Archive for Saturday, September 29, 2007

TBS leaving Braves behind

September 29, 2007


— Chip Caray settles into his seat in the TBS booth, preparing to call another Atlanta Braves game at Turner Field. Sounds about right.

Only this time, he's got Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn right next to him. And this is actually a warmup for TBS' new game.

The cable channel that was built by Ted Turner and made its name by beaming virtually every Braves game around the country - sometimes twice a day, even when the team was one of the worst in baseball - is truly going national with the national pastime.

TBS will have exclusive coverage of all four division series, then move on to broadcast the NL championship series. Next season, the network will launch a "Game of the Week" on Sunday afternoons in addition to its playoff coverage.

What about the Braves? Well, they're being sent to the bench, closing down a remarkable era in baseball broadcasting.

"I have mixed emotions about it," Caray said. "The transition from being a station that covered one team to becoming one of the broadcast partners for Major League Baseball is very exciting. It's a step toward becoming a true network."

Then he thinks about his father, Skip Caray. And Pete Van Wieren. And Ernie Johnson Sr. And all the other broadcasters who devoted most of their professional careers to calling Braves' games on TBS - from the dark days of the 1970s and '80s when the team routinely finished last, to the glorious run that began in 1991 with the first of 14 straight division titles.

"My dad and Pete put 30 years of their lives into building TBS as the home of the Atlanta Braves on television," Chip Caray said. "That's no longer the case. As my dad's son, it's disappointing that he's not going to be part of that and fans around the country won't get to see him or Pete."

Starting next season, the Braves' local telecasts will be confined to the Southeast, shown on two of Fox's regional channels and the TBS-owned "Peachtree TV," a new incarnation of the network's over-the-air signal in Atlanta.

Longtime locals will remember it as Channel 17, the obscure UHF station that Turner bought in 1970 and had the foresight to grow into the nation's first "Superstation," beamed out across the country over that newfangled thing known as cable TV.

A few years later, Turner bought the woebegone Braves, who weren't very good on the field but did provide 162 days of programming. In the beginning, TBS seemed nothing more than bad baseball - shown live in the evening, then repeated in the early morning hours - and "Andy Griffith Show" reruns.

But Turner's vision paid off. He built on the success of TBS by launching CNN, Headline News, Cartoon Network and TNT as part of a vast media empire that was eventually consumed by a series of mergers.

Turner eventually was forced out, but that wasn't the only change. Superstations followed in Chicago and New York, showing more and more games around the country. Baseball eventually stepped in, gradually reducing the number of telecasts that cable channels could show in other markets. The Braves already were being forcibly weaned off TBS long before this new package came along.


jmadison 10 years, 4 months ago

Turner wasn't forced out, he was paid billions of dollars by Time Warner in a deal he did of his own volition.

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