|Branding||Peachtree TV (general)|
CBS 46 News on Peachtree TV (WGCL-produced newscast)
|Slogan||Turn Here for Fun|
|Channels||Digital: 20 (UHF)|
(to move to 31 (UHF))
Virtual: 17 (PSIP)
|First air date||September 1, 1967|
|Call letters' meaning||PeaCHtree TV|
(on-air branding; common place/road naming theme in Atlanta area)
|Former channel number(s)|
|Transmitter power||1,000 kW|
805 kW (CP)
|Height||310.3 m (1,018 ft)|
329 m (1,079 ft) (CP)
|Public license information:||Profile|
WPCH-TV, virtual channel 17 (UHF digital channel 20), is an independent television station licensed to Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The station is owned by Meredith Corporation, as part of a duopoly with CBS affiliate WGCL-TV (channel 46). The two stations share studios on 14th Street Northwest (adjacent to Laurent and Mecaslin Streets) in Atlanta's Atlantic Station district; WPCH-TV's transmitter is located near Shepherds Lane and Arnold Avenue in the Woodland Hills section of northeastern Atlanta (near North Druid Hills). On cable, WPCH is available on Comcast Xfinity and Charter Spectrum channel 7 in the Atlanta market.
During its ownership under the Turner Broadcasting System (which owned the station from 1970 until 2017), WPCH-TV – then using the WTCG call letters – pioneered the distribution of broadcast television stations via satellite transmission to cable and satellite subscribers throughout the United States and Canada, expanding the small independent station into the first national "superstation" on December 17, 1976.
The former superstation feed – which eventually became known as simply TBS, and had maintained a nearly identical program schedule as the local Atlanta feed – was converted by Turner into a conventional basic cable network on October 1, 2007, at which time it was concurrently added to cable providers within the Atlanta market (including Comcast and Time Warner Cable) alongside its existing local carriage on satellite providers DirecTV and Dish Network. Channel 17 – which had used the WTBS callsign since 1979 – was concurrently relaunched as WPCH (branded as "Peachtree TV") and reformatted as a traditional independent station with a separate schedule exclusively catering to the Atlanta market. Although the Atlanta station is no longer available on American pay television providers outside of its home market, WPCH-TV continues to be available as a de facto superstation on most Canadian cable and satellite providers.
- 1 History
- 2 Digital television
- 3 WPCH-TV in Canada
- 4 Programming
- 5 Newscasts
- 6 References
- 7 External links
On October 20, 1965, Rice Broadcasting Inc. – owned by Atlanta entrepreneur Jack M. Rice, Jr., owner of locally based pay television firms Atlanta Telemeter Inc. and Home Theaters of Georgia Inc. – filed a permit application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to be the holder of the construction permit to build and license to operate a new television station on UHF channel 46, the third commercial UHF allocation to be assigned to Atlanta. The FCC granted the permit to Rice Broadcasting on October 20, 1965. In January 1966, Rice Broadcasting chose to assign WJRJ-TV – named for Jack Rice, Jr. – as the call letters for its television station. On February 21, 1966, Rice subsequently filed to modify the permit to re-allocate the proposed station to UHF channel 17. The FCC granted the frequency reallocation to channel 17 five weeks later on March 31. (The UHF channel 46 allocation would eventually be assigned to the Continental Broadcasting Network arm of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which signed on WHAE-TV [now CBS-affiliated sister station WGCL-TV] over that frequency on June 6, 1971.)
Channel 17 first signed on the air on September 1, 1967. WJRJ-TV was the first commercial television station to sign on in the Atlanta market since the short-lived WQXI-TV (channel 36, allocation now occupied by MyNetworkTV affiliate WATL) signed on 13 years earlier on December 18, 1954; it was also the second independent station to begin operation in the market – the first since WQXI-TV ceased operations on May 31, 1955 – even though, on paper, had a large enough population to provide suitable viewership for an independent station since the mid-1960s, as well as one of the first independents to sign on in the Southeastern United States. The station's original studio and transmitter facility was located at 1018 West Peachtree Street Northwest, which had formerly served as the studios of then-CBS affiliate WAGA-TV (channel 5, now a Fox owned-and-operated station). At 1,050 feet (320 m), the tower near the Peachtree Street studio building became the third-tallest free-standing broadcast transmission tower in the United States at that time.
