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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Prime Sports
CountryUnited States
British Hong Kong
Broadcast areaWorldwide
HeadquartersEnglewood, Colorado
Programming
Language(s)English
Ownership
OwnerLiberty Media
Sister channelsSportsChannel
History
Launched1989 (1989)
ClosedOctober 31, 1996 (1996-10-31)
Replaced byFox Sports Networks
STAR Sports (pan-Asia)

Prime Sports (originally known as the Prime Sports Network (PSN), and also known as Prime Network or simply Prime) is the collective name for a former group of regional sports networks in the United States that were owned by Liberty Media, operating from November 1988 to October 31, 1996. While Liberty owned many of these networks, some of Prime's member networks were owned by other companies, and carried programming distributed for the group through affiliation agreements. As a result, Prime-affiliated networks had the right to select Prime Network programs to broadcast.

Each of the networks primarily carried regional broadcasts of sporting events from various professional, collegiate and high school sports teams (with broadcasts typically exclusive to each individual network, although some were shown on multiple Prime networks within a particular team's designated market area), along with regional and national sports discussion, documentary and analysis programs.

History

Early history

The group's history traces back to the original Prime Ticket (now Fox Sports West), a Los Angeles-based sports network that launched on October 19, 1985. The channel was founded as a joint venture between Jerry Buss, majority owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings, and cable television pioneer Bill Daniels, who held a minority ownership interest in both professional sports franchises, which carried most of their NBA and NHL games on the network. Prime Ticket was headquartered in a small office building across the street from the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, then the home stadium of the Kings and Lakers.

Prime Ticket caught on with cable subscribers in Southern California as it was founded at the height of the Lakers' 1980s championship run, and later got a boost from the trade of Wayne Gretzky to the Kings in 1988. It was also unique among regional sports networks, in that it operated as a basic cable channel, instead of a premium service as many of the RSNs operating at the time did.

Within a few years, Daniels bought out most of Buss's shares in Prime Ticket and became the channel's majority owner. In 1989, Daniels partnered with cable television provider Tele-Communications Inc. to form a new group of regional sports networks. Prime Ticket served as the flagship charter network, joined by the Prime Sports Network (now AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain), an owned-and-operated outlet based in Denver, near TCI's corporate headquarters in the suburb of Englewood. The partnership also purchased Dallas-based Home Sports Entertainment and its share of Orlando-based Sunshine Network. HSE had been in operation since 1983, while Sunshine had debuted in 1988. These four networks formed the cornerstones of the Prime Network group, along with several others already owned by TCI.[1][2] Prime quickly obtained rights to the Pac-10 Conference football and secured affiliation agreements with other major regional sports networks including Home Team Sports (Baltimore), MSG Network (New York), New England Sports Network (Boston), and Pro-Am Sports System (Detroit)[3] Prime formed a partnership with Raycom Sports that allowed to two companies to jointly-bid on rights and gave Prime the right to broadcast out-of-market games that Raycom already held rights to. Through this partnership Prime broadcast sporting events from the Southwest and Big Eight conferences.[4]

In 1991, Prime merged its San Francisco-based Pacific Sports Network (co-owned with Viacom) with Rainbow Programming's SportsChannel Bay Area forming SportsChannel Pacific. This would be the first joint-venture between Prime and its rival SportsChannel. Negotiations about a larger partnership continued. Finally, in 1993, Liberty Media, NBC, and Rainbow formed Prime SportsChannel Networks, a joint venture in which the companies pooled programming and advertising sales between Prime and Cablevision/NBC's SportsChannel. Bill Daniels exited the partnership just before the deal was announced.[5] Through this partnership, the two companies formed two national sports-related channels, the sports news service NewSport and American Sports Classics, a network focusing on replays of past sporting events and historical sports documentaries.

