WTBS to become Peachtree TV

It is well known that one of the perks of living in Atlanta was getting first-run TBS shows for free – including My Boys, House of Payne, Ten Items or Less – not to mention World Premiere Movies.

Well, now they will have to pay up like the rest of us.

WTBS-TV the Turner/Time Warner-owned station in Atlanta, is becoming Peachtree TV, or WPCH-TV, beginning Oct. 1. The station will return to its roots as an general-market independent station.

WTBS is carried on over-the-air Channel 17 and local cable Channel 7 on most systems in Atlanta.

The national cable feed of TBS would not be affected. It will be offered to Atlanta cable and satellite viewers for the first time starting this fall, as well as the new WPCH. First-run TBS shows will no longer be offered on over-the-air, or broadcast television in Atlanta.

The move was made to attract more local Atlanta advertising spot dollars to the station – and to possibly prop the station up for a future sale, since WPCH would be Time Warner’s only broadcast outlet. A possible seeker may be Fox, which has many duopolies in several key big markets, with the second station a MyNetworkTV affiliate. Fox owns WAGA-TV in Atlanta.

WPCH will carry reruns of some shows that are currently on WTBS including Family Guy, The Cosby Show, Steve Harvey, Friends, Seinfeld, and The King of Queens, and add other fare including The Jeffersons (which ran on TBS before), Diff’rent Strokes, and Fraiser.

The station will also carry 45 Atlanta Braves games a year, beginning in 2008. TBS will no longer carry Braves games on its national feed after this year because of Turner’s new deal with Major League Baseball.

Other shows on WTBS that are not currently or were formerly syndicated (to broadcast stations) – like Dawson’s Creek, Yes Dear, and Home Improvement – will likely leave the schedule.

The station also plans to air weeknight prime-time movies, a staple independent stations did before the Fox, UPN, and WB networks came along.

WPCH will also be able to bid on first-run syndicated programming – something WTBS was mostly shut out of because of its super station status. The last first-run strips WTBS carried (and among the very few it ever aired) were failed talk shows Ask Rita in 2004 and The Megan Mulually Show last fall.

Currently, WTBS carries a simulcast of the national feed, with the exception of national spots (local commercials are inserted instead), Saturday mornings (E/I and public-affairs programming airs in its place), and parts of its early afternoon lineup. WTBS also carries Headline News at 6 a.m. weekday mornings.

The move will leave WGN as the only national super station left. EMI folded WWOR’s (New York) superstation in 1996.

Several cable systems in Canada carries the local Atlanta version of WTBS instead of the national version. No word on how this move will affect viewers north of the border.

Fast facts on WTBS:

-Some people think that WTBS was founded by Ted Turner. It actually was founded as WJRJ in 1967 by former owner John Rice. Turner bought the station in 1970 and renamed it WTCG. It was renamed WTBS in 1979.

-Turner held a telethon in order to save the station from going under.

-R&B legend James Brown hosted a Friday night dance show called Future Shock on WTCG in the mid-1970’s. WTBS later aired another Friday night music show – a music video program called Night Tracks, in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

– WTCG carried some NBC network daytime shows, including Jeopardy!, that now-former affiliate WSB-TV refused to clear.

-Turner bought the Atlanta Braves in 1976 and put them on WTCG. The Braves are now owned by Liberty Media.

– WTCG became the nation’s first “Superstation” in 1976, available to homes across the country via cable. Turner would later acquire and air Atlanta Hawks games.

-WTCG aired a overnight newscast called 17 Update in the Morning, which was anchored by Bill Tush. The newscast would often take a comedic tone. Tush would get his own weekly late night comedy show on TBS in 1980. He would later go on to work for CNN.

– WTBS instituted what was called Turner Time – programs starting :05 and :35 past the hour. This practiced ended in 1997 with the sale of TBS to Time Warner.

-WTBS was instrumental in the formation of what would be later known as WCW. The station aired wrestling for 30 years from 1971 until 2001, when the WWE bought the WCW from Turner.

– Before TBS was branded as “very funny” in 2004 to emphasize its off-network sitcoms and first-run comedy projects, WTBS aired first-run comedy programs in the 1980’s, including Down to Earth, Rocky Road, and a new version of Leave it to Beaver (which was lured from the Disney Channel.)

– Among the more popular signature programs WTBS aired included The Andy Griffith Show, which was often used for counter-programming against the Super Bowl. TBS dropped Griffith in 1999.

-Other popular programs TBS aired in the past included I Love Lucy, Sanford and Son, The Banana Splits, Brady Bunch, Perry Mason, Matlock, and The Flintstones (a 4:05 p.m. staple for years.)

– WTBS also carried the Goodwill Games, which were created by Ted Turner in response to the political turmoil surrounding the Olympics in the 1980’s. But the games were a huge money-loser and a ratings disaster. The Goodwill Games were finally disposed of in 2001.

House of Payne’s test syndicated run last year in a few markets also included WTBS in Atlanta, where it performed very well.

– One of TBS’ most notorious flops was the comedy/reality/contest series The Real Gilligan’s Island, based on the 1960’s sitcom which staggered on the air in 2004 and 2005. TBS ran the original series (a lot) during the 1980’s and 1990’s.


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