WJRJ was launched on a shoestring budget, with an afternoon and evening schedule – running from 4:00 to 11:00 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's television listings page, WJRJ-TV ran exactly one TV Guide advertisement: a half-page ad in a September 1967 issue of the magazine's Georgia edition with the headline, "Yes, Atlanta, there is a channel 17." Despite the fact that WJRJ had billed itself as "Good-looking Channel 17," technical snafus were the norm during the station's early months: film broke down, ID, advertising and program promotion 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: WAGA-TV pre-empted CBS network programming to run a movie on Wednesday nights, and channel 17 stepped in to run the drama series Medical Center (the rights to which would later be owned by eventual sister company Warner Bros.) for a time. On June 5, 1968, Rice requested to transfer majority control of the station (reducing his interest from 53.9% to 46.68%) to Rice Broadcasting president W. R. McKinsey via stock delivery through conversion of 130,000 shares in debentures at $4.75 per share. The FCC granted transfer on September 5.
Arrival of Ted Turner
In July 1969, Rice Broadcasting announced an agreement to merge with the Turner Communications Corporation (the forerunner to the Turner Broadcasting System) – an Atlanta-based group owned by entrepreneur Robert E. "Ted" Turner III, who ran his late father's billboard business and had also owned radio stations in Chattanooga, Tennessee (WGOW); Charleston, South Carolina (WTMA-AM-FM, the FM station is now WSSX-FM); and Jacksonville, Florida (WMBR, now WBOB) – in an all-stock transaction. Under the terms of the deal, Rice would acquire Turner in an exchange of stock and adopt the Turner Communications name; however, Turner would acquire about 75% of the merged company and own 48.2% of its stock, receiving 1.2 million shares of Rice stock worth an estimated $3 million. The FCC granted approval of the acquisition on December 10, 1969, giving Turner its first television property. In January 1970, soon after Turner received approval of its purchase of the low-rated UHF outlet, 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 sale was formally completed four months later on April 6, at which time Turner was assigned as licensee of WJRJ-TV.
Upon becoming owned by Turner, WTCG initially retained its original programming format. It also moved its operations to new studio facilities located a few blocks west of the original Peachtree Street facility, to the former site of the Progressive Club. During an interview in 2004, Turner revealed that some of the problems that had dogged WJRJ were present during the early days at WTCG. First, when Turner bought the station, it was the only one in the Atlanta market that was still broadcasting exclusively in black-and-white because the previous owners had not made the necessary technical upgrades to allow the transmission of color programming. Secondly, 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 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, as it began operations in 1970, there was new competition in the form of upstart UHF station WATL (which signed on the air on August 16, 1969 as the second television station in Atlanta to occupy the channel 36 allocation). Once the financial problems were settled, WTCG eventually drove WATL off the air in April 1971, as channel 17 (as well as the economic climate of the period) ate significantly into that station's advertising revenue; channel 36 would remain dark for five years and never became a major player until it became the market's original Fox station in 1986.
WTCG threw an on-air party in celebration, but it would soon have a new competitor when WHAE-TV took to the air on channel 46 in June 1971; that station originally maintained a six-hour-a-day program schedule, with Christian programs filling four hours of its schedule and low-budget secular shows filling the remaining airtime. Channel 46 gradually expanded its broadcast day, running programs for 20 hours daily by 1976. By 1974, the station had a conventional general entertainment format, with religious programs mixed in among its secular shows during morning and primetime slots (such as CBN's flagship program, The 700 Club). WHAE (which became WANX-TV in 1977) was a very competitive station, but could not beat WTCG, which 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 at a time. Turner would then buy the rights to 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's schedule placed an emphasis on its movie library; one notable program was Academy Award Theatre, which showcased films that had won or have been nominated for Academy Awards. Classic films from the 1930s through the 1950s (mostly consisting of Warner Bros. releases) were shown every day as part of the regular schedule. Many older films that 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.
