WPCH-TV

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For the FM station that held the call letters WTBS from 1961 to 1979, see WMBR.
WPCH-TV
Peachtree.png
Atlanta, Georgia
United States
Branding Peachtree TV
Slogan Turn Here For Fun
Channels Digital: 20 (UHF)
Virtual: 17 (PSIP)
Subchannels 17.1 Peachtree TV
Affiliations Independent
Owner Turner Broadcasting System
(operated through LMA with Meredith Corporation)
(SuperStation, Inc.)
First air date September 1, 1967; 46 years ago (1967-09-01)
Call letters' meaning PeaCHtree TV
(on-air branding; common place/road naming theme in Atlanta area)
Sister station(s) Cable networks of Turner Broadcasting System
WGCL-TV
Former callsigns WJRJ-TV (1967–1970)
WTCG (1970–1979)
WTBS (1979–2007)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
17 (UHF, 1967–2009)
Transmitter power 1,000 kW
Height 310.3 m
Facility ID 64033
Transmitter coordinates 33°48′26″N 84°20′22″W / 33.80722°N 84.33944°W / 33.80722; -84.33944Coordinates: 33°48′26″N 84°20′22″W / 33.80722°N 84.33944°W / 33.80722; -84.33944
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
CDBS
Website www.peachtreetv.com

WPCH-TV, virtual channel 17 (UHF digital channel 20), is an independent television station located in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The station is owned by the Turner Broadcasting System subsidiary of Time Warner; the Meredith Corporation, which owns CBS affiliate WGCL-TV (channel 46), operates WPCH-TV under a local marketing agreement. The two stations share studio facilities located on 14th Street in northwestern Atlanta; WPCH's transmitter is located in North Druid Hills. Syndicated programs featured on WPCH-TV includes The King of Queens, The Cosby Show, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Seinfeld and The Big Bang Theory.

Through its ownership, WPCH-TV is the only broadcast television station owned by Time Warner (this is despite the fact that the company is half-owner of The CW,[1] which is affiliated locally with CBS Corporation-owned WUPA, channel 69). From December 17, 1976 to October 1, 2007, when its operations were separated from the co-owned TBS cable channel, channel 17 was the pioneering superstation and was carried on cable and satellite television throughout the United States and Canada; the station continues to be available throughout Canada on cable and satellite.

History[edit]

As WJRJ-TV[edit]

Channel 17 first signed on the air on September 1, 1967, as WJRJ-TV. It was the Atlanta market's first independent station, and one of the first in the Southeastern United States. The station was named for its founder, Atlanta entrepreneur Jack Rice, Jr.

The station was launched on a shoestring budget, with an afternoon and evening schedule (4 to 11 p.m.) filled with older movies and a few off-network reruns such as Father Knows Best, The Danny Thomas Show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and The Rifleman, as well as a 15-minute news program. In addition to placing daily ads in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution TV listings page, WJRJ-TV ran exactly one TV Guide advertisement: a half-page ad in a September 1967 issue with the headline, "Yes, Atlanta, there is a channel 17." Despite WJRJ billing itself as "Good-looking Channel 17",[2] technical snafus were the norm in the station's early months: film broke down, slides frequently appeared backwards, and there were often long pauses when nothing appeared on screen. The station did carry a top-rated show for a few weeks: then-CBS affiliate WAGA-TV (channel 5) preempted network programming to run a movie on Wednesday nights, and channel 17 stepped in to run Medical Center (the rights to which would later be owned by the station's future owners, Fox) for a time.

Ted Turner enters the picture[edit]

In January 1970, entrepreneur Ted Turner, who ran his father's billboard business and also owned radio stations, bought the low-rated UHF outlet. Soon after, Turner changed the station's call letters to WTCG, which reportedly stood for "Watch This Channel Grow" (though the "TCG" officially stood for Turner Communications Group, the forerunner to Turner Broadcasting System). WTCG initially retained its original programming format.

