It’s become something of a legend over the years, but Ted Turner really did record a special clip to play on his CNN news channel…at the end of the world. Here is the story of the CNN doomsday video.
CNN, the first 24-hour cable news network debuted on June 1, 1980. It was viewed by some TV industry pundits at the time as something of a folly by its founder, eccentric media mogul Ted Turner. Turner was unfazed, boasting that the all-news, all-the-time network would stay on the air until human civilization was wiped out. “We won’t be signing off until the world ends,” he told reporters. “We’ll be on, we’ll be covering it live, and that will be our last, last event. When the end of the world comes, we’ll play ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ before we sign off.”
Since that bold proclamation, CNN has not only stayed on the air to consistent ratings, but has spawned several sister networks like CNN International (and the bizarre airports-only CNN Airport), but competitors like Fox News and MSNBC, in turn creating the 24-hour news cycle and the way the news is reported and consumed. It’s also covered countless world events, in addition to airing more than a few rambling Larry King interviews and making a star out of Anderson Cooper.
But one burning question remains: Did Turner really commission a video that would air when the apocalypse happened?
Yes. He really did. He’s occasionally screened the video for curious journalists sent to interview him. Dubbed the “Turner Doomsday Video,” it became a well known enough urban legend to be parodied in the 1990 movie Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
Turner sold CNN to Time Warner in 1996 but his creepy video remained ready to go at a moment’s notice. During a slow news day in 2009, CNN intern Michael Ballaban discovered the video in one of the network’s databases. It was listed below a bizarre note that read: “HFR until the end of the world is confirmed” (HFR is media lingo for “hold for release”).
Ballaban, now a writer for Jalopnik, won’t reveal how he managed to sneak a copy out of CNN, but you can watch it here. Or, if you don’t like spoilers, wait until the world actually ends and tune in to CNN.