Channel 17's sports programming grew to include 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). Programs carried by WTCG during the period included a mix of sitcoms (such as I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show, The Beverly Hillbillies and Three Stooges shorts), cartoons (such as The Flintstones and Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons released prior to 1948) and drama series (such as Star Trek). Another show on WTCG's lineup was Future Shock, a music program hosted by R&B singer James Brown. The show, which bore similarities to American Bandstand and Soul Train, aired in late night each Friday from 1976 to 1979.
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 relay, enabling the station to reach far beyond the Atlanta television market. Still, many places were so far from the signal of an independent television station that this was not an option. There were cable systems that carried three stations affiliated with each of the major commercial networks and three PBS stations (one station from within the home market and two stations from neighboring markets of each network).
To serve such areas lacking an independent station, Ted Turner decided to negotiate an agreement with Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Southern Satellite Systems – a common-carry uplink firm founded by Turner Communications, which divested the firm to Edward L. Taylor (a former vice president of marketing at Western Union) in December 1975 to comply with FCC rules prohibiting a common carrier from having involvement in program origination – to uplink the WTCG signal to the Satcom 1 satellite in order to distribute the station's programming to cable and satellite subscribers throughout the United States. With this move, WTCG would become one of the first television stations, and only the second U.S. broadcaster – following premium cable network HBO (an eventual sister property to channel 17 as a result of Time Warner's 1996 acquisition of the Turner Broadcasting System), which began to transmit its signal nationally via satellite on September 30, 1975 – to be transmitted via satellite, instead of the then-standard method of using microwave relay to distribute a programming feed.
At 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time on December 17, 1976, WTCG became America's first "superstation" — independent stations distributed to cable providers throughout their respective regions, or the entire country — when its signal was beamed via Satcom 1 to four cable providers in the Midwestern and Southeastern United States: Multi-Vue TV's Grand Island, Nebraska, system; Hampton Roads Cablevision in Newport News, Virginia; Troy Cablevision in Troy, Alabama, and Newton Cable TV in 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 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 carried 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.
WTCG's move also led Eastern Microwave, Incorporated and United Video Satellite Group, respectively, to uplink fellow independent stations WOR-TV (now MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated station WWOR-TV) in New York City and WGN-TV in Chicago to satellite by 1978, in an effort to distribute them as national superstations. Eventually, other independent stations such as KTVT (now a CBS owned-and-operated station) in Dallas, KTVU (now a Fox owned-and-operated station) in San Francisco and KTLA (now a CW affiliate) in Los Angeles were uplinked to satellite as well, primarily being distributed on a regional basis. 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.
In May 1979, Turner reached an agreement to acquire the WTBS call letters used by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based educational FM radio station owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with the intent of re-assigning the callsign to Turner's Atlanta television station. The request was made in conjunction with a $25,000 donation by Turner to a group associated with MIT to fund a new transmitter for the radio station (now known as WMBR), which would include an additional $25,000 to the group if Turner Communications became successful in obtaining the WTBS calls from the FCC. Channel 17 changed its call letters to WTBS on August 27, 1979, at which time its parent company was accordingly renamed the Turner Broadcasting System; the station concurrently began branding as "SuperStation WTBS". By July 1979, WTCG/WTBS was available to 1,000 cable systems throughout the United States, with a total of 4.8 million cable subscribers receiving the signal.
In 1986, after Ted Turner's $1.5 billion purchase of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists that year ended in the studios being sold back to Kirk Kerkorian due to concerns over Turner Entertainment's debt load, WTBS acquired the rights to air the studios' movies through Turner's purchase of the MGM/UA film library. Music videos also aired on the station as part of a weekend late-night lineup that ran from 1983 to 1992, Night Tracks; the program aired in the form of two three-hour-long blocks (later reduced to two two-hour blocks in August 1989, and then to two 90-minute blocks in the spring of 1990), barring pre-emptions from sporting events running overtime.
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 superstation WGN-TV doing the same thing after the FCC's passage of the syndication exclusivity 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, direct response ads or public service announcements. On September 7, 1987, the "W" in the station's call letters was dropped from the "SuperStation WTBS" branding in order to emphasize the channel's national programming prominence. In Atlanta, through the early 1990s, station promos and digital on-screen graphics referred to the station as "TBS 17". The "SuperStation" branding was dropped entirely in 1990; for a short time in the late 1990s, the "Superstation" brand returned to WTBS (in concurrence with the restoration of the sub-brand on the national feed) without the "TBS" branding.