In August 1994, Daniels sold his share in Prime Ticket and the Prime Network to TCI sister company Liberty Media. On November 16, 1994, Liberty Media announced that it would adopt a unified identity for its owned-and-operated regional sports networks under the "Prime Sports" brand. The move was part an alignment of the networks that would include a shift towards a common schedule of programming across the networks, outside each outlet's own regionally exclusive sports telecasts (including the incorporation of sports-related programs aimed at women and children, and the launch of a twice-nightly national sports news program, titled Press Box; the name originated from a local sports highlights show on Prime Ticket that began airing in 1990). Liberty also created an in-house sales service to sell national advertisements for the regional networks (replacing Group W Sports Marketing).[6] The rebrand took effect in spring 1995.

In 1995, Prime Network's retail subsidiary, Prime Sports Merchandising, purchased select sports apparel stores that maintained locations inside shopping malls throughout the United States, and rebranded them as Prime Sports Shops, using the regional networks to promote the stores.[7]

Restructuring into Fox Sports Net

On October 31, 1995, News Corporation, which sought to create its own group of regional sports networks as a cable venture for Fox Sports, which was formed the year prior through the Fox Broadcasting Company's acquisition of the television rights to the NFL's National Football Conference, acquired a 50% ownership interest in Liberty's U.S.-based regional Prime Sports networks and its international networks Premier Sports (Australia), Prime Deportiva (Latin America) and Prime Sports Asia.[8] Liberty and News Corporation created Fox/Liberty Networks as a holding company for the co-owned regional sports properties. In exchange, News Corporation also sold a 7.5% interest in Star TV to Liberty Media.[9]

On July 3, 1996, News Corporation and Liberty Media announced that the Prime Sports networks would be relaunched as part of the new Fox Sports Net group, with the eight Prime Sports owned-and-operated networks adopting brands that combined the "Fox Sports" name with the state or region served by the respective network.[10] the Prime Sports-branded affiliates were officially relaunched as Fox Sports Net on November 1, 1996.[11][12][13]

On December 22, 2006, News Corporation sold its interests in FSN Pittsburgh (the former "Prime Sports KBL"), FSN Utah (the former "Prime Sports Intermountain West"), FSN Northwest (the former "Prime Sports Northwest") and FSN Rocky Mountain (the former "Prime Sports Rocky Mountain") to Liberty Media, in an asset trade in which News Corporation also traded its 38.5% ownership stake in satellite provider DirecTV for $550 million in cash and stock, in exchange for Liberty Media's 16.3% stake in the company.[14] Liberty later spun off the four networks in a partial asset spin-off of DirecTV into a separate company of the same name, while Liberty also increased its share in DirecTV from 48% to 54%, and Liberty owner John Malone and his family acquired an additional 24% interest.[15] DirecTV Sports Networks, which assumed responsibility for the four Prime-turned-FSN networks,[16] rebranded them under the Root Sports brand on April 1, 2011.[17]