During an interview in 2004, Turner revealed that some of the problems that had dogged WJRJ were present in the early days at WTCG. First, when Turner bought the station, it was the only one in the Atlanta market still broadcasting exclusively in black-and-white because the previous owners had not made necessary technical upgrades to allow the transmission of color programming. Second, money was still very tight during the first couple of years that Turner owned the station. The station decided to purchase the color broadcasting equipment it needed on credit after Turner took over. The station converted to color by May of 1970. However, some months had passed and Turner found himself unable to make the payments on the equipment. As a last resort (after unsuccessfully attempting to secure further financing), Turner held an on-air telethon, much in the manner of the pledge drives seen on public television, to raise the money needed to pay the station's bills. Third, there was new competition in the form of new UHF station now called WATL (channel 36) as it began operations in 1970. Once the financial problems were settled, WTCG eventually drove WATL off the air, channel 36 would remain dark for several years and never becam a major player until 1986. WTCG threw an on-air party in celebration, but they would soon have a new competitor when WHAE-TV (channel 46, now WGCL-TV) went on the air in 1971. Originally owned by Christian Broadcasting Network, that station was initially on the air 6 hours a day with Christian shows 4 hours and secular low budget stuff two hours. Gradually that station expanded their day to about 12 hours a day in 1973 and 20 hours a day by 1976. By 1974, the station had a conventional general entertainment format but for a few hours in the morning and a couple hours in prime time they had Christian religious programs (like CBN's flagship show, The 700 Club). Still the station was very competitive and did change calls to WANX, but WTCG remained the leading independent in Atlanta.

Turner had a low budget in terms of programming purchases, and would bid very low on new shows offered in syndication; network-affiliated stations WAGA-TV, WSB-TV (channel 2) and WXIA-TV (channel 11) would get the best product. But due to network commitments, the three major affiliates could only keep programs for a few years. Turner would then buy the shows that the major affiliates did not renew for nearly half the price of the original purchase. Turner also bought most of the movie packages in this manner. The station placed an on-air emphasis on its movie library; one notable program was Academy Award Theatre, which showcased only Oscar-winning or -nominated films. Classic films from the 1930s through the 1950s (mostly from Warner Bros.) were shown every day as part of the regular schedule. Many old films which had either never been telecast in the Atlanta area (such as 1935's A Midsummer Night's Dream) or had not been seen on television for a long time, made their local television debut or "comeback" on WTCG. The sports programming included game telecasts from the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Flames, as well as Georgia Championship Wrestling, one of the roots of the later World Championship Wrestling. The sports and wrestling would become foundation blocks during the early satellite years (see below). The station's shows at the time included Flintstones, I Love Lucy, Andy Griffith Show, Beverly Hillbillies, Star Trek, pre 48 Looney Toons/Merrie Melodies cartoons, Three Stooges, and other shows.

WTCG also made its name by producing humorous, satirical newscasts. One such newscast was 17 Update Early in the Morning, which featured usually straight-faced Bill Tush and Tina Seldin reporting the news in a mostly normal fashion, occasionally interacting with the studio crew, and with comedic sideline gags at times by another co-anchor (The Unknown Newsman) wearing a brown paper grocery bag over his head. The newscast, which often contained elements resembling that of a comedic morning drive radio show, had a four-year run between late night/early morning movie presentations from 1975 to 1979. Turner discontinued that program after a Congressional investigation took place concerning his fulfilling Federal Communications Commission public service requirements, some months before Turner would prepare to launch CNN, an all-news channel that would strive to be anything but comedic. Turner reassigned Tush to regular interview programs on WTCG and during the early years of CNN, as well as a sketch comedy show between 1980 and 1982 (more conventional, non-comedic news updates aired throughout the day as well).

Another show on WTCG's lineup was Future Shock, hosted by legendary R&B singer James Brown. The show, which bore similarities to American Bandstand and Soul Train, aired in late night each Friday during the mid-1970s. In the 1970s, WTCG became the first local Atlanta station to bring back telecasts of classic films from the 1930s and 1940s. This came after a rather long period in which local stations had abandoned their practice of telecasting very old films, and had begun concentrating on films made in the 1950s and afterwards.

The first "Superstation"[edit]

Main article: TBS (TV network)

Beginning in the early 1970s, many cable systems in middle and southern Georgia and surrounding states – namely Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina – began receiving the WTCG signal via microwave, enabling the station to reach far beyond the Atlanta television market. Still, many places were so far from an independent television station that this was not an option. There were cable systems that carried three of each network and three PBS stations (one station from their own market and two stations from neighboring markets of each network). This meant that at times even with 12 stations you only had 4 choices. To serve such areas lacking an independent station, Ted Turner decided to uplink the station's signal, becoming one of the first television stations, and only the second U.S. broadcaster to be transmitted via satellite (premium cable network HBO, which eventually became a sister channel to the station through Time Warner's 1996 acquisition of the Turner Broadcasting System, began to distribute its signal nationally through satellite transmission on September 30, 1975[3]). WTCG, along with WOR-TV (now WWOR-TV) in New York City and WGN-TV in Chicago, were among America's first "superstations" – independent stations distributed to cable providers throughout their respective regions, or the entire country. Eventually, stations like KTVT 11 Dallas, 2 KTVU San Francisco, 5 KTLA Los Angeles, among others went on satellite as well.

