Even for younger generations who might know who Ted Turner is, his legacy looms large over the state of American television, sports, and the ways we get our information. If you bemoan the 24-hour news cycle and the proliferation of cable news networks, you can pretty much point the finger at Turner, who founded CNN, TBS, TNT, and TCM, just to name a few networks. Pro wrestling fans have him to thank (or blame) for the Monday Night Wars of the 90s between his WCW and the WWE, the reverberations of which are still felt today. His stint as the owner of the Atlanta Braves produced a World Series victory in 1995. He also owned the Atlanta Hawks for a time.
His Turner Broadcasting System company merged with Time Warner in 1996 and that company was purchased by AOL in 2001. The company, later simply known as Time Warner, was officially acquired by AT&T in 2018 and the name changed to WarnerMedia. It also turns out that one of the big pushes moving forward by the company is to effectively dissolve Turner Broadcasting as an entity. Whereas, HBO, TBS, TNT, TruTV, and their upcoming direct-to-consumer service would fall under the new moniker WarnerMedia Entertainment, CNN Worldwide, Turner Sports, and the AT&T SportsNet regional networks would become the WarnerMedia News & Sports division. Meanwhile, Turner Classic Movies would be among the other networks shuffled off to the Warner Bros. brand.
And while the stations that bear the name Turner live on, at least in abbreviated form, the Turner name is about to become moot to the media and broadcasting world.
WarnerMedia hasn’t made any timeline clear for when this will happen fully, although it’s clearly already happening if you look closely. Recent press releases sent out by the company refer to TNT and TBS as channels entities within “divisions of WarnerMedia.” Events that were previously referred to as Turner-themed are now WarnerMedia events.
And it’s likely just the beginning of a larger move to move on from the Atlanta-based legacy that Turner built. Per NBC News, there’s plenty of speculation CNN’s centralized staff will be shuffled out of Georgia and into Los Angeles or New York. They also note that the structure that’s currently home to multiple CNN networks is being shopped and that even if the company maintains a presence there it will be smaller and on a rental capacity.
As for what all of this means for TNT and TBS sports programming, it’s a bit unclear. The obvious takeaway is that any productions that currently take place in Atlanta could be on the move. Turner’s NBA on TNT and Inside the NBA studio is based there, which could lead to a seismic shift of talent out of the market. It would also affect The Starters, which is based out of Atlanta as well. As NBA TV is operated by Turner Sports, any live programming they create there could be moving as well. And moves could maybe even impact ELEAGUE, although the 10,000 square foot arena they’ve built for that property might be incentive to stay. Bleacher Report, which was purchased by Turner in 2012, remains based out of San Francisco for now, though it’s unclear how they’ll be affected as part of the News & Sports division.
Update: A Turner Sports spokesperson told Awful Announcing Friday “There are no plans for sports to shift out of Atlanta.”
Ultimately, the change probably won’t have much of an effect on the viewing experience. Viewers will still be able to watch TNT, TBS, and the other Turner networks as they always have. And wherever they are based, shows like Inside the NBA will continue to provide the Charles Barkley content that everyone craves. Just don’t expect to hear the name “Turner” very often, if at all, anymore.