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This Month in Business History

CNN Launched 6/1/1980

Carol Highsmith, photographer. Lobby area of CNN Center. 2017. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

When the world’s first 24-hour television news network debuted on June 1, the initial channel subscribers only numbered 1.7 million, a number well below the minimum needed to cover operating costs1. Despite the rough start and financial struggles, Ted Turner and his news empire quickly became recognized as a tenacious venture, appearing with the headline "Ted Turner Shakes Up the Networks", just two years after CNN's launch on the August 9, 1982 issue of Time Magazine2.

Three years later, due to the increasing saturation of cable in homes, the number of households with access to CNN grew to over 33 million viewers; 20 percent of U.S. homes with televisions3. Now accessible by over 90 million homes in the United States and 160 million households worldwide4, CNN has become a household name and a global organization.

Initial domestic news bureaus existed in Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago and San Francisco5 in addition to the headquarters in Atlanta. As of 2021 CNN runs 36 editorial operations around the world with 27 bureaus outside of U.S.6

Founded by television mogul Ted Turner over four decades ago, CNN has firmly established itself as "The Most Trusted Name in News", round the clock and worldwide.

Interesting Facts

In the early days of the channel, it was called the 'Chicken Noodle Network' due to financial losses and by critics who believed the station would not last.7

Ted Turner, founder of CNN, also founded Turner Broadcasting System which has spawned a number of other popular domestic and international television stations: TBS, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies, TNT and TruTv.8

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  1. Lucy Küng-Shankleman, Inside the BBC and CNN: Managing Media Organisations. (London, U.K.: Routledge, 2000), 80. Back to text
  2. Time Magazine cover, August 9, 1982.Back to text
  3. Don M. Flournoy and Robert K. Stewart, CNN: Making News in the Global Market. (Bedfordshire, U.K.: University of Luton Press, 1997), 2. Back to text
  4. CNN Worldwide Fact Sheet. External CNN. Accessed 3/15/2021.Back to text
  5. "Terrible Ted vs. the Networks," Time Magazine, (June 9, 1980). Back to text
  6. CNN Worldwide Fact Sheet. External CNN. Accessed 3/15/2021. Back to text
  7. This Day in History 1980: CNN Launches. External (2009, last updated 2020). History. Back to text
  8. Turner Broadcasting System Inc. External Archived website. Accessed 3/16/2021. Back to text