TBS (TV channel)
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2008)|
|Launched||December 17, 1976|
|Owned by||Turner Broadcasting System
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)
480i (SDTV/16:9 letterbox)
|DirecTV||Channel 247 (SD/HD)|
|Dish Network||Channel 139 (SD/HD)|
|Available on most U.S. cable providers||Check your local listings|
|Verizon FiOS||Channel 52 (SD)
Channel 552 (HD)
|Channel 112 (SD)
Channel 1112 (HD)
TBS (stylized as "tbs" since 2004) is an American cable and satellite television channel owned by Time Warner; the channel is operated through Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting System division, which shares its name with the channel. It shows a variety of programming, with a focus on comedy, along with some sports events, including Major League Baseball and portions of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship.
TBS is available on cable and satellite providers throughout the entire United States. Until October 1, 2007, the national TBS feed could not be viewed within its home media market in the Atlanta metropolitan area, due to the over-the-air presence of WTBS, which carried a nearly identical schedule, with the only differing programming being the required public affairs programming and E/I programming for children.
The operations of WTBS (channel 17) and TBS Superstation were separated in October 2007, with the over-the-air Atlanta station becoming WPCH-TV, a general entertainment independent station focused on the Atlanta area only. The national TBS feed became available to cable and satellite subscribers within channel 17's viewing area as a result.
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 received access to WPCH/Atlanta (branded as "Peachtree TV"), instead of TBS. Most of TBS's flagship programming, such as postseason baseball and original series such as Conan, are not broadcast on WPCH-TV, but is instead carried on other Canadian specialty channels.
TBS originated as WTCG, a broadcast television station in Atlanta, Georgia that operated on UHF channel 17. The "TCG" in the station's callsign officially stood for Turner Communications Group, the forerunner to Turner Broadcasting System, but the station used "Watch This Channel Grow" as a promotional slogan. WTCG, which signed on in September 1967 as independent station WJRJ, had been microwave-linked from that time to many areas of the Southeastern United States through cable companies that picked up the UHF channel 17 signal off-air and by microwaving the signal (sometimes several times) 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 Japanese animated shows such 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, leaving the network-affiliated stations in the market to get the stronger shows. But, because of programming commitments that the affiliates had to their networks, they kept the shows for only a few years and rarely renewed them, after which WTCG bought syndicated shows second-hand 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 cities below the top 20 media markets lacked independent stations running general entertainment programs, and generally had only stations affiliated with ABC, NBC and CBS, along with a non-commercial educational station. Cable providers in these areas carried stations from neighboring markets and if possible the independent station (often those located anywhere between 60 and 200 miles away). In some markets, however, this was not an option. This left cable providers 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 Time on December 17, 1976, WTCG's signal was beamed via the Satcom 1 satellite to all cable providers across the Americas. The first broadcast was the 1948 Dana Andrews-Cesar Romero film Deep Waters, which had been in progress for 30 minutes on channel 17 in Atlanta. Instantly, WTCG went from being 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 providers in all 50 states.
HBO had begun to distribute its signal nationally through satellite transmission in 1975, but that cable subscribers were required to pay extra to receive that service. Ted Turner's innovation signaled the start of the basic cable revolution.
Initial change to WTBS
WTCG changed its callsign to WTBS in 1979. The new call letters were acquired via a monetary donation to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's student radio station (now WMBR). In the late 1970s, WTBS continued to acquire second-hand programming such as made-for-TV Popeye cartoons, The Brady Bunch, The Munsters and other programs. The station 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 eventually be removed from the schedule. WTCG also mixed more movies from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s onto the schedule.
The channel 17 transmitter was originally located at 1018 West Peachtree Street Northwest (it has since been 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 then-CBS affiliate 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 a few blocks west to the former site of the Progressive Club. Initially, WTCG was identified as "Channel 17" both locally in Atlanta and on cable providers outside of Atlanta. The same exact shows that ran within the Atlanta market also ran nationally. In 1979, Turner changed the callsign to WTBS, branding it "Superstation WTBS" with the reference to the channel 17 frequency in the Atlanta market within the logo. Many cable providers throughout the country even carried the channel on its customary channel 17 position.
In 1981, Turner decided to have all shows seen on WTBS continue to air both locally and nationally, but separated the feeds (in a move that preceded fellow superstations WGN-TV and WWOR-TV doing the same thing after the Federal Communications Commission's passage of the Syndication Excluisivity Rights rule in 1989). The station would be known locally in Atlanta as "Superstation 17." The over-the-air 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.
