From Superstation to local station


Time Warner's only O&O television station, WTBS-TV (Ch. 17) Atlanta, is no longer going to be the flagship of the TBS Superstation, but will switch to separate programming this fall aimed at the Atlanta metro. The local station will be rechristened Peachtree TV.

Once carrying the calls WTCG (Turner Communications Group), the station was the beginning of Ted Turner's television empire, although no one knew that when he bought the struggling UHF in 1970. Turner then bought a struggling baseball team, the Atlanta Braves, put its games on the station, put its signal on a satellite and started offering it to cable systems nationwide. A few years later he changed the call letters to WTBS and christened it the Superstation. Turner became a major content provider to the fast-growing cable industry, launching CNN and other cable channels before merging the whole shebang with Time Warner. And that's why Time Warner today owns one, but only one, television station.

When the change comes October 1st, cable viewers will see no change in TBS, which no longer plans to carry the Braves nationally, Time Warner having sold the team to John Malone's Liberty Media. But Peachtree TV will be the local flagship for the team, also carrying an assortment of sitcom reruns and movies. A deal has apparently already been cut with Clear Channel, which owns WPCH-FM Atlanta, for WTBS to become WPCH-TV.

SmartMedia observation: Could this be step one of a two-step process to separate the Atlanta station from the national cable network and then sell it? It makes no sense for Time Warner to own one independent television station, and we think it highly unlikely that the company will go out to buy more. There is only one duopoly in the Atlanta market, so there are certainly potential buyers.