This Atlanta-based cable channel began as WTCG, (for Turner Communications Group), an independent station owned by Ted Turner. It then changed its call sign to WTBS (for Turner Broadcasting System) as its U.S. cable coverage increased, mainly due to satellite coverage (hence why it used to be called TBS Superstation, as a superstation was a term for a broadcast TV station carried in many markets; from the late 90s until the 2004 format change, it was branded mainly as "the Superstation"). Now known as TBS, and separate from the Atlanta station note it and the other Turner properties currently belong to Time Warner (also the owner of Warner Bros.).
Its secret weapon was "Turner Time", scheduling programs 5 minutes after the top of the (half) hour in order to make sure viewers would miss the beginnings of other channels' fare and thus be resigned to stay with TBS for another shownote . It would also get its own listings in TV Guide back when that was still a big thing, hence attracting more attention. Up until the 2004 format change, it was, befitting the genesis of the network, a grab bag of older movies, off-network reruns, Turner-owned cartoons from Hanna-Barbera, MGM and WB, the occasional CNN-produced news update in between programs, Atlanta sportscasts, and the National Geographic Explorer series. Starting in the mid-80s, some low-budget original sitcoms, movies, and game shows like Starcade began creeping their way in. Also during this time, the national feed carried one of the few American Teletext services, Electra, which was a joint venture between TBS, Zenith Electronics (who made Teletext-capable TV sets) and Taft Broadcasting (who programmed the service).
By the mid-90s, original programming had increased, with TV movies and new Hanna-Barbera output (specifically Ted Turner's own Captain Planet and the Planeteers (though the first couple of seasons were produced by DiC), as well as SWAT Kats and 2 Stupid Dogs) constituting the majority of the new stuff, alongside sportscasts, movie wraparounds (some of which lasted until 2011), and WCW wrestling (see below). 1998 saw the removal of kids' programming, as sister station Cartoon Network took over that demographic.
Back in the 1990s, most TV watchers referred to TBS as "The Beastmaster Station" because of its frequent showing of the film The Beastmaster. The channel was "the Mothership" of WCW and its antecedent promotions (GCW, CWG, Mid-Atlantic/Jim Crockett) from basically the national launch until the premiere of Monday Nitro in 1995. Afterwards, Thunder, the B-show, aired on TBS.
TBS was also known for many years (1973 to 2007, to be more precise) as the TV home of the Atlanta Braves. Famously, at one point Ted Turner tried to get pitcher Andy Messersmith (who wore #17) to wear the name "CHANNEL" on the back of his jersey (CHANNEL 17, get it?) The league immediately put the kibosh on that. However, the national broadcasts on TBS helped the Braves build a considerable nationwide fan base, so much so that the franchise was nicknamed "America's Team". They also aired Atlanta Hawks basketball as well (Turner owned them and the Braves for a while).
In June 2004, in response to sibling TNT's post-2001 focus on dramatic programming (and possibly Time Warner's divestiture of its stake in Comedy Central to Viacom the previous year), it decided to situate itself into the genre of comedy, after years of not having a genre (the comedy focus is a little looser than TNT's on drama, though, as evidenced by the movies it tends to run). To that end, on April 12, 2010, Conan O'Brien announced a five-year deal with TBS to do an 11 PM talk show.
First-run and Original programming seen on TBS include (ongoing shows marked in bold):
- 2 Stupid Dogs
- 17 Update Early in the Morningnote
- American Dad! (performed a Channel Hop from Fox)
- Angie Tribeca
- The Bill Engvall Show
- Captain Planet and the Planeteers
- Cartoon Planet
- CeeLo Green's The Good Life
- Close Enough
- Cougar Town (Channel Hopped from ABC)
- The Detour
- Final Space
- Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
- Ground Floor
- The Joker's Wild (2017 revival, set to be produced and hosted by Snoop Dogg. Yes, this is real.)
- Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures (also aired on TNT and Cartoon Network)
- King of the Nerds
- The New Leave it to Beaver (previously aired on the Disney Channel; also aired in syndication from 1988-89)
- Men at Work
- My Boys
- Neighbors From Hell
- People of Earth
- The Pete Holmes Show
- Ripley's Believe It or Not! (2000-03 series)
- Search Party
- Sullivan & Son
- SWAT Kats
- Trust Me, I'm A Game Show Host
- Tush note
- Tyler Perry's House of Payne
- Meet the Browns
- For Better or Worse (Seasons 1 & 2)
- WCW Monday Nitro
- Your Family or Mine