During the 1980s, WTBS focused heavily on movies – running two during the day, with a movie-exclusive schedule during the nighttime hours after 8 p.m., with the exception of sports events. Other times, WTBS continued to run mostly classic sitcoms, and vintage cartoons. In 1986, when Ted Turner purchased Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (which he would sell back to previous owner Kirk Kerkorian that October due to debt incurred by the Turner Broadcasting System from its purchase of the film studio), WTBS gained the rights to the entire MGM film library (including certain acquisitions by MGM). This gave WTBS many theatrical cartoon shorts such as 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 August 1948, theatrical Popeye cartoon shorts, and Three Stooges shorts under the banner Tom & Jerry and Friends running for either one hour or 90 minutes during the morning hours and for an hour in the afternoon from 1986 until the mid-1990s. In the late 1980s, WTBS slightly decreased the amount of movies broadcast during the day and began to add 1970s sitcoms such as Happy Days, The Jeffersons, Good Times, One Day at a Time and others to the evening lineup; Little House on the Prairie ran in late mornings continuously from 1986 to 2003.
Music videos also aired on its late night weekend lineup from 1983 to 1992 under the Night Tracks branding, with up to 14 hours of programming (barring constant preemptions from sporting events running overtime). Beginning in 1991, a handful of shows (mostly movies) that were shown nationally were preempted in the Atlanta market in order to broadcast FCC-mandated news, public affairs and children's programming – this continued until the split of the TBS national feed from the Atlanta area station. Programming on WTBS had always been Syndex-proof as it licensed all programming to be able to run nationally, in addition to being shown in the Atlanta market. 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 called WCW Saturday Night that debuted 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 the WCW before WCW Monday Nitro launched on sister channel TNT. Another WCW show, WCW Thunder, debuted in 1998 on Thursday nights; it was moved to Wednesdays in 2000, before being cancelled in 2001 when TBS executive Jamie Kellner determined that wrestling did not 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 and the early 1990s, TBS also carried the Electra teletext service on its vertical blanking interval; Electra was discontinued in 1993 due to a lack of funding. In the early 1990s, shows such as 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 and Leave it to Beaver were dropped from the channel and made way for more 1980s sitcoms such as Three's Company, Who's the Boss?, Growing Pains, The Cosby Show, Family Ties and Saved by the Bell. Original animated programming such as Captain Planet and the Planeteers, 2 Stupid Dogs and SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron were also added to the schedule.
In 1996, the Turner Broadcasting System was acquired by Time Warner; among the programming changes instituted after the merger was the addition of Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons that were released after August 1, 1948.
Shift towards comedy
In 1997, TBS began to collect subscriber fees directly from cable operators, effectively causing the national feed to begin operating under the conventions of a basic cable network, though still technically a superstation. In exchange, TBS began to lease advertising slots to cable providers to allow them to carry local commercials; as a result the channel began to broadcast fewer Atlanta Braves regular season games to a national audience. In 1999, WTBS dropped all of its remaining cartoons (which at the time were running under the Disaster Area banner), with those shows becoming the core of a new cable channel devoted to classic cartoons that launched several months later called Boomerang.
WTBS continued to run a mix of movies, sitcoms and drama series. By 2001, several sitcoms from the 1980s and especially the 1990s such as Full House, Family Matters, The Cosby Show, Friends, Seinfeld and Home Improvement became part of the schedule, many of them airing on 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, original reality television series and theatrically released comedy films. As part of this focus, TBS adopted the slogan "Very Funny" and a new logo in June 2004. It is intended as a direct contrast to sister channel TNT, which had focused on older movies initially but moved toward and now focuses on drama series and films.
On September 1, 2007, a high definition version of TBS's national feed launched. WTBS already operated a high definition digital signal that could be viewed over-the-air in the Atlanta market prior to September 1, which was replaced by the superstation feed's HD simulcast, instead of simulcasting Peachtree TV. At this time, TBS dropped its regular Braves coverage, but began airing Major League Baseball postseason games.
Split from the Atlanta signal
In late June 2007, the Turner Broadcasting System announced that WTBS would change its callsign to WPCH-TV, and would be rebranded as "Peachtree TV". The rebranded channel 17 would offer sitcoms and movies geared specifically toward an Atlanta audience, and would also broadcast 45 Atlanta Braves baseball games starting with the 2008 season. The change occurred on October 1, with the national feed becoming a separate cable channel that retained the TBS name. In addition, the channel 17 changeover allowed cable and satellite subscribers in the Atlanta market – who previously received WTBS's local Atlanta signal – to receive the national TBS feed for the first time since the early 1980s; Following the change, Canadian cable providers were legally required to continue carrying the local Peachtree TV signal, instead of switching to the national TBS feed.
