Thursday, May 22, 2008

CNN's Historic MGM/United Artists Connection

(The following article first appeared in the February 2, 1994 issue of the now-defunct alternative newsweekly, Downtown, when CNN was still controlled by Ted Turner)

To provide more programming for his Channel 17 Atlanta Super-Station (renamed WTBS in the 1980s) and for the new TNT cable channel it planned to establish in 1988, Turner’s CNN/TBS acquired Hollywood’s MGM/United Artists for $1.5 billion in 1986. It then sold off all of its MGM/UA assets within six months for $800 million—except for the MGM film library of 2,280 titles, which included Gone With The Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ In The Rain, Citizen Kane, Casablanca and Miracle On 34th Street. The Turner Entertainment Company [TEC] film library “subsequently acquired 750 pre-1950 Warner Brothers films as well as the rights to 750 RKO pictures in the U.S.,” according to The Sky Barons by Neville Clarke and Edwin Riddell. The CNN/TBS/TEC media conglomerate thus possessed the world’s largest inventory of old movies prior to 1994.

As Forbes magazine (1/4/93) noted during the early 1990s, “a key element in Ted Turner’s success” had “been his insistence on owning as much programming as possible.” The same magazine observed that “because” Turner owned “many different outlets, he” was able to “use the same programming in many different ways” and “he also” was able to use “each of his networks to cross-promote the others.” Ironically, although Turner’s CNN/TBS claimed to be against censorship in the early 1990s, about 2,700 of the MGM, Warner Brothers or RKO films contained in the CNN/TBS/TEC film library of about 3,700 movies had still not been broadcast by Turner’s super-station or TNT to U.S. cable TV viewers as of 1993, apparently for commercial reasons, according to Forbes magazine (1/4/93).

(Downtown 2/2/94)

Next: CNN’s Historic & Current Time Warner Media Monopoly Connection