At 1 p.m. Eastern 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 1948 film Deep Waters, starring Dana Andrews and Cesar Romero, which was already airing in progress for 30 minutes. Instantly, WTCG added 24,000 more households to its viewing audience, which consisted of 675,000 households in metropolitan Atlanta. That number would grow exponentially in the next several years, with the first heaviest concentrations in the Southern United States (where WTCG's telecasts of Atlanta Braves baseball and professional wrestling were highly popular), with its cable coverage eventually encompassing the nation. The station, and Turner's innovation, signaled the start of the basic cable revolution. By 1978, WTCG was on cable providers in all 50 states, many of which lacked access to a local commercial independent station and in some cases even a distant one.

Programming stayed pretty similar as shows such as The Brady Bunch, The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched, I Dream Of Jeannie, Hogan's Heroes, made-for-TV Popeye cartoons, and other vintage shows would be purchased second and even third hand; All In The Family and Sanford and Son however, were bid for and acquired by WTCG.

As WTBS[edit]

Channel 17 changed its call letters to WTBS on August 27, 1979; the WTBS callsign had been used by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's radio station, but MIT agreed to cede the callsign to Turner's station after Turner donated the money for a new transmitter for MIT's radio station, which is now known as WMBR.[4]

During the 1980s, the station was primarily known as "SuperStation WTBS", but the "W" was eventually dropped from the branding in 1987. In Atlanta, through the early 1990s, station promos and digital on-screen graphics referred to the station as "TBS 17". In 1981, Turner decided to have all of the shows carried by 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). As a result, local commercials airing in Atlanta on channel 17 would not air over the satellite feed and were substituted with separate national advertising or per inquiry ads. Eventually, the "SuperStation" branding was dropped in 1990, and for a short time in the late-1990s, the "Superstation" name returned to WTBS (in concurrence with the restoration of the sub-brand on the national feed) without the "TBS" branding.

In 1986, after Ted Turner's $1.5 billion purchase of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that year ended in the studio being sold back to Kirk Kerkorian due to concerns over Turner Entertainment's debt load,[5] Turner acquired MGM's film library, giving WTBS the rights to air those movies. Music videos also aired on the station's weekend late night lineup from 1983 to 1992, branded as Night Tracks, with up to 14 hours of programming (barring constant preemptions from sporting events running overtime).

In September 1998, due to the trend of children's programs migrating more toward cable, WTBS dropped cartoons from its schedule entirely and began focusing on feature films, sitcoms from the 1980s and 1990s, and a few drama series. As the 1990s and 2000s wore on, the station began to more closely resemble a basic cable channel than a superstation. Outside of Braves baseball, the only Atlanta-centric programming seen on WTBS by 2002 was a pair of public affairs shows on weekend mornings that were only broadcast over WTBS, and were replaced on the national feed by acquired television series.

In 2003, WTBS dropped a large proportion of dramas from its film slate and all of its drama series, and focused on comedy (sister network TNT in turn began specializing in drama programs by this time). The station's programming now consisted of comedy films and sitcoms from 1990s.

Transition to Peachtree TV[edit]

As WTBS shifted its programming philosophy, it was eventually determined that the station should be split up into two separate entities. The national cable channel would be known as TBS, while the over-the-air Atlanta station would remain a commercial independent station that also focused on sitcoms, as well as other movies and local interest programs. On October 1, 2007, Turner Broadcasting changed the station's call letters to WPCH-TV, and rebranded it as "Peachtree TV".[6] As a result of the separation of channel 17 from the national feed, the national version of TBS became available to cable and satellite viewers in the Atlanta market for the first time. WPCH-TV carries classic and more recent off-network syndicated programming and movies. The relaunched station contains significantly more paid programming, programs targeted at an African American audience, and older, less expensive programming than its predecessor WTBS. It continued to carry Atlanta Braves baseball games until 2012.

