Atlanta broadcasting and sports magnate Ted Turner is trying to peddle his empire.
Within the last week, Turner has met with officials of CBS Inc., American Broadcasting Cos. Inc., National Broadcasting Co., Metromedia Inc., Western Union and several publishing concerns about the possibility of exchanging his own ventures for what one source called a "sizable chunk" of stock in one of those firms, industry sources said.
A spokesman for Turner Broadcasting System, Arthur Sando, said Turner is having "exploratory" talks with companies in the telecommunications and entertainment business about "possible areas of mutual assistance, including the possibility of combination in some form of business interest." The discussions "are expected to continue," he added.
Turner has said since the middle of last year that he would like to find a partner. Recently there have been several new joint ventures and other combinations between broadcasting firms, film studios and cable companies.
Broadcasting industry sources say Turner has stepped up his efforts in recent weeks. Turner is here this week discussing the merger prospects as well as visiting advertisers and did not return repeated phone calls placed to his New York office.
Industry observers say the most likely bidder could be Metromedia, the Secaucus, N.J., communications concern that owns WTTG-TV and WASH-FM in Washington. Metromedia is looking to expand its group of seven television stations and become a programming supplier. Turner's operations could form the foundation for such a move. Metromedia officials had no comment.
Reportedly, Turner is asking $600 million in stock and other compensation--enough to make a him a major stockholder in any of the corporations he has approached.
These recent efforts come at a time when Turner's enterprises appear to be in improving financial condition. Although the company has not released final 1982 financial information yet, TBS reported a profit of $1.933 million in the third quarter, compared with a loss for the 1981 third quarter of $3.6 million.
Those results brought 1982 nine-month losses to about $4.37 million. Third-quarter sales rose 70 percent to $45.3 million and for the three quarters to $115.8 million, up from $66.3 million for the 1981 period.
The most appealing and profitable piece of the Turner holdings is Atlanta station WTBS, Channel 17. It was the first so-called "superstation" and is beamed by satellite and distributed by nearly 5,000 cable systems to about 25 million homes.
Turner also owns Cable News Network, the 24-hour news and public affairs cable channel, which reaches 17.5 million cabled homes. In addition, his holdings include CNN Headline News, a service that is distributed to both cable systems and over-the-air television stations.
But the news networks and Turner's professional sports teams, baseball's Atlanta Braves and basketball's Atlanta Hawks, which through their distribution over WTBS have national followings, have been costly operations, draining Turner's profitable superstation operation.
Further complicating Turner's situation is the challenge to CNN from ABC and Group W, the Westinghouse Electric Corp. subsidiary. As a joint venture last fall, the two started Satellite News Channels, an all news cable service.
Turner and other TBS officials have said that ABC and Group W are attempting to put him out of business. Those much larger conglomerates may be able to absorb losses in the struggling cable programming business longer than an independent such as Turner.
Sources confirmed that Turner and CBS President Thomas H. Wyman had lunch last week. But Mary McInnis Boies, a CBS vice president, said that "no further conversations are planned between the two of them and no negotiations are under way."