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By Published on .

Brand identity and the cable spectrum are about to collide.

Blame Ted Turner.

Turner Broadcasting System is negotiating to have Superstation TBS switched from a superstation-a local Atlanta station whose signal is beamed broadly-to a basic cable channel.

Superstation TBS or a cable channel version makes no difference to the cable viewer. But there are problems with the switch, especially with programming.


TBS has recently gotten more aggressive in building original fare and also has picked up off-network comedy hits "Roseanne" and "Cosby." It will share with sister cable network TNT the U.S. TV rights to a number of theatrical releases from Fine Line Pictures, Warner Bros., Hollywood Pictures and Miramax Films.

If TBS does become a basic cable channel, it will for the first time carry a full load of local commercial availabilities. But instead of reruns of "The Andy Griffith Show," the advertising will be running in the likes of film hits like "Michael," "The English Patient" or "Space Jam."

No longer will TBS be a local TV station with its signal beamed all over the country-a superstation-but a full-fledged basic cable channel competitor of USA Network, Discovery Channel and local over-the-air stations.

The problem, said TBS President Bill Burke, is that the association between the word "superstation" and TBS is very strong.

Because of that association, the company has decided to not drop the superstation moniker if TBS becomes a basic cable network. Turner also will continue to label various promotions and programs "super-this" and "super-that."


"It's like when Coke changed formulas but still wanted to call the new drink Coke because the brand identity was so strong," argued one media planner at Turner's recent upfront presentation.

There are other problems. Behind-the-scenes negotiations with Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN and News Corp.'s Fox Broadcasting are attempting to clear up baseball rights. Turner wants to show a slew of Atlanta Braves games on TBS, and it must get approval from ESPN and Fox, which hold the rights to cablecast and broadcast Major League Baseball games nationally.

News Corp. is said to have signed off on the TBS deal as part of News Corp.'s deal to get its Fox News channel carried on cable systems owned by Tele-Communications Inc. TCI holds a major stake in TBS owner Time Warner.

Negotiations with ESPN are said to be nearing completion. The talks revolve around ESPN getting favorable carriage agreements for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNews on Time Warner Cable systems in exchange for agreeing to let TBS become a basic

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