all of its remaining cartoons (which at the time were running under the banner of the "Disaster Area"), several months later making those shows the core of a new TV channel devoted to classic cartoons, Boomerang. WTBS continued to run a mix of movies, sitcoms, and drama shows. By 2001, shows like Full House, Family Matters, Cosby, Friends, Seinfeld, Home Improvement, and other 1990s sitcoms moved onto the schedule, many of them part of the afternoon "Non-Stop Comedy Block" by 2002. In 2003, WTBS dropped Little House on the Prairie and other dramatic programming as a part of its new focus on comedic programming, such as sitcom reruns and originally-produced reality series and comedy feature films. As part of this focus, TBS adopted the slogan "Very Funny" and its current logo in June 2004. It is intended as a direct contrast to sister channel TNT, which had focused on old movies initially but moved toward and now focuses on dramatic programming.
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. At this time, TBS dropped its regular Braves coverage, but began airing Major League Baseball postseason games. It also carries some of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship with other Turner networks and longtime tournament broadcaster CBS as of 2011. TBS currently airs a mix between original sitcoms and reruns. During the first quarter of 2012, TBS topped all cable networks in the 18-49 age demographic, in spite of not airing any original shows in primetime or having a show in the top 50 cable programs.
Late-night talk shows
In November 2009, TBS debuted its first late-night talk show, Lopez Tonight, which was hosted by comedian George Lopez. One year later, the network expanded its late-night offerings with the addition of Conan O'Brien on the heels of the former Tonight Show host's controversial exit from NBC. O'Brien's show, Conan, debuted on November 8, 2010. Lopez Tonight was canceled on August 10, 2011, due to a steep decline in ratings, and the final episode aired on August 12, 2011.
In late June 2007, Turner Broadcasting announced that WTBS would change call letters and become WPCH-TV, and would be rebranded 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. Most cable and satellite companies previously carried WTBS's local Atlanta signal instead of the national TBS channel. Following the change, cable systems in Canada were legally required to continue carrying the local Peachtree TV signal, instead of switching to the national TBS feed.
Evolution of TBS branding
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 channel's national programming prominence, with WTBS in Atlanta assigned the brand Superstation 17. On September 28, 1989, SuperStation TBS was renamed to TBS Superstation to reflect the strong national standing of the channel. 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." This branding would last until early 2004, when "Superstation" was once again dropped months before the current TBS logo was adopted.
On May 24, 2011, TBS reimaged itself yet again, even though it kept its logo and slogan "very funny" (now with no space between the words), with a new theme, which includes flipping panels, the semicircle portion of the logo bouncing around and acting as if it is alive, and a new four-note jingle.
TBS HD is a 1080i high definition simulcast of TBS. Much like sister channel TNT, TBS airs a moderate amount of 4:3 standard definition content stretched to 16:9 through a nonlinear process similar to the "panorama" setting on many HDTVs that some viewers have nicknamed Stretch-o-Vision after it was first used by TNT; though other simulcasted HD cable channels have also fallen into this practice. The nonlinear stretching process leaves objects in the center of the screen with approximately their original aspect ratio; objects at the left and right edges are distorted. Horizontal panning makes the distortion especially apparent. In addition to true HD content at 16:9, TBS HD also airs unstretched upconverted standard definition content in its original aspect ratio, but commercials are aired in either format without stretching for ads produced in 480i. TBS launched a West Coast feed on June 18, 2010.
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 during the log listings era, 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, since shows ended five minutes later than normal, from a strategic standpoint 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. Currently, TBS usually schedules programs conventionally, at the top and bottom of the hour. However, movies that run anywhere between 2 and 2½ hours (or more, depending on the film's length with commercials added), will cause unconventional start times to be used (for example, such a movie that starts at 7 p.m. ET may cause subsequent programming to start within the half-hour, such as at :15 and :45 after the hour). This often causes major disruptions in the start times of programming. In some circumstances, conventional "top-and-bottom" start times would not be restored until the next day. While this is not exactly related to the "Turner Time" technique, it could strategically serve the same purposes due to the off-time scheduling.
One type of programming that TBS does not produce presently is news. Nevertheless, TBS Superstation did produce a twenty-minute newscast from 1976 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 the Weekend Update segment on NBC's Saturday Night Live 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.
WTBS also simulcast 30 minutes of programming from CNN's sister channel, Headline News (now known as HLN), at 6 a.m.; this was only carried in Atlanta and those cable systems receiving the local feed. Currently, as WPCH-TV, HLN programming is simulcast for one full hour at 6 a.m.
