Parent of CBS Atlanta to take over operations of Peachtree TV

Peachtree TV will now be managed on a daily basis by Meredith Corp., which runs CBS Atlanta, in a new deal announced Tuesday.

Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Network, said Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting is not selling the station to WGCL-TV, and the network will continue to broadcast 45 Braves baseball games, SEC football and basketball games as well as movies and syndicated programs.

“As a viewer, you should see nothing different except more unique programming in the future,” said Koonin.

“We are retaining ownership of Peachtree TV; we think it is a valuable license.”

In addition, Fox Sports South will produce and sell the 45 Braves games on Peachtree TV, Koonin said. When fans turn on Peachtree TV, Koonin said, they won’t see the Fox brand, but they will see its announcers. Last season, Chip Caray and Joe Simpson worked Braves games for Fox Sports South.

Outside of the Atlanta market, those 45 Peachtree TV games will air on FSN or SportSouth, a Turner spokeswoman confirmed.

Des Moines-based Meredith owns 12 television stations, including WGCL-TV. Executives did not disclose the financial terms of the deal.

Allowing Meredith to manage Peachtree TV’s daily operations means expanded advertising opportunities for the network – and more money for Turner Broadcasting, Koonin said.

“They have a very well-established sales force in the marketplace,” Koonin said. “The idea of leased management, bringing in and finding a partner that is operating in the television business, can provide us with some scale.”

Koonin made the announcement to Turner Broadcasting employees Tuesday morning.

The 75 employees at Peachtree TV will be able to interview for new jobs at Meredith's Atlanta offices, which are one of two television hubs for the company. Some jobs will be cut, however, Koonin said. He would not say how many jobs would be lost, referring specific questions to Meredith.

Koonin said the changes to the Braves games were done as part of a three-way deal between Peachtree TV, Fox and the team.

“The reason Fox is doing it is that they were doing 100-plus of the games, and we were doing 45 games, and the Braves wanted the consistency of the outer markets – where do you watch the games in Charleston, in Mobile, in Huntsville,” Koonin said.

The syndicated package of SEC football and basketball games will continue as usual, Koonin said.

Peachtree TV started in 2007, morphing from WTBS into a station anchored by a mix of original shows, reruns of hit sitcoms from other networks, Braves baseball and SEC sports programs and a nightly movie.

The station got its start as WTCG. Those call letters were short for Ted Turner's Turner Communications Group. He started broadcasting WTCG from a tall antenna tower across from what is now Turner Broadcasting's main offices on Techwood Drive. It became known as the "Superstation" in 1979.

For years, the local, over-the-air WTBS more or less mirrored national cable network TBS until Turner Broadcasting announced a change in 2007.

The idea fell in line with Koonin’s previous projects, which included remaking Court TV into reality channel TruTV, and turning TBS and TNT into cable networks known for original comedy and drama programs.

Peachtree TV is Turner Broadcasting’s only local over-the-air station – separating it from the media company’s major business focus.

Besides TBS, TNT and TruTV, the other cable stations that fall under Turner Entertainment Networks are Turner Classic Movies and Cartoon Network/Adult Swim.

“This (local network) is not our core business. Our core businesses are national and global cable networks that compete on a national scale and that compete against broadcast television,” said Koonin, bringing up Conan O’Brien and shows such as "The Closer."

Koonin said he had been looking for someone to take over Peachtree TV’s daily operations for more than a year. He and other executives met with seven different companies and he was “incredibly impressed” with what Meredith was doing with WGCL.

Koonin didn’t name the other six companies, only saying they were “all of the local players.”

The trigger, as with most media companies, was the recession, Koonin said. That’s especially true for a local network such as Peachtree TV, which is dependent on local advertising, he said.

“This allows their sales force to have a broader area of property,” Koonin said. For example, Meredith can sell local and national advertising packages for CBS’ highly rated Thursday show “The Big Bang Theory.” It can do the same for SEC football and basketball, Koonin said.

The sports programs and advertising was one attraction for Meredith, said Kirk Black, senior vice president for Meredith Local Media Group and the general manager for CBS Atlanta. CBS and Turner Broadcasting-owned stations air PGA golf and SEC football.

“The ratings and revenue that we generate (from SEC football, for example) is significant for us and for Peachtree TV,” he said. “We’re going to be able to go out to the market with 30 SEC football games instead of 12.

Braves baseball was another important element in pulling the deal together, Black said.

“We agreed it was in the station’s best interest to continue to carry those 45 games every year,” Black said.

Outside of sports, Black said Meredith was attracted to working with Turner Broadcasting and Peachtree TV because of the company’s history in Atlanta and the strength of the city as a media market.

Black did not say how many of the 75 positions at Peachtree TV he will keep.

Besides Atlanta, Meredith owns stations in Phoenix; Portland, Ore; Hartford, Conn.; Nashville; Kansas City, Mo.; Greenville, S.C.; Asheville, N.C.; Saginaw, Mich.; Las Vegas; and Springfield, Mass.

The company owned Atlanta radio station WGST from 1977 to 1985.

Meredith also markets brands including Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, Ladies’ Home Journal and Fitness.