On September 22, 1995, Time Warner – a New York City-based media company formed in 1989 through the merger of Time Inc. and Warner Bros. corporate parent Warner Communications – reached an agreement to acquire the Turner Broadcasting System and its associated properties (including WTBS/TBS, CNN, TNT, Headline News and Cartoon Network as well as Turner Entertainment) for $7.5 billion; the deal would also expand Time Warner's cable television holdings, as it had owned HBO and sister premium service Cinemax as well as cable television provider Time Warner Cable since the Time-Warner Communications merger six years prior. (Time Warner and predecessor Warner Communications had owned an 18% interest in Turner Broadcasting since 1987, as part of a cable television industry-backed bailout of the company amid severe financial issues.) Under the terms, Turner would acquire an approximate 10% interest in Time Warner as well as oversee its cable network group – comprising the Turner and Home Box Office units and its minority interests in Comedy Central and E! – and hold a position on the company's board of directors (which he retained until he stepped down from the company in February 2006) upon the merger's closure. The merger received regulatory approval on September 12, 1996; the Turner–Time Warner deal was finalized one month later on October 10, forming what at the time was the largest media company in the world.
In September 1998, due to the trend of children's programs migrating more toward cable channels such as Turner's Cartoon Network, 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 dramatic films from its feature film slate and all of its acquired drama series, in an effort to refocus the schedule around comedy programming, consisting of comedy films and sitcoms from the 1990s. (Sister network TNT in turn began specializing in drama programs by this time.)
Transition to Peachtree TV
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". The WPCH call letters had already been used by an unrelated AM radio station in West Point (owned by iHeartMedia) on 1310 AM; they had previously been used in Atlanta by the present-day WUBL (94.9 FM, which accordingly was branded as "Peach 94.9") from 1972 to 2002. (Outside of the Atlanta area, the calls had been used by the Augusta radio station now known as WNRR [1380 AM] from 2003 to 2006, and then in the Macon area by the present-day WIHB-FM [96.5 FM] from 2006 to 2015; all three of which are also owned by iHeartMedia. Probably the first use of the WPCH call letters was by a radio station in New York City which operated from November 6, 1926 to June 4, 1933; the station was created as a merger of two earlier stations, WFBH and WRW, under the ownership of Concourse Radio Corporation; it was bought by the owners of WMCA in the fall of 1927 and was merged into that station six years later.)
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 (simultaneous to this, the national TBS network would begin broadcasting MLB games featuring all teams, not just the Braves, and the League Division and Championship Series). 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 also continued to carry Atlanta Braves baseball games until 2012; since then, all Braves games became broadcast exclusively on cable via Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Southeast.
On January 18, 2011, Turner/Time Warner announced it would enter into a local marketing agreement with Des Moines-based Meredith Corporation (which has been the owner of CBS affiliate WGCL-TV since it acquired the station from Tribune Broadcasting in August 1998), under which Turner/Time Warner would retain ownership of the broadcast license while Meredith/WGCL would assume responsibility for advertising sales, marketing and promotional services and technical operations for WPCH. Channel 17 subsequently migrated its operations from the Techwood Drive facility into WGCL's studio building on 14th Street Northwest in Atlanta's Atlantic Station district. In addition, production of the station's 45 Atlanta Braves broadcasts was transferred from Turner Sports to Fox Sports South. This management agreement with Meredith apparently also ended Turner Broadcasting's yearly sponsorship of Piedmont Park's "Screen on the Green" beginning in 2011.
Outright sale to Meredith
On October 22, 2016, AT&T announced an offer to acquire Time Warner for $108.7 billion, including debt it would assume from the latter; the merger would bring Time Warner's various media properties, including TBS, under the same corporate umbrella as AT&T's telecommunications holdings, including satellite provider DirecTV. WPCH is among the very few Time Warner properties licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as cable channels like CNN and broadcast television networks like The CW are not directly licensed by the FCC (though another wrinkle in the deal involved the company's send/receive satellite dishes, which were Time Warner-owned and whose licenses are under FCC purview and were reviewed in the deal with AT&T's existing infrastructure). In the announcement, the companies said they were still determining which, if any, of Time Warner's FCC licenses would be assumed by AT&T.