In November 2009, TBS debuted its first late night talk show, Lopez Tonight, hosted by comedian George Lopez. One year later, the network expanded its late night offerings with the November 8, 2010 debut of Conan, after TBS struck a deal to give Conan O'Brien a show on the channel on the heels of his controversial exit as host of NBC's The Tonight Show. Lopez Tonight ended its run on August 12, 2011, after it was cancelled due to a steep decline in ratings. In 2011, TBS also obtained the partial cable television rights to the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship – which its shares with Turner-owned sister networks TNT and TruTV, along with the tournament's longtime broadcaster, CBS.
During the first quarter of 2012, TBS's viewership in the 18-49 adult demographic beat all other advertiser-supported cable networks, in spite of the fact that TBS did not air any original shows in primetime during that period or had a show among the 50 highest-rated cable programs.
Evolution of the TBS branding
Over the years, TBS has had several logos and undergone multiple name changes. As a superstation, the channel was named "SuperStation WTBS" starting in 1979. In 1987, the "W" from the "WTBS" callsign was dropped from the superstation's on-air branding in order to emphasize the channel's national programming prominence, with the WTBS Atlanta signal using the separate branding of "Superstation 17". On September 28, 1989, SuperStation TBS changed its name to "TBS Superstation" to reflect the strong national standing of the channel.
In 1990, the word "Superstation" was removed from the cable channel's on-air branding and promotions, becoming known as simply "TBS"; this continued until December 17, 1996, when TBS celebrated its 20th anniversary as a national service, with the channel reverting its name back to "TBS Superstation" (promotions for the channel's programming during this period often verbally referred to the national feed only as "the Superstation"). The "Superstation" sub-brand was once again dropped in early 2004, with the channel reverting to being branded as simply TBS, months before it adopted a new logo that rendered the channel's name in lowercase.
The 1080i high definition simulcast of TBS was one of the first HD channels in the United States. The standard definition feed of the network began to carry the full 16:9 screen downgraded from the HD feed in letterboxed mode in May 2013.
TBS currently airs a mix of original sitcoms and reruns of sitcoms that were originally broadcast on the major broadcast networks. Original programs currently seen on TBS include Cougar Town, Men at Work, Sullivan & Son and Who Gets the Last Laugh?. The channel's daytime schedule heavily dominated by reruns of current and former network comedies, with these shows also airing in the evening and sporadically during the overnight hours. Such programs include Family Guy, Friends, Seinfeld, The King of Queens, Married... with Children, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,The Office (U.S. TV series), American Dad!, Everybody Loves Raymond and The Big Bang Theory.
On June 29, 1981, TBS (as SuperStation WTBS) began to use an off-time scheduling format for its programming known as "Turner Time." While program offerings on other broadcast and basic cable channels generally began at the top and bottom (:00 and :30) of each hour, TBS decided to begin airing programs five minutes later, at :05 and :35 minutes past the hour. Programs seen on TBS were listed under their own time entry in TV Guide during the log listings era as a result of this scheduling, thus enabling the program listings to catch potential viewers' eyes more readily. The use of "Turner Time" 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 program on TBS 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 turn to another channel to watch a program that would already be airing in progress.
TBS reduced its use of the "Turner Time" scheduling in 1997 and switched entirely to conventional start times at the top and bottom of the hour by 2000. However, unconventional start times continue to be used for movies airing on the channel – whose running times may vary depending on the film's length with commercials added (for example, a movie that starts at 8 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 early the next morning. While this is not exactly related to the "Turner Time" format, it may 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 – during its existence as a superstation – produced a twenty-minute newscast called 17 Update Early in the Morning from 1976 to 1979; the program was taped at the end of the workday and aired between movies around 3 or 4 a.m. ET. Its format was similar to the Saturday Night Live segment Weekend Update and was, to a certain extent, a forerunner to The Daily Show. The timeslot and the satirical content of the program were a reaction to FCC rules in effect at the time that required stations to carry some news and information content – although TBS had to broadcast news, the FCC could not dictate when it aired or demand that it have a serious tone. 17 Update Early in the Morning was cancelled months before Ted Turner began his serious news venture, CNN.
CNN also produced an hour-long weeknight news program for TBS called the TBS Evening News that usually ran at 10 p.m. ET during the early 1980s. For many years, WTBS also ran a half-hour simulcast of CNN's sister channel Headline News (now HLN) each morning at 6 a.m.; this was only carried in the Atlanta area and cable providers in the market that received the local feed (currently, as WPCH-TV, the Atlanta station runs an hour-long simulcast block of HLN's news programming daily at 6 a.m.).
