Turner's media empire began with his father's billboard business. Purchase of an Atlanta UHF station in 1970 began the assemblage of the Turner Broadcasting System. His Cable News Network revolutionized news media, coming to fore covering the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 and the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
He purchased the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks in 1976 and created the Goodwill Games in 1986. His relationship with the Braves was somewhat peculiar before the team's success in the 1990s; Turner was one of the more hands-on owners in baseball history, at one point going as far as to give the team's regular manager the day off so Turner could manage. About this experience, he famously said, "Managing isn't that difficult, you just have to score more runs than the other guy."
In 1989, Ted Turner created the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship to be awarded to a work of fiction offering positive solutions to global problems. The winner, chosen from 2500 entries worldwide, was Daniel Quinn's Ishmael.
He founded the Turner Foundation in 1990.
On September 22, 1995, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. announced plans to merge with Time Warner Inc. This merger completed on October 10, 1996, with Turner as vice chairman, head of Time Warner's cable networks division. On January 10, 2000, Time Warner announced plans to merge with AOL as AOL Time Warner. This merger closed January 11, 2001.
On January 29, 2003, AOL Time Warner announced that Ted Turner would resign as a vice chairman.