Media analysts suggested that WPCH was likely to be spun off or sold to a third party to potentially avoid an FCC review entirely, in an effort to expedite the AT&T–Time Warner merger. On February 20, 2017, the Meredith Corporation announced that it will acquire the license assets of WPCH-TV from the Turner Broadcasting System for $70 million. The sale received FCC approval on April 17, 2017, and was finalized four days later on April 21.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|17.1||1080i||16:9||WPCH-TV||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 station's telecast of the 1994 movie Forrest Gump was transmitted 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, the station added a digital subchannel on 17.2; by 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. In September 2017, 17.2 returned with an SD simulcast of the main channel.
WPCH-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 17, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 20, using PSIP to display WPCH-TV's virtual channel as 17 on digital television receivers.
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 (both as a provider — as Time Warner had formerly owned Time Warner Cable until TWC's spin-off from Time Warner in 2009 — and as an owner of cable channels). 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 DTT signal is at the maximum allowable power (1,000 kW ERP), while its original analog signal was not. Its digital signal on channel 20 is diplexed with Univision O&O WUVG (channel 34) into a master broadcast antenna at a separate tower, located at 1800 Briarcliff Road Northeast, in Atlanta's Morningside neighborhood. The station had 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[update]. Several other television stations have their transmitters on this tower, including WUVM-LP [channel 4] and W45DX-D [channel 45], and possibly WGCL-TV. (WWWQ [92.7 FM] is now located on this tower, sharing the same antenna with WZGC [92.9 FM]; WKHX-FM [101.5] is slightly lower on the tower, while WRFG [89.3 FM] transmits from 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.
WPCH-TV in Canada
WPCH-TV is carried on most Canadian cable, satellite, fiber and IPTV providers, often being carried as part of one of the main specialty channel tiers. The station first became available in Canada in the mid-1980s (as WTBS), when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) permitted Canadian pay television providers to begin carrying 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 the now-defunct Movie Central. In late 1997, many service providers moved the station from a pay service to a new third tier of specialty channels.
When WTBS became WPCH-TV, Canadian television providers were only permitted to continue carrying the Atlanta station, and not the TBS pay-TV channel. The national TBS subscription 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 an eligible-for-carriage foreign channel that could be carried as a substitute for the over-the-air Atlanta station. Indeed, in informing the CRTC of WTBS' change of call sign and branding, Turner Broadcasting apparently did not make any request to have the TBS cable channel approved in its place.
Until the early 2010s, WPCH continued 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 American TBS service. However, WPCH did not carry flagship TBS programs such as Major League Baseball postseason coverage, or the talk show Conan, both of which are instead carried by other Canadian channels (Sportsnet carries the MLB postseason, while Much and CTV carry Conan).
Since the rebranding, WPCH has been removed from some providers due to carriage disputes with Turner, including Videotron (which removed the station in 2009 but reinstated it in 2011) and Cogeco (which dropped it in 2011).
Syndicated programs broadcast on WPCH-TV (as of September 2018[update]) include Rachael Ray, Divorce Court, Hot Bench, Modern Family, Black-ish, Family Guy, American Dad!, The King of Queens, Last Man Standing and Inside Edition.
Major League Baseball
Channel 17 was a longtime broadcaster of Major League Baseball games featuring the Atlanta Braves under former parent Turner Broadcasting's in-house sports production firm Turner Sports. In July 1972, Ted Turner acquired the television rights to the Braves beginning with the team's 1973 season, assuming the contract from then-NBC affiliate WSB-TV (now an ABC affiliate), which had carried the franchise's games since the Braves relocated from Milwaukee in 1966. (However, WSB-TV's sister radio station, WSB [750 AM], continued to hold radio broadcast rights to the team's games for several years afterward.) The acquisition of the Braves television rights reversed the standard of MLB franchises designating originating stations, arranging their own regional carrier networks and handling advertising sales for their game telecasts. It was also particularly striking given that WTCG had experienced major profit losses ever since Turner assumed ownership of the station from Rice Broadcasting in 1970; WTCG had only then started to break even in revenue and was just beginning to become more competitive with the Atlanta market's other television stations in terms of viewership. Channel 17 aired an average of 50 Braves games per season over the first year of the contract, increasing to an average of 95 games per season by 1980.