On September 11, 2001, TBS (along with sister networks TNT, Court TV, Headline News, CNNfn and CNNSI) carried CNN's coverage of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon. 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 that is also scheduled to air on TBS), TBS carries rolling news coverage from HLN in its place.
Feature films have been a mainstay of TBS since its inception as a superstation. In the present day, most of the films seen on TBS are of the comedy genre, however some drama and action films continue to air on the channel periodically; movies on the channel generally air during the overnight hours on a daily basis and during much of the day on weekends (except from between 5-11 a.m. and 3-11 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 included cooking segments, while Movie and a Makeover featured fashion content); these wraparound segments later moved to weekend afternoon film presentations, before being dropped entirely by 2011. Since 1997, TBS has broadcast the 1983 film A Christmas Story in a 24-hour marathon from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, which also ran simultaneously on sister channel TNT until 2009. 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 Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball team (which was formerly owned by Ted Turner) was perhaps TBS's signature program, mainly due to its viewer popularity in Georgia and neighboring states. Turner once famously tried to get Andy Messersmith to use his jersey, which was #17, to promote Superstation WTBS in its early years (the back of the jersey read, "CHANNEL 17"). The MLB organization immediately stopped Turner from proceeding with this plan due to league regulations barring team jerseys from incorporating advertising other than that of the jersey's manufacturer.
At the 2006 MLB All-Star Game, it was announced that TBS would begin carrying a package that includes all major league teams beginning with the 2007 season. TBS began carrying all Division Series games and one of the two League Championship Series (assuming the rights from Fox and ESPN) as well as 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). In 2008, TBS began airing MLB regular season Sunday games, with the provision that no team may appear on the telecasts more than 13 times during the season.
During the 2007 transitional year, TBS aired 70 regular-season Braves games. In 2008, the number of Braves telecasts was reduced to only 45 games, with TBS's former Atlanta feed, WPCH-TV solely carrying the games; Turner syndicates the package to other stations and cable channels for broadcast in the remainder of the Braves' designated market. The final Braves game aired on TBS on September 30, 2007, with the first divisional playoff game airing the following day on October 1, 2007 (when the TBS/WPCH split occurred).
On October 18, 2008, a technical problem in Atlanta prevented TBS 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.
In 2011, TBS obtained the television rights to the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament, with broadcast rights shared with CBS, and fellow Turner properties TNT and TruTV. 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
NBA basketball games aired on TBS from the late 1970s until they were moved entirely to TNT in 2000. Some Atlanta Hawks (also owned by Turner) games were shown on TBS until the telecasts on TNT and the TBS superstation feed 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 heavy viewership in the Southeastern U.S., as with Braves baseball coverage.
Select NASCAR Winston Cup Series (now Sprint Cup Series), Busch Series (now Nationwide Series) and Craftsman Truck Series (now Camping World Truck Series) races aired on TBS until 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 to 1998. NASCAR events moved to TNT in 2001 as part of a deal between the organization, NBC and TNT, although the initial plans were for TBS to carry the races. Instead, Turner Broadcasting decided that the NASCAR telecasts would better fit TNT's "We Know Drama" image campaign.
- "Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2007-132 - Renaming of WTBS Atlanta as WPCH-TV Atlanta on the lists of eligible satellite services". 2007-11-19. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
- Houston, William (2007-10-04). "TBS throws a curveball to Canadian baseball fans". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2008-12-31.
- Turner Superstation to Collect Cable TV Fees, The New York Times, August 1, 1997.
- "WTBS to become Peachtree TV". Atlanta Business Chronicle (American City Business Journals, Inc). 2007-06-27. Retrieved 2008-01-11.
- NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament Expands To 68 Teams; CBS Adds Turner To Television Team (press release via TV by the Numbers)
- How Did TBS Become No. 1 on Cable? It’s a Familiar Story, The New York Times, March 21, 2012.
- "Milestones". About Us. TBS Superstation. Retrieved 2008-01-11.
- Bowman, Mark (2006-07-12). "Braves' run on TBS to end in '07". Major League Baseball. Retrieved 2008-01-11.
- http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/8692490/TV-problems-keep-start-of-ALCS-Game-6-off-air[dead link]
- Official website of TBS
- Official website of Turner Broadcasting
- Clips of 17 Update Early in the Morning maintained by former anchor Bill Tush