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|Slogan||Turn Here for Fun|
Digital: 20 (UHF)|
(to move to 31 (UHF))
Virtual: 17 (PSIP)
|First air date||September 1, 1967|
|Call letters' meaning||
(on-air branding; common place/road naming theme in Atlanta area)
|Former channel number(s)||
805 kW (CP)
310.3 m (1,018 ft)|
329 m (1,079 ft) (CP)
|Public license information:||
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 Merh Corporation, as part of a duopoly with CBS affiliate WGCL-TV (channel 46). The two stations share studios on 14th Street in northwestern Atlanta; WPCH-TV's transmitter is located in North Druid Hills. From 1970 until 2017, the station was owned by Turner Broadcasting System, which is now a subsidiary of Time Warner. Prior to the end of Turner's ownership, WPCH-TV was the only broadcast television station owned by Time Warner.
On December 17, 1976, the station, then known as WTCG, began to offer itself via satellite transmission (becoming one the first outlets to do so, as opposed to microwave relay, then the industry norm), expanding the small independent station into a national superstation. The channel broadcast a variety of programming during this era, including films, syndicated series, Atlanta Braves baseball, and professional wrestling (including Georgia Championship Wrestling, and later World Championship Wrestling [WCW]). It was carried on cable and satellite television providers throughout the United States and Canada. In 1979, the station changed its call letters to WTBS.
On October 1, 2007, the superstation feed of WTBS was separated from the local feed (which, until then, had been nearly identical), and transitioned to operating as a traditional cable television network simply known as TBS. Concurrently, WTBS was re-launched as WPCH, Peachtree TV, a traditional independent station serving the Atlanta market only. Time Warner later relinquished day-to-day operations of WPCH to Merh Corporation (owner of CBS affiliate WGCL), but retained ownership of the station's license until 2017, when it was sold to Merh outright in order to expe the acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T, as it was one of the few FCC-licensed properties owned by the company.
On cable, WPCH is available in standard definition on channel 7 on both Comcast Xfinity and Charter Spectrum, and in high definition on Xfinity channel 807 and Spectrum channel 707. Despite the end of the TBS simulcast, WPCH continues to be available as a de facto superstation in Canada.
The station 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 to sign on in the Southeastern United States. The station's call letters were named for its founder, Atlanta entrepreneur Jack Rice, Jr. 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).
Channel 17 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 ion 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.
In January 1970, entrepreneur Ted Turner, who ran his father's billboard business and had also owned several 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 the Turner Broadcasting System). 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 cr 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 (channel 36). Once the financial problems were settled, WTCG eventually drove WATL off the air; channel 36 would remain dark for several 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 (channel 46, now CBS affiliate WGCL-TV) went on the air in June 1971. Originally owned by the Christian Broadcasting Network, that station had initially broadcast for six hours a day (Christian programs filled four hours of WHAE's schedule, while low-budget secular shows filled the remaining two hours). 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 during the mid-1970s.
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 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). 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, independent stations such as KTVT in Dallas, KTVU in San Francisco and KTLA in Los Angeles were uplinked to satellite as well.
At 1:00 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 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.
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.
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 the radio station (now known as WMBR).
During the 1980s, the station was primarily known as "SuperStation WTBS"; the "W" in the call letters 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 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. Eventually, the "SuperStation" branding was dropped 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.
In 1986, after Ted Turner's $1.5 billion purchase of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists that year ended in the studio's being sold back to Kirk Kerkorian due to concerns over Turner Entertainment's debt load, WTBS acquired the rights to air the studio's movies through Turner's purchase of the MGM/UA film library. 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 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 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 by that time consisted of comedy films and sitcoms from the 1990s.
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". 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.
Turner announced on January 18, 2011 that operations for WPCH would be taken over by the Merh Corporation, owner of CBS affiliate WGCL-TV, under a local marketing agreement, with Turner/Time Warner retaining the broadcast license; the deal resulted in a virtual station duopoly for Merh in Atlanta. In addition, production of the station's 45 Atlanta Braves broadcasts was transferred from Turner Sports to Fox Sports South. This management agreement with Merh apparently also ended Turner Broadcasting's yearly sponsorship of Piedmont Park's "Screen on the Green" beginning in 2011.
In October 2016, AT&T announced its intent to acquire Time Warner. WPCH is among the very few Time Warner properties licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as cable channels like CNN and broadcast TV networks like The CW are not directly licensed by the FCC (though another wrinkle in the deal involves the company's send/receive satellite dishes, which are Time Warner-owned and whose licenses are under FCC purview and will be 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. On February 20, 2017, LMA partner Merh announced the purchase of WPCH-TV's broadcast license assets from Turner Broadcasting System for $70 million. On April 17, 2017, the FCC approved the deal. The sale was finalized on April 21.
WPCH-TV is not related to an AM radio station in West Point with similar call letters, WPCH (1310 AM), which is owned by iHeartMedia. 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, and then (from 2006 to 2015) on 96.5 FM in the Macon area, now WIHB-FM (all three of which are also owned by iHeartMedia).
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.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|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 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 digital 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 NE, 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 and W45DX-D, and possibly WGCL-TV. WWWQ is now located on this tower, sharing the same antenna with WZGC. WKHX-FM is slightly lower on the tower, while WRFG 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 is carried on most Canadian cable and satellite providers, often as part of one of the main specialty channel tiers. The station was first made available in Canada in the 1980s (as WTBS), when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) 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. 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 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 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.
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. However, WPCH does 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 cable 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).
WTCG/WTBS/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 Merh 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.
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, 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.
The launch of Headline News saw TBS carrying short updates from that network's anchors throughout the day, along with overnight blocks of Headline News early in the network's run to encourage viewers to ask for the network full-time. These were eventually phased out as the FCC's public affairs requirements were relaxed.
On October 16, 2017, WPCH began carrying a WGCL-produced primetime newscast, CBS 46 News at 9. Although it holds somewhat of a traditional format it also features heavy viewer and anchor interactivity, and was known on December 5, 2017 for an incident where a viewer called African-American anchor Sharon Reed the "n-word" in a viewer email about her coverage of that day's Atlanta mayoral election and Reed's response to it.
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 a.m. hour of the locally-originated advertorial program CBS46 Atlanta Plugged In and Atlanta Eats, and ER for the 9 p.m. show.
AT&T and Time Warner are currently determining which FCC licenses, if any, will be transferred to AT&T in connection with the transaction.
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.