Braves games on Peachtree TV will look and sound more like Braves games on Fox Sports South and SportSouth, and should be available to a wider cable audience.
Peachtree TV is turning over production of its 45 Braves games to Fox Sports South, which will use its own producers, crews and broadcasters. Outside of Peachtree’s broadcast signal reach, the games will be carried on Fox Sports South or Fox-owned SportSouth — good news for some Braves fans in the South who previously couldn’t get Peachtree games.
Joe Simpson seems likely to continue as broadcast analyst on the 45 games that are switching production to Fox Sports South, but FSS vice president and general manager Jeff Genthner said on-air talent decisions haven’t been made.
Simpson teamed with play-by-play man Chip Caray on Fox Sports South and SportSouth games last season. On Peachtree TV games, Simpson teamed with play-by-play Ernie Johnson Jr., with John Smoltz also serving as frequent guest analyst.
Genthner said, “We certainly will work with Turner and the Braves [to decide on broadcasters]. I have not spoken with Joe Simpson or Chip Caray or anyone else in the mix. It’s just too soon….
“I think Joe is clearly someone who is a common denominator on the Turner telecast and the Fox telecast. That seems like a pretty comfortable fit with all parties. We have not engaged anyone on the play-by-play side yet. That conversation will start pretty soon. I’m not saying it’s going to be open or that there will be a lot of candidates.”
Johnson is under contract with Turner and serves as studio host for its TNT basketball broadcasts and postseason baseball. Smoltz worked for Turner on its Peachtree games in addition to his TBS duties on national games and postseason coverage.
The outsourcing of Peachtree TV’s Braves game and other sports content was one of the major changes announced Tuesday by the station, which is turning over its management to Meredith Corp. — the company that runs CBS Atlanta.
Before too much longer, the name on Turner Field might be the only remaining link between the Braves and Turner, the man and the broadcasting company that helped make it “America’s Team.”
For the first time 1972, no Braves games will be produced by Turner crews, other than occasional Braves appearances on TBS’ national game of the week.
Ted Turner bought the Braves in 1976, primarily to assure that the team remained in Atlanta and a programming staple on his station WTBS, which later blossomed into Superstation TBS.
Fox Sports Net and SportSouth became primary Braves carriers in 2008, continuing a migration of Braves games from Turner that began nearly a decade ago.
Shortly after he bought the Braves in ‘76, Turner put them on his pioneering Superstation, which bounced its signal off of satellites and beamed Braves broadcasts into homes across the country. The lowly Braves suddenly had more broadcast exposure than any team in professional sports.
It became known as “America’s Team” long before the Braves became a perennial playoff contender. It was a generally bad team for more than a decade on TBS, but some Braves players, along with broadcasters Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, became wildly popular in every corner of the United States.
TBS showed about 150 games a year nationally until the early 1990s – except in Atlanta, where area residents got the local feed of those games on WTBS.
The beginning of the end of the Superstation-era Braves came after Turner Broadcasting Systems merged with Time Warner in 1996. Four years later, AOL and Time Warner merged.
By that time, TBS was carrying only about half of the Braves’ schedule, with the rest divided between Fox Sports Net and new regional network Turner South. In 2006, Turner South was sold to Fox Cable Networks, which moved Turner South’s Braves games to newly created SportsSouth.
The Braves were sold by Time Warner to Liberty Media in 2007, and that season was the team’s last on TBS. Also in 2007, WTBS was re-branded to become Peachtree TV
Peachtree TV is contracted to carry about 45 Braves games annually through 2013.
by David O’Brien, Braves blog
(Staff writer Kristi Swartz contributed to this story.)