During the 1970s, Turner also syndicated live Braves telecasts to other television stations (mostly major network affiliates, as the region had few independents) throughout Georgia and surrounding states, including Turner-owned NBC affiliate WRET (now WCNC-TV) in Charlotte. Usually, the Sunday afternoon game and one prime time game were distributed to these stations, with mid-week game telecasts airing mainly during the summer, while the major broadcast networks were carrying reruns of their prime time shows, a normal practice among the other MLB teams during that era. Also by the mid-1970s, WTCG had already become available on many cable systems in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina via microwave relay transmission by the mid-1970s, giving the team even further television exposure to its loyal fanbase in the South.
After Turner uplinked the station's signal via satellite, channel 17's Braves telecasts began airing nationally at the start of the 1977 season. With WTCG reaching a significant cable penetration throughout the Southern U.S. during 1978 and 1979, Turner ceased syndicating the team's game broadcasts and relegated those telecasts to the WTCG/WTBS cable feed, making the Braves the first team that did not provide live game coverage to broadcast stations outside of those within the team's home market. Coverage of the Atlanta Braves (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 #17 jersey 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, beginning with the 2007 season, TBS would begin carrying a television package that includes all major league teams as well as rights to the Division Series and one of the two League Championship Series (assuming the rights from Fox and ESPN) and 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). As part of the contract, Turner Broadcasting agreed to transition its Braves telecasts to air on a regionally-exclusive basis; these changes were the impetus for the station's separation from the TBS national feed and conversion to a standalone independent station in October 2007.
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' former Atlanta feed, WPCH-TV, solely carrying the telecasts; Turner syndicated the package to other television stations and cable channels for broadcast in the remainder of the Braves' designated market area. The final Braves game to be broadcast on TBS aired on September 30, 2007, with the first divisional playoff game airing the following day on October 1, 2007 (when the TBS/WPCH split occurred). Production of the Braves telecasts was taken over by Fox Sports South after Meredith began operating WPCH-TV, 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 Braves.
National Basketball Association
In October 1972, WTCG obtained the broadcast rights to broadcast NBA games involving the Atlanta Hawks (which was also owned by Ted Turner at the time) under a ten-year agreement. WTCG/WTBS and its superstation feed aired an average of 55 Hawks regular season games per season. TBS aired the games nationwide until the telecasts became subjected to NBA blackout restrictions within 35 miles (56 km) of the home team's arena, resulting in many Hawks away games televised by the TBS national feed being unavailable to cable providers within the designated market area of the opposing team (this restriction was dropped when TNT gained the right to be the exclusive broadcaster of any game that it chose to carry).
In the spring of 1984, WTBS reached an agreement with the NBA to broadcast games from league teams other than the Hawks beginning with the 1984–85 season; under the deal, WTBS/TBS maintained a package of approximately 55 regular season NBA games annually, with games airing on Tuesday and Friday nights. From 1985 until 1989, WTBS/TBS also televised anywhere from 12 to 20 early round conference playoff games beginning with the 1985 NBA Playoffs as well as the NBA Draft. Under a joint broadcast contract signed between Turner Broadcasting and the NBA in the summer of 1987, the rights to NBA telecasts began to be split between TBS and upstart sister network TNT beginning with the league's 1988-89 season, with TNT assuming rights to the NBA Draft and most NBA regular season and playoff games and TBS's NBA telecasts being relegated to a single game or a double-headers one night per week. In 2001, Turner Sports signed a new television contract with the NBA, in which TNT would become Turner Broadcasting's exclusive rightsholder of NBA telecasts beginning with the 2002–03 season. (ESPN assumed TBS's portion of the league's cable television contract.)
In 1981, WTBS acquired the television rights to broadcast college football games under a special "supplemental" television contract with the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) beginning with the 1981 season, limited to games which had already not been distributed for national broadcast by other networks. Beginning with the 1982 season, under a $17.6-million deal reached between the NCAA and Turner on January 27 of that year, consisting of live Division I-AA games on Thursday nights and Division I-A games on Saturdays during the fall. With this, its national superstation feed became the first cable channel to broadcast live college football games nationwide. Beginning in 1984, WTBS' college football coverage shifted to primarily focus on games involving teams in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). WTBS/TBS discontinued its college football contract after the 1992 season season.