Turner announced on January 18, 2011 that operations for WPCH would be taken over by Meredith Corporation, owner of CBS affiliate WGCL-TV (channel 46), under a local marketing agreement, with Turner/Time Warner retaining the broadcast license; the deal resulted in a virtual station duopoly for Meredith in Atlanta.[7] In addition, production of the station's 45 Atlanta Braves broadcasts was transferred from Turner Sports to Fox Sports South.[7] This management agreement with Meredith apparently also ended Turner Broadcasting's yearly sponsorship of Piedmont Park's "Screen on the Green" beginning in 2011.[8]

Other stations called WPCH[edit]

WPCH-TV is not related to a FM radio station in the Macon area with similar call letters, WPCH (102.5 FM), which is owned by Clear Channel Communications. WPCH also served as the call letters from the 1970s through the 1990s for "Peach 94.9", the Atlanta radio station that is now WUBL; and after that (from 2003 to 2006) on 1380 AM in the Augusta area, now WNRR. Like WPCH (FM), WNRR and WUBL are both owned by Clear Channel.

Probably the first use of the WPCH call letters was for a station which operated from November 6, 1926 to June 4, 1933 in New York City. The station was created as a merger of two earlier stations, WFBH and WRW, under the ownership of Concourse Radio Corporation. In the fall of 1927, the station was bought by the owners of WMCA and six years later it was merged into that station.

Digital television[edit]

Digital channel[edit]

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[9]
17.1 1080i 16:9 WPCH-HD Main WPCH-TV programming

Until 2011, programs seen on WPCH were broadcast in standard definition and were entirely upconverted and shown with pillarboxing, even for movies; the only exceptions were Atlanta Braves and Southeastern Conference college football games, which were broadcast in widescreen and in high definition. On April 3, 2011, the movie Forrest Gump was broadcast in 16:9 widescreen without being pillarboxed, and since then much more of the station's programming has been televised in HD.

At the end of January 2009, digital subchannel 17.2 appeared, but as of February 5 it was blank, without audio or video, and was soon removed. It is possible for TBS to be broadcast over-the-air along with Peachtree TV; however, the station did not release any information on what it planned to do with the new channel.

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

WPCH-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 17, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 20,[10][11] using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 17.

The station's digital transmitter is located near North Druid Hills, on a tower shared with several other television and FM radio stations. Its analog transmitter (also known as the Turner Broadcasting tower) was located on a very large tower on the east side of the Downtown Connector, and was dismantled in 2010. This was a condition of its land lease, as it sits on property owned by Comcast, the primary cable television competitor to Time Warner. This quirk of history is explained by the fact that it was originally the site of a different tower for WAGA-TV, when that station was owned by Storer Broadcasting. Storer Cable was sold to a different owner, and eventually was absorbed into Comcast (see the list of Atlanta broadcast stations by location#Towers).

The station's digital signal is at the maximum allowable power (1,000 kW ERP), while its original analog signal is not. Its digital signal on channel 20 is diplexed with WUVG-TV (channel 34) into a master broadcast antenna at a separate tower, located at 1800 Briarcliff Road NE, in Atlanta's Morningside neighborhood. The station has also applied for an analog backup facility at this location, with a corresponding construction permit dating from its original application in 2003 to transmit from the WATL digital antenna on the same tower. Two subsequent applications in 2006 to increase the power of the backup have not been ruled on as of October 2007. Several other television stations have their transmitters on this tower, including WUVM-LP and W45DX-D, and possibly WGCL-TV. WNNX is now located on this tower, sharing the same antenna with WVEE and WZGC. WKHX-FM is slightly lower on the tower, while WRFG has an application for much lower on the tower. According to the FCC database, another tower holding several other stations is located about 110 meters or 350 feet east-northeast.[12][13]

WPCH-TV in Canada[edit]

WPCH-TV is carried on most Canadian cable and satellite providers, often as part of one of the main specialty tiers. The station was first made available in Canada in the 1980s (as WTBS), when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission permitted Canadian pay television providers to carry the Atlanta station, and other U.S. superstations, as premium channels packaged with Canadian pay services, such as the services now known as The Movie Network and Movie Central.[14] In late 1997, many service providers moved the station from a pay service to a new third tier of specialty channels.[15]