TBS SuperStation, along with TNT, Court TV, Headline News, CNNfn, and CNNSI carried CNN coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacks. During sports blackouts in some areas (particularly in markets where a channel such as a local broadcast station or regional sports network has the regional or local broadcast rights to a particular sporting event also scheduled to air on TBS), TBS carries rolling news coverage from HLN in its place.
TBS airs movies mostly of the comedy genre due to its format, however some non-comedic films continue to air on the channel; these movies generally air during the overnight hours on a daily basis and during much of the day on weekends (except from between 5-9 a.m. and 3:30-8 p.m. ET on Saturdays and 5-10 a.m. ET on Sunday mornings (with the start time subject to variation), due to sitcom blocks that typically air in those timeslots). TBS broadcasts movies from sister companies Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema, along with films produced by Touchstone Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures.
In the recent past, TBS had frequently aired its primetime movies interspersed with other content and commentary (e.g., Dinner and a Movie includes cooking, while Movie and a Makeover adds fashion content); these wraparound segments have since moved to weekend afternoon film presentations. Every Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the 1983 film A Christmas Story airs for 24 hours, which is also done by sister channel TNT at the same time as TBS. Once each weekend, TBS airs a movie in primetime with limited commercial interruption, branded in promo advertisements under the title "More Movie, Less Commercials" (sister channel TNT also runs a primetime movie each weekend, that is telecast with limited commercial interruption).
Coverage of the formerly-Ted Turner-owned Atlanta Braves baseball team was perhaps TBS's 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.
At the 2006 MLB All-Star Game, it was announced that TBS would begin carrying a package that includes all major league teams. It premiered in 2007 in two phases, as follows:
- 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).
On October 18, 2008, a technical problem in Atlanta prevented the channel from showing the first inning of Game 6 of the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. The channel aired The Steve Harvey Show instead.
Beginning in 2011, TBS shares duties of broadcasting the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament with fellow Turner properties TNT and truTV, and with CBS. This presently consists of early rounds to the Sweet Sixteen, but in 2016 will expand to include the regional finals, Final Four and national championship game on an alternating basis with CBS.
National Basketball Association
National Basketball Association games were aired before being moved entirely to TNT; 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).
Professional wrestling aired on TBS from 1971 to 2001 under several different companies including Jim Barnett-owned Georgia Championship Wrestling (1971–1984), Vince McMahon's 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.
In addition, select NASCAR Winston Cup Series (now Sprint Cup Series), Busch Series (now Nationwide Series), and Craftsman Truck Series (now Camping World 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 regular Cup series races from Lowe's Motor Speedway (TBS did not have rights to The Winston, which usually aired on TNN), and the July race at Pocono Raceway. TBS was also the home of the post-season exhibition races held at Suzuka Circuit and the Twin Ring Motegi tracks 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.
- "Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2007-132 - Renaming of WTBS Atlanta as WPCH-TV Atlanta on the lists of eligible satellite services". 2007-11-19. http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2007/pb2007-132.htm. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
- Turner Superstation to Collect Cable TV Fees, The New York Times, August 1, 1997.
- How Did TBS Become No. 1 on Cable? It’s a Familiar Story, The New York Times, March 21, 2012.
- "WTBS to become Peachtree TV". Atlanta Business Chronicle (American City Business Journals, Inc). 2007-06-27. http://atlanta.bizjournals.com/atlanta/stories/2007/06/25/daily32.html?surround=lfn. Retrieved 2008-01-11.
- Houston, William (2007-10-04). "TBS throws a curveball to Canadian baseball fans". The Globe and Mail. http://www.globesports.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20071004.wspttruth4/GSStory/GlobeSportsBaseball/home. Retrieved 2008-12-31.
- "Milestones". About Us. TBS Superstation. http://cgi.superstation.com/about_us/milestone.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-11.
- Bowman, Mark (2006-07-12). "Braves' run on TBS to end in '07". Major League Baseball. http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060711&content_id=1552889&vkey=news_atl&fext=.jsp&c_id=atl. Retrieved 2008-01-11.
- http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/8692490/TV-problems-keep-start-of-ALCS-Game-6-off-air[dead link]
- NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament Expands To 68 Teams; CBS Adds Turner To Television Team (press release via TV by the Numbers)
- Official Site of TBS
- Official Site of Turner Broadcasting
- Clips of 17 Update Early in the Morning maintained by former anchor Bill Tush
bg:Turner Broadcasting System