WPCH-TV is an independent station broadcasting in the Atlanta, Georgia market on digital channel 31.6 (ATSC 3.0) and 19.6 (ATSC 1.0), displayed on tuners as virtual 17. It is owned by the Meredith Corporation and its sister station is CBS affiliate WGCL/channel 46. Its subcarriers are the diginets Circle and Court TV.
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. When the station's license was granted in 1965, it was originally allocated for channel 46 (now occupied by WGCL). A petition was filed to move the station to channel 17, which the FCC granted.
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 bought color cameras--on credit. To help pay for them Turner held an on-air telethon. It was an uphill climb, but WTCG successfully knocked competing independent WATL/channel 36 off the air. That Christmas, 1971, they acquired pro wrestling program 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 1970s, Turner sought 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 had been controlled by Meredith Corporation (owner of CBS affiliate WGCL-TV) through a local marketing agreement; it now 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 6.
Time Warner sold WPCH to Meredith in order to avoid FCC review over its pending merger with AT&T. Sister station WGCL produces and staffs a 9 PM newscast on WPCH, which had been the earliest newscast in primetime until WATL launched a three-hour block of WXIA-produced news in prime time on December 2, 2019. WPCH has sold their physical digital channel 20 in the 600 MHz spectrum auction and relocated to 31 on September 11, 2019. They retain 17 as their display channel. Ion affiliate WPXA/channel 14 has transmitted on RF 31; it moved to 16.
WPCH and WGCL are being purchased by Atlanta-based Gray Television which is acquiring the Meredith Local Media line of stations. It is pending FCC approval. The acquisition is now in question as the FCC is planning to fine Gray $500,000 for violating a term of ownership regarding their duopoly in Anchorage, Alaska. Also holding things up is a request from an antenna company in Las Vegas who is protesting Meredith's KVVU pulling the ads for their product from the station's airwaves. On August 19, 2021, WPCH became the "lighthouse station" in Atlanta for the NextGen ATSC 3.0 standard. Four other stations broadcast their ATSC 3.0 signals on WPCH's subchannel tier. WPCH's subchannels are now transmitting on the subchannel tiers of WSB (Circle) and WXIA (Court TV) while still using 17.2 and 17.3 as virtuals. To preserve service on ATSC 1.0 receivers, WPCH transmits its 1.0 signal on 19.6 which is on WGCL's subchannel tier.
Previous Call Signs
|WTBS||1979||2007||also as TBS Superstation|
ATSC 3.0 Digital programming
|17.1||31.6||WPCH||Ind. (3.0 lighthouse)|
ATSC 1.0 Digital programming
|17.1||19.6||WPCH-DT||Main WPCH (Ind., High definition)|
Current Prime-Time Schedule
|Monday||The Goldbergs||The Goldbergs||black-ish||black-ish||CBS 46 News at 9||Inside Edition||The Big Bang Theory||Last Man Standing|
|Saturday||Atlanta Eats||The Big Bang Theory||The Big Bang Theory||People Now||Inside Edition Weekend||Funny You Should Ask|
|Sunday||The Goldbergs||The Goldbergs||black-ish||black-ish||The Big Bang Theory||The Big Bang Theory||Seinfeld|
Official website for WPCH-TV