Networks

Owned-and-operated

Channel Region served Year joined/launched Current owner/status Notes
La Cadena Deportiva Arizona
California
Nevada
Hawaii
1993 Fox Deportes, owned by Fox Corporation Operated as Spanish-language version of Prime Ticket.
Prime Sports Intermountain West Utah
Idaho
Montana
Nevada
and Wyoming
1989 became Fox Sports Utah (later Root Sports Utah). Currently operating as a sub-feed of AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, owned by AT&T Sports Networks Originally known as Prime Sports Network Utah
Prime Sports KBL western, central and northeastern Pennsylvania
central and southern West Virginia
eastern Ohio
western Maryland
extreme eastern Kentucky
1989 AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh, owned by AT&T Sports Networks Launched by TCI in 1986; known as KBL Entertainment Network until 1994
Prime Sports Midwest Missouri
southern Illinois
Indiana
eastern Nebraska
eastern Kansas
western Kentucky
1989 Bally Sports Midwest, owned by Diamond Sports Group
Prime Sports Northwest Washington
Oregon
Idaho
Montana
Alaska
1989 Root Sports Northwest, owned by the Seattle Mariners and AT&T Sports Networks Launched by TCI and Viacom in 1988 as Northwest Cable Sports; rebranded in 1989
Prime Sports Rocky Mountain Colorado
Wyoming
Southern Idaho
western Kansas
western Nebraska
northeastern Nevada
western South Dakota
1989 AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, owned by AT&T Sports Networks Launched by Daniels in 1988; Known as Prime Sports Network until 1990
Prime Sports Southwest northern and eastern Texas
Oklahoma
northern Louisiana
New Mexico
Arkansas
1989 Bally Sports Southwest, owned by Diamond Sports Group Known as Home Sports Entertainment (HSE) until 1994
Prime Sports Upper Midwest Iowa
Minnesota
North Dakota
South Dakota
Wisconsin
1990 Defunct Prime Sports Upper Midwest was the only U.S.-based Prime-owned outlet to cease operations, doing so on December 31, 1995.
Prime Sports West Southern California
Arizona
Hawaii
Nevada
1989 Bally Sports West, owned by Diamond Sports Group
(operates as a sister network to the present-day Prime Ticket)
Known as Prime Ticket until 1994.

Affiliates

Channel Region served Year of affiliation Current owner/status Notes
Empire Sports Network Western New York 1991 defunct owned by Adelphia Communications Corporation
Home Team Sports Delaware
Maryland
south-central Pennsylvania
Virginia
Washington, D.C.
West Virginia
1989 NBC Sports Washington, owned by NBCUniversal Previously owned by Westinghouse Broadcasting, also affiliated with SportsChannel
MSG Network New York
northern New Jersey
northeast Pennsylvania
southern Connecticut
1989 Owned by The Madison Square Garden Company
NESN Massachusetts
eastern and central Connecticut
Vermont
Maine
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
1989 Owned by the Fenway Sports Group and Delaware North
PASS Sports Michigan
northwestern Ohio
northeastern Indiana
northeast Wisconsin
1989 defunct; team broadcast rights acquired by Fox Sports Detroit
SportsChannel Pacific northern and central California
northwestern Nevada
parts of southern Oregon
1989 NBC Sports Bay Area, owned by NBCUniversal Created in 1991 as merger of TCI/Viacom's Pacific Sports Network (launched as a Prime affiliate in 1989) and Cablevision/NBC's SportsChannel Bay Area
SportSouth Georgia
Mississippi
Alabama
Kentucky
North Carolina
South Carolina
Tennessee
1990 Bally Sports South, owned by Diamond Sports Group Partially owned by Liberty Media, in conjunction with the Turner Broadcasting System during association with Prime.
Sunshine Network Florida 1989 Bally Sports Sun, owned by Diamond Sports Group Liberty had 49% ownership

International

Channel Region served Year joined/launched Current owner/status
Premier Sports Australia 1995 Fox Sports Australia, owned by Fox Sports Pty Limited
Prime Deportiva Latin America 1996 Fox Sports Latin America, owned by Fox Latin American Channels
Prime Sports pan-Asia 1991 Operation have since regionalised
TopSport Brazil 1991 Defunct; replaced by SporTV in 1994

Prime Sports Showcase

Prime Sports Showcase was a short-lived sports network that focused on women's sports. It was launched in November 1994. The network reached 45 million homes.[18] Other programming on the Showcase network included Spanish Language programming and sporting events originating from Spanish speaking countries.[19] The channel folded in late 1996.