WTBS/TBS resumed college football coverage in 2002 through a sub-licensing agreement with Fox Sports, which allowed the Atlanta station and superstation feed to carry college football games involving teams in the Big 12 and Pac-10 conferences, to which Fox Sports held the national cable rights; the network usually aired two games per week during the first four seasons of the contract, reduced to a single weekly game during some weeks in the 2006 season. These rights were transferred exclusively to Fox Sports and its regional sports networks beginning with the 2007 season. On July 14, 2016, WPCH announced an agreement with Kennesaw State University to carry a package of Kennesaw State Owls college football games beginning with the 2016 season.
Professional wrestling aired on WTCG/WTBS from 1971 to 2001 under several different wrestling promotions. In 1971, the station served as the flagship outlet for the Jim Barnett-owned Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW), acquiring the local rights to the program from WQXI-TV (now WXIA); the program concurrently began to be recorded in a soundstage at the channel 17's now-former West Peachtree Street studios in Midtown Atlanta. When WTBS became a national superstation in 1976, Georgia Championship Wrestling became the first National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) promotion to maintain a nationally televised broadcast, a move which made many of the NWA's regional promoters unhappy; however, Barnett allayed any issues citing that he was only using Georgia-based wrestlers.
In July 1984, GCW and the promotion's television timeslot rights were acquired by the Vince McMahon-owned World Wrestling Federation (WWF; now the WWE). The replacement show, WWF World Championship Wrestling (later retitled WWF Georgia Championship Wrestling in March 1985), mainly served as a recap of matches that had previously aired on the WWF's main programms, which angered Ted Turner, who hoped that the WWF would hold first-run matches originating from the WTBS studios. The WWF iteration of the show received much lower viewership than its predecessor; this led McMahon to sell the promotion's Saturday night time slot to Jim Crockett Promotions (owned by Charlotte-based wrestling promoter Jim Crockett, Jr.), who assumed production responsibilities for the wrestling program and utilized the same set. (Crockett's program relocated to a new arena soundstage at the CNN Center in 1988.)
In 1985, Turner acquired the television rights to Mid-South Wrestling (owned by Shreveport-based promoter Bill Watts) as a WWF alternative program. Although Mid-South quickly became the highest-rated program on WTBS, Watts lost out on acquiring the two-hour Saturday timeslot occupied by the WWF, when Barnett helped broker a deal that allowed Crockett to buy the slot from McMahon and become the superstation's exclusive wrestling promotion. Through the early 1990s, the wrestling programs and Braves baseball were among basic cable's highest-rated offerings, due to heavy viewership in the Southeast.
In November 1988, TBS became the television home of World Championship Wrestling (WCW), which Turner acquired from Jim Crockett Promotions; it carried the weekly show, WCW Saturday Night, from 1992 to 2000, and was the flagship program for the WCW before Monday Nitro launched in 1995 on sister channel TNT. Another WCW show, WCW Thunder, debuted in 1998 on Thursday nights; the program was moved to Wednesdays in 2000, before it was cancelled in 2001 when TBS executive Jamie Kellner determined that wrestling did not fit the demographics of either 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 channel at the time.
WTCG also made its name by producing humorous, satirical newscasts. One such program was 17 Update Early in the Morning, which featured the usually straight-faced Bill Tush and Tina Seldin reporting the news in a mostly deadpan fashion, occasionally interacting with the studio crew, and with comedic sideline gags at times by another co-anchor (known as "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, aired between late night/early morning movie presentations from 1975 to 1979. Turner discontinued that program after a Congressional investigation took place concerning his fulfillment of Federal Communications Commission public service requirements, several 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. Standard, more serious news updates presented by the anchors of 17 Update and other on-staff anchors – under the title NewsWatch – also ran during the day in-between programs.
