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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

Turner Broadcasting System(TBS) traces its roots to a billboard company in Savannah, Georgia purchased by Robert Edward Turner II in the late 1940’s.  Turner grew the business, which later became known as Turner Advertising Company.  Robert Edward Turner’s son, Ted Turner, inherited the company when the elder Turner died in 1963.  After taking over the company, Turner expanded the business into radio and television.  Turner Broadcasting System as a formal entity was incorporated in Georgia in May 1965. September 1, 1967 was the official launch date for TBS.  They began broadcasting MLB and NBA in 1972.  They began broadcasting wrestling in 1971 with Jim Barnett’s Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW).  TBS would broadcast wrestling for 3 more decades(ending with WCW in 2001.)

In 1970, Turner purchased WJRJ-Atlanta Channel 17-a small Ultra-High Frequency ( UHF) station and renamed it WTCG for Turner Communications Group.  During December 1976, WTCG originated the “superstation” concept, transmitting via satellite to cable systems.  The company changed its name to Turner Broadcasting System in 1979, and the call letters of its main entertainment channel to WTBS.

June 1, 1980 saw the launch of Cable News Network (CNN), the first 24-hour news channel.  In ’81, Turner Broadcasting System acquired Brut Productions from Faberge, Inc.  In ’84, Turner initiated Cable Music Channel, his competition for MTV.  The channel was short-lived but helped influence the original (and best, IMO) format for VH1.  In 1985, Turner made a failed attempt to acquire CBS.  He rebounded by purchasing MGM/UA Entertainment from Kirk Kerkorian for $1.5 billion.  The MGM lot in culver City was sold to Lorimar/Telepictures.  Turner kept MGM’s pre-May ’86 film and tv library as well as the Associated Artist Production library.  On October 3, 1988, the company launched Turner Network Television(TNT). 

Turner expanded its presence in movie production and distribution, first with the 1991 purchase of Hanna-Barbera animation studio during a competitive bid with MCA/Universal Studios, Hallmark Cards and several other corporations.  On December 22, 1993, Turner acquired Castle Rock Entertainment and purchased New Line Cinema a month later.  Turner launched Cartoon Network October 1, 1992, followed by Turner Classic Movies(TCM) on April 14, 1994.

Turner merged with Time Warner, a company formed in 1990, on October 10, 1996.  In 2003, Phillip Kent succeeded Jamie Kellner as chairman.  On February 23, 2006, the company agreed to sell Turner South to Fox Entertainment Group.  Fox assumed control of the channel on May 1 and rebranded it SportSouth on October 13.  Coincidentally, that’s the former name of Fox Sports South when Turner owned the channel in partnership with Liberty Media in 1996.

May 2006, Turner bought Court TV and, two years later, relaunched it as TruTV on January 1, 2008.  Also in May 2006, Ted Turner attended his final board meeting as board member of Time Werner and parted ways with the company.  In 2011, TBS obtained television rights to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  In 2014-15, they split coverage of the regional finals with CBS.  TBS broadcasts the final 3 games in even-numbered years and CBS broadcasts them in odd-numbered years.  NASCAR first aired on TBS in 1983.  Turner Broadcasting decided in 2001 that NASCAR would fit better on TNT under their “We Know Drama” campaign.  They’ve shared coverage of NASCAR with NBC, alternating halves of the seasons with FOX, ever since.  Turner has also carried Major League Baseball since the ‘80’s as well. ( )


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