When WTBS became WPCH, Canadian television providers were only permitted to continue carrying the Atlanta station, and not the TBS cable channel. The national TBS cable feed, which had been created as a separate national feed in 1981, later to be split off from WTBS in the 1990s and which for a time was carried in place of that station by some Canadian television providers, was technically a separate channel and had never been formally approved by the CRTC as a substitute for the over-the-air Atlanta station.[16] Indeed, in informing the CRTC of WTBS's change of call sign and branding, Turner Broadcasting apparently did not make any request to have the TBS cable channel approved in its place.[17]

WPCH continues to carry some of the same programs as TBS (albeit at different times), and as a result, some Canadians may have initially perceived Peachtree TV as either a renaming of, or equivalent to, the U.S. TBS service.[18] However, WPCH does not carry flagship TBS programs such as Major League Baseball postseason coverage, or the talk show Conan,[19] both of which are instead carried by other Canadian channels.

Since the rebranding, the channel has been removed from some cable providers due to carriage disputes with Turner, including Videotron (which removed the channel in 2009 but reinstated it in 2011), and Cogeco (which dropped it in 2011).

Programming[edit]

Sports programming[edit]

WPCH-TV had been a longtime broadcaster of the Atlanta Braves; as a superstation, Braves games were televised nationally by channel 17. However, these games became regionally-exclusive when TBS picked up rights to the post-season and a package of regular season games; these changes were the impetus of the station's separation from the TBS national feed and conversion to a standalone independent station in 2007. While previously produced by Turner Sports, production of the Braves telecasts was taken over by Fox Sports South after Meredith began operating WPCH, continuing to air 45 games per season. On February 28, 2013, Fox Sports South and SportSouth reached a deal with the Braves to acquire the 45-game package held by WPCH, rendering the team's game telecasts cable-exclusive beginning with the 2013 season and ending the station's 40-year relationship with the team.[20][21]

WPCH served as the Atlanta area affiliate of SEC TV, the Southeastern Conference's syndication package of college football and basketball games since 2009, though this ended after the 2013-14 academic year with the oncoming launch of ESPN's SEC Network through a 20-year contract between ESPN and the SEC.

References[edit]

  1. ^ 'Gilmore Girls' meet 'Smackdown'; CW Network to combine WB, UPN in CBS-Warner venture beginning in September, CNNMoney.com, January 24, 2006.
  2. ^ "Remote control can't keep classics on". Gainesvilletimes.com. 2008-05-31. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  3. ^ FCC Internet Services Staff. "Communications History- Home Box Office". FCC. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  4. ^ "WMBR history". Wmbr.mit.edu. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  5. ^ Fabrikant, Geraldine. "Turner to Sell MGM Assets." The New York Times. June 7, 1986.
  6. ^ Turner Pressroom[dead link]
  7. ^ a b Swartz, Kristi E. (January 18, 2011). "Parent of CBS Atlanta to take over operations of Peachtree TV". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved January 18, 2011. 
  8. ^ Emerson, Bo (10 May 2011). "Screen on the Green canceled this summer". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  9. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WPCH
  10. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  11. ^ "CDBS Print". Fjallfoss.fcc.gov. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  12. ^ "FM Query Results - Audio Division (FCC) USA". Fcc.gov. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  13. ^ "TV Query Results - Video Division (FCC) USA". Fcc.gov. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  14. ^ Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (1985-04-04). "Public Notice CRTC 1985-72 - Optional Canadian and Non-Canadian Satellite Services". Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  15. ^ Greg O'Brien (2002-01-01). "A look at Tier III: Launched in October 1997, much doom was predicted for the launch of Tier III. Looking at those channels now, there sure isn't much to nit-pick about.". Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  16. ^ "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. 
  17. ^ Richard Warren (Turner Network Sales) (2007-09-21). "Re: Commission's Revised List of Eligible Satellite Signals - The Renaming of WTBS Atlanta as WPCH". Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  18. ^ See, for example, the comments on this blog post regarding the Canadian availability of Conan.
  19. ^ Bart Jackson (April 13, 2010). "Conan O'Brien okays deal for new talk show". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved April 13, 2010. 
  20. ^ "FOX Sports South and SportSouth acquire 45 additional Braves games beginning this season". Fox Sports South. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  21. ^ "WTBS to become PeachTree TV". Atlanta.bizjournals.com. 2007-06-27. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 

External links[edit]