On July 20, 1980, CNN began producing an hour-long weeknight news program for WTBS; the TBS Evening News – which was originally anchored by David Jensen (who previously served as a host for BBC Radio 1), Kevin Christopher and meteorologist Dallas Raines – usually ran at 10:00 p.m. local time (the airtime sometimes varied depending on the movie or sports presentation that preceded it). Owing to WTBS's national superstation status, rather than focusing on local news, the program focused on national and international news headlines as well as national weather forecasts and sports headlines. The TBS Evening News was cancelled after four years as a result of low ratings due to the frequent programming delays, with the program ending after the July 20, 1984, broadcast. In addition, on July 31, 1980, WTBS also carried a 24-hour simulcast of CNN in place of its regular programming schedule; the simulcast was done in a move to help encourage subscriber demand to force cable systems to begin carrying the cable news channel.
Upon the channel's January 1, 1982, launch, WTBS also carried simulcasts of CNN's sister channel CNN2 (later Headline News, now HLN). The channel's launch was simulcast nationwide on WTBS as well as CNN starting at 11:45 p.m. on December 31, 1981, as a preview for cable providers throughout the U.S. that had not yet reached agreements to carry CNN2. Thereafter, initially to encourage viewers to ask for the network full-time, the station also ran a half-hour simulcast of CNN2/Headline News each morning at 6:00 a.m. in the Atlanta market and at 5:30 a.m. Eastern Time in the rest of the country. (As WPCH-TV, the Atlanta station ran an hour-long simulcast block of HLN's Morning Express daily at 6:00 a.m. until the 2017 sale to Meredith, when it was replaced with a simulcast of WGCL's morning newscast.) CNN2/Headline News also assumed production responsibilities for the TBS NewsWatch segments, which began to be presented by that network's anchors. The Headline News simulcasts as well as the TBS NewsWatch segments were eventually phased out locally and nationally in 1996 following the relaxation of the FCC's public affairs programming requirements.
On October 16, 2017, WGCL began producing a nightly, hour-long prime time newscast for WPCH, under the title CBS 46 News at 9, which marked the return of a regular newscast to channel 17 (not counting the Headline News simulcasts) since the cancellation of the TBS Evening News 33 years earlier and the first full-length local newscast produced for the station. The program was first anchored by Sharon Reed and Ben Swann, who were accompanied by chief meteorologist Paul Ossmann and meteorologist Ella Dorsey, and sports director Fred Kalil.
Although it holds somewhat of a traditional format, it also features heavy viewer interactivity, and features a segment in which the newscast's anchors respond to viewer comments on social media. One notable situation occurred on the December 5, 2017, edition of the newscast, in which Reed – who is African American – made an unannounced on-air address about an email sent by a female viewer, who accused Reed – whom the sender referred to as a "niger", spelling the racial slur without a second "g" – of making a racial double standard with regards to a discussion in an earlier newscast about issues of race in the mayoral election between Atlanta city councilwomen Mary Norwood (who is white) and Keisha Lance Bottoms (who is black, and whom was elected mayor with 50.4% of the vote). Reed said the viewer mischaracterized what she said in the conversation, affirming that she never suggested white people could not talk about racial issues.
The WGCL newscasts are replaced with alternate content for the Canadian feed, with locally-sourced paid programming in place of its simulcast of WGCL's morning news pre-CBS This Morning, and the 9:00 a.m. hour of the locally-originated advertorial program CBS46 Atlanta Plugged In and Atlanta Eats, and ER for the 9:00 p.m. show.
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Steve McClellan (September 25, 1995). "It's TBS Time" (PDF). Broadcasting & Cable. Cahners Business Information. p. 10. Retrieved September 21, 2018 – via American Radio History.
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AT&T and Time Warner are currently determining which FCC licenses, if any, will be transferred to AT&T in connection with the transaction.
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Time Warner could easily spin Peachtree out into a separate, wholly independent company, Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics LLC, told Bloomberg BNA. The company could also sell the station to a third party, even if it has to do so for pennies on the dollar, he said.
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- See, for example, the comments on this blog post regarding the Canadian availability of Conan.
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- peachtreetv.com - WPCH-TV official webpage
- cbs46.com - WGCL-TV official website
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WPCH-TV
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WPCH-TV
- Clips of 17 Update Early in the Morning, maintained by former anchor Bill Tush