Notable programming

The Prime Network was revolutionary in the sense that it was one of the first sports networks to provide live national coverage of regional auto racing series (such as the NASCAR West Series) and lower-division national series (such as the ARCA stock car series). It was also the exclusive live broadcast home to the USAR Hooters ProCup Series from the series' inception in 1994 until Prime Sports converted into Fox Sports Net in November 1996, when ESPN2 secured the rights to the series (running the series' races from 1997 to 1999). In addition, Prime also televised a great deal of American Speed Association races during the late 1980s and most of the 1990s, sharing the broadcast rights with TNN (now Paramount Network). The network also was the first to televise NASCAR Winston Cup qualifying sessions on a regular basis, mainly for races televised by TBS. Prime also televised a number of NASCAR Busch Series races, including the Goody's 300 at Daytona, in the early 1990s.

Prime was well known for its broadcasts of both American and Canadian equestrian competitions, at a level not since matched by any other North American television network, helping the Prime group develop a significant reputation among followers of that sport. Prime also televised a number of regional National Hockey League, college basketball and college football games, along with bodybuilding and wrestling matches. It would also occasionally air fitness programs (such as Body by Jake). The network also was an early broadcaster of Arena Football League games up through the early 1990s.

Some of Prime's programming rights are held by Margate Entertainment, which also owned the TVS Television Network. Reruns of Prime's sports coverage are included on the Margate-owned website TVSSports.com.

References

  1. ^ "TCI, Daniels, McMullen play ball" (PDF). Broadcasting Magazine: 44–45. March 27, 1989. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  2. ^ Stewart, Larry (November 30, 1990). "Sticking to Basics Might Still Pay Off in Future of Cable". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  3. ^ "Football 1989" (PDF). Broadcasting Magazine: 35–44. August 14, 1989. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  4. ^ "Raycom Inc. and Prime Network announce joint venture to acquire and market sports programming to cable" (PDF). Raycom Sports & Entertainment. August 10, 1989. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  5. ^ "PRIME NETWORK, SPORTSCHANNEL TO MERGE" (PDF). Broadcasting Magazine: 4–8. January 11, 1993. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  6. ^ "LIBERTY SPORTS TAKES ANOTHER NATIONAL NETWORK STEP". Sports Business Journal. November 16, 1994. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  7. ^ "Liberty Sports acquires Fan Fair retail stores; subsidiary Prime Sports Merchandising, Inc. will capitalize on regional network resources". Businesswire. August 7, 1995 – via The Free Library.
  8. ^ "FOX AND LIBERTY OUTLINE PLANS FOR NEW CABLE VENTURE". Sports Business Journal. November 1, 1995. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  9. ^ "TCI, LIBERTY AND NEWS CORP. HAMMER OUT SPORTS NET DETAILS". Sports Business Journal. May 10, 1996. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  10. ^ "FOX GIVES NEW NAME TO SPORTS ALLIANCE: FOX SPORTS NET". Sports Business Journal. July 3, 1996. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  11. ^ R. Thomas Umstead (July 8, 1996). "Liberty Sports regionals will become Fox Sports net". Multichannel News. The Walt Disney Company. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  12. ^ "FOX SPORTS NET DEBUTS ON NOV. 1". The Columbian. Columbian Publishing Company. Associated Press. September 13, 1996. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  13. ^ "FOX SPORTS NET ANNOUNCES DEBUT FOR NOVEMBER 1". Sports Business Journal. September 13, 1996. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  14. ^ "News Corp. Reaches Deal with Liberty Media". The New York Times. December 22, 2006. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  15. ^ Spangler, Todd (May 4, 2009). "DirecTV, Liberty Media Announce Spin-Off Plan". Multichannel News. Retrieved April 16, 2015.
  16. ^ Reynolds, Mike (November 20, 2009). "Liberty Sports Rebrands As DirecTV Sports Networks". Multichannel News. NewBay Media. Retrieved April 16, 2015.
  17. ^ "'Root Sports' new name for sports networks". Denver Business Journal. American City Business Journals. December 17, 2010.
  18. ^ Barnes, Shirley (July 23, 1995). "MAKING HIS PITCH". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  19. ^ McNeil, Harold (December 31, 1994). "TCI ADDS 3 CHANNELS, HIKES RATES". The Buffalo News. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
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