Birth of TBS-TV “Superstation”

Ted Turner’s childhood in a wealthy family gave him the business savvy that would be on full display with his WTCG TV station (Turner Communications Group), broadcasting to the Southeastern United States. Rather than creating his own programming – an expensive proposition – Turner bought rebroadcast rights from the Big Three networks, NBC, CBS and ABC, and from their affiliates. He also realized that not all regions have local network affiliates at all – the smaller ones in particular might only have the main networks and a public television station. There was a market to be tapped, and Turner was just the man to tap it.

On this day, December 17, in 1976, WTCG completed its satellite uplink, carrying the same eclectic mix of programming bought at rock bottom prices now to almost every TV in the nation.

Two years later, Turner had broadcasts to all 50 states, and the year after that, 1979, he changed the call letters to WTBS, “Turner Broadcasting Station.” Turner liked to refer to it as the “Superstation,” as the satellite allowed him national and even international access to Canada. Eventually, he expanded his programming mix to include the vast MGM library, which Turner bought. Amazingly, for a station with no original programming whatsoever, TBS has at times managed to top all the networks in ratings for the coveted 18-49 demographic.