WPCH-TV is an Independent station broadcasting in the Atlanta, Georgia market on digital channel 20, displayed on tuners as virtual 17.
The station opened in September of 1967 as WJRJ-TV/channel 17 (analog), owned by Jack Rice Jr. It originally broadcast in a studio building on West Peachtree Street from where WAGA/channel 5 originally operated.
Its broadcast schedule began at 4 PM and ended at midnight, consisting of off-network reruns and movies. Its threadbare budgets were prohibitive in the station getting color capabilities, and technical gaffes were everywhere. There was nowhere to go but up, and WJRJ seized the opportunity by picking up network shows passed up by the local ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. CBS's top-rated primetime show Medical Center was among those shows, as was NBC's popular daytime game show Jeopardy! In a curiously awkward moment, WJRJ was airing a broadcast of NBC's game show Eye Guess on March 28, 1969, when NBC broke in with the news that former president Dwight D. Eisenhower had died. Regular NBC affiliate WSB/channel 2 broke from their local movie to pick up NBC's coverage of Eisenhower's death, and for the better part of a half hour, WJRJ was simulcasting it before breaking off at 1 PM for their own movie.
In 1970, WJRJ was purchased by billboard entrepreneur Ted Turner, who sought to upgrade the station. The first thing he did was to change the call to WTCG (for Turner Communications Group). Next, he would buy color cameras--on credit. To help pay for them Turner held an on-air telethon. It was an uphill climb, but WTCG would successfully knock competing independent WATL/channel 36 off the air. That Christmas, 1971, they acquired Georgia Championship Wrestling from WQXI/channel 11 (which today is WXIA). Ted Turner took out billboard space to tout the number of NBC shows they were picking up which WSB discarded, saying that channel 17 was "joining" NBC. WSB was not pleased and filed a lawsuit against Turner. The billboards were ultimately removed. Some time in the 70s, Turner was seeking to affiliate WTCG with ABC. The network declined, not wanting to land on UHF in a big market.
In 1976, Turner began microwave beams of the station to selected southeast areas. Seeing the opportunity of expansion, that December, Turner sent signals of the station via satellite to cable systems as far as Nebraska and Kansas. The "superstation" had been born, and in 1979, the station was now WTBS, and it would be rebranded as "TBS Superstation." The Atlanta Braves baseball club became a nationwide hit through satellite exposure. In the late 1990s, Turner sold his television channels and networks to Time-Warner. They had moved from a multi-housed studio building on Techwood Drive to a fully modern campus over looking the Interstate 75/85 connector freeway in downtown Atlanta. (This is where all Turner properties--TCM, Cartoon Network, TruTV, Boomerang, etc.--broadcast from.) In 1996, Time-Warner bought all the Turner properties while Turner Broadcasting still held the license.
In 2007, TBS Superstation was split off over-the-air channel 17 to become a cable/satellite only channel. TBS had been available on satellite everywhere except Atlanta, where it was already on the local channel list. Channel 17 became a local-only Atlanta independent station with its call changed to WPCH, branded as "Peachtree TV." WPCH is currently controlled by Meredith Corporation (owner of CBS affiliate WGCL-TV) through a local marketing agreement and operates from WGCL's studio building. Turner owned the station license. WTBS is now the call sign for a low-powered station in Atlanta on channel 26. It runs infomercials.
Time-Warner sold WPCH to Meredith in order to avoid FCC review over its pending merger with AT&T. WPCH has sold their physical digital channel 20 in the spectrum auction and will relocate to 31 at an unspecified date. They would retain 17 as their display channel. Ion affiliate WPXA/channel 14 currently transmits on channel 31; it will move to digital channel 16.
Previous Call Signs
|WTBS||1979||2007||also as TBS Superstation|
|17.1||20.1||WPCH-DT||Main WPCH (Ind.)|