Turner Broadcasting System traces its roots to a billboard company in Savannah purchased by Robert Edward Turner II in the late 1940s. 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, Ted Turner expanded the business into radio and television.
Turner Broadcasting System as a formal entity was incorporated in Georgia in May 1965.
In 1970, Ted Turner purchased WJRJ-Atlanta, Channel 17, a small, struggling Ultra High Frequency station, and renamed it WTCG, for parent company Turner Communications Group. By careful programming acquisitions, Turner guided the station to success. During December 1976, WTCG originated the "superstation" concept, transmitting via satellite to cable systems.
On December 17, 1976 at 1:00 pm, WTCG Channel 17's signal was beamed via satellite to its four cable systems in Grand Island, Nebraska; Newport News, Virginia; Troy, Alabama; and Newton, Kansas. All four cable systems started receiving the 1948 Dana Andrews - Cesar Romero film Deep Waters already in progress. The movie had started 30 minutes earlier. WTCG went from being a little television station to a major TV network that every one of the 24,000 households outside of the 675,000 in Atlanta was receiving coast-to-coast. WTCG became a so-called Superstation and created a precedent of today's basic cable television.
HBO had gone to satellite transmissions to distribute its signal nationally in 1975, but that was a service that cable subscribers were made to pay extra to receive. Ted Turner's innovation signaled the start of the basic cable revolution.
In 1979, the company changed its name to Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (TBS, Inc.) and the call letters of its main entertainment channel to WTBS.
On June 1, 1980, Cable News Network (CNN) was launched at 17:00 EDT becoming the first 24-hour news cable channel. The husband and wife team of Dave Walker and Lois Hart news anchored the first newscast, Burt Reinhardt the then executive vice president of CNN, hired most of the channel's first 200 employees & 25-member staff including Bernard Shaw, the network's first news anchor.
In 1981, Turner Broadcasting System acquired Brut Productions from Faberge Inc.
In 1984, Turner initiated Cable Music Channel, his competition for WASEC's MTV. The channel was short-lived but helped influence the original format of VH1.
In 1986, after a failed attempt to acquire CBS, Turner purchased the film studio MGM/UA Entertainment Co. from Kirk Kerkorian for $1.5 billion. Following the acquisition, Turner had an enormous debt and sold parts of the acquisition. MGM/UA Entertainment was sold back to Kirk Kerkorian. The MGM/UA Studio lot in Culver City was sold to Lorimar/Telepictures. Turner kept MGM's pre-May 1986 film and TV library as well as the Associated Artists Productions library (the pre-1950 Warner Bros. film library and the Fleischer Studios/Famous Studios Popeye cartoons originally released by Paramount Pictures), and the U.S./Canadian distribution rights to the RKO Pictures library. Turner Entertainment Co. was founded on August 4, 1986.
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 the Hanna-Barbera animation studio. On December 22, 1993, Turner acquired Castle Rock Entertainment. Turner purchased New Line Cinema a month later.
Turner launched Cartoon Network on October 1, 1992, followed by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on April 14, 1994.
On October 10, 1996, Turner merged with Time Warner, a company formed in 1990 by the merger of Time Inc. and Warner Communications. Through this merger, Warner Bros. had regained the rights to its pre-1950 library, while Turner gained access to the company's post-1950 library and other properties. The company also became a subsidiary of Time Warner since the acquisition.
In 2003, Philip I. Kent succeeded Jamie Kellner as chairman. Operational duties for The WB were transferred by Time Warner from Warner Bros. to Turner Broadcasting during 2001, while Kellner was chairman, but were returned to Warner Bros. in 2003 with the departure of Kellner.
On February 23, 2006, the company agreed to sell the regional entertainment channel Turner South to Fox Entertainment Group. Fox assumed control of the channel on May 1, and on October 13 relaunched it as SportSouth - coincidentally, the former name of Fox Sports South when Turner owned this channel in partnership with Liberty Media between 1990 and 1996.
In May 2006, Time Warner, which had owned 50% of Court TV since 1998, purchased the remaining 50% from Liberty Media and began running the channel as part of Turner Broadcasting. The channel was relaunched as TruTV on January 1, 2008.
Also in May 2006, Ted Turner attended his last meeting as a board member of Time Warner and officially parted with the company.
On October 5, 2007, Turner Broadcasting System completed the acquisition of Claxson Interactive Pay Television Networks in Latin America.
On August 26, 2010, Turner Broadcasting took full control of Chilevisión, a TV channel owned by Chile's President Sebastián Piñera.
On September 8, 2011, Turner Broadcasting System acquired LazyTown Entertainment, the producer of the TV series LazyTown.
On January 1, 2014, John K. Martin succeeded Phil Kent as chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting.
In August 2014, The Wrap reported that Turner was preparing to offer buy-outs to 550 employees as part of plans to restructure the company heading into 2015. The ratings performance of CNN and HLN were cited as a factor, while CBSSports.com reported that the rising rights fees Turner pays for its NBA broadcasts on TNT may have also been a factor. It was further reported in October 2014 that the company planned to reduce its workforce by 10% (1,475 people) through layoffs across a wide set of units including corporate positions.
On August 14, 2015, it was announced that Turner Broadcasting had acquired a majority stake in iStreamPlanet, a Las Vegas-based video streaming services company, in an effort to bolster its over-the-top programming and shift its core technology infrastructure to the cloud. iStreamPlanet is a direct competitor of Major League Baseball Advanced Media. The deal was reported to be in the neighborhood of $200 million. On October 2015, Turner launched a streaming-video network named Great Big Story.
In April 2017, in order to expedite the sale of Time Warner to AT&T by shedding FCC-licensed properties, WPCH-TV was sold to Meredith Corporation. It had already been operating WPCH on its behalf since 2011 as a sister to its local station WGCL-TV.
On June 15, 2018, it was announced that John Martin would be leaving as the CEO following AT&T's completed acquisition of Time Warner.
Former Turner Broadcasting System logo