After leaving Brown University, Turner returned to the South in late 1960 to become general manager of the Macon, Georgia branch of his father's business. Following his father's March 1963 suicide, Turner became president and chief executive of Turner Advertising Company when he was 24 and turned the firm into a global enterprise. He joined the Young Republicans but said "he felt at ease among these budding conservatives and was merely following in Ed Turner's far-right footsteps," according to "It Ain't As Easy As It Looks."
During the Vietnam War Era, Turner’s business prospered; it “had virtual monopolies in Savannah, Macon, Columbus, and Charleston” and was “the largest outdoor advertising company in the Southeast,” according to "It Ain’t As Easy As It Looks". The book observed that Turner “discovered his father had sheltered a substantial amount of taxable income over the years by personally lending it back to the company” and “discovered that the billboard business could be a gold mine, a tax-depreciable revenue stream that threw off enormous amounts of cash with almost no capital investment.” In the late 1960s, Turner used the profits to buy Southern radio stations.
In 1969, he sold his several radio stations to buy a struggling television station in Atlanta on Channel 17. At the time, UHF stations did well only in markets without VHF stations, like Fresno, California, or in markets with only one station on VHF. Independent UHF stations were not ratings winners or that profitable even in larger markets, but Turner had the foresight that this would change as people wanted more than several choices. He changed the call sign to WTCG. Initially, the station ran old movies from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, along with theatrical cartoons and very old sitcoms and old drama shows. As better syndicated product fell off the VHF stations, Turner would pick it up for his station at a very low price. WTCG ran mostly second- and even third-hand product of the time, including fare such as Gilligan's Island, I Love Lucy, Star Trek, Hazel, and Bugs Bunny. WTCG acquired rights to telecast the Atlanta Braves baseball games in 1973. Turner also purchased UHF Channel 36 WRET (now WCNC) in Charlotte, North Carolina and ran it with a format similar to WTCG.
In 1976, the FCC allowed Turner’s WTCG to use a satellite to transmit content to local cable TV providers around the nation. On December 17, 1976, the rechristened WTCG-TV Super-Station began to broadcast old movies, situation comedy reruns, cartoons, and sports nationwide to cable-TV subscribers. As cable systems developed, many carried his station to free their schedules. This increased his viewers and advertising. Subscribers eventually reached two million subscribers and Turner's net worth rose to $100 million. He bought a 5,000-acre (20 km2) plantation in Jacksonboro, South Carolina, for $2 million.
In 1978, Turner struck a deal with a student-operated radio station at MIT, Technology Broadcasting System to obtain the rights to the WTBS call sign for $50,000. This allowed Turner to strengthen the branding of his "Super-Station" using the acronym TBS; Turner Communications Group was renamed Turner Broadcasting System and WTCG was renamed as WTBS.
In 1976, Turner bought the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks, partially to provide programming for WTCG. Using the rechristened WTBS' superstation status to beam Braves games into nearly every home in North America, Turner made the Braves a household name even before their run of success in the 1990s and early 2000s. At one point, he suggested to pitcher Andy Messersmith who wore number 17, that he change his surname to "Channel" to promote the television station.
In 1986, Turner founded the Goodwill Games. Broadcasting the events of these games provided his superstation the ability to provide Olympics-style sports programming that had been offered by only one of the three major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) up to that time.
Turner Field, first used for the 1996 Summer Olympics as Centennial Olympic Stadium and then converted into a baseball-only facility for the Braves, is named after him.
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