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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mid 1990's SportsChannel Logo.png
SportsChannel logo from 1995 to 2000
CountryUnited States
Broadcast areaNationwide
(available in select regions)
HeadquartersNew York City
Picture format480i (SDTV)
OwnerCablevision (1979–1998)
NBC (1988–1998)
Sister channelsPrime Network
Launched1976; 44 years ago (1976)
(New York Tri-State area; as Cablevision Sports 3)
March 1, 1979; 41 years ago (1979-03-01)
(launch of SportsChannel brand)
ClosedJanuary 1998; 22 years ago (January 1998)
March 2000; 20 years ago (March 2000)
Replaced byFox Sports Networks
Comcast SportsNet

SportsChannel is the collective name for a former group of regional sports networks in the United States that was owned by Cablevision, which from 1988 until the group's demise, operated it as a joint venture with NBC.

Operating from March 1, 1979 to January 27, 1998, it was the country's first regional sports network, and along with Prime Network, was an important ancestor to many of the regional sports outlets in the U.S., particularly Fox Sports Networks and Comcast SportsNet. At its peak, SportsChannel operated nine networks serving several of the nation's largest cities including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia.


SportsChannel's origins date back to 1976, when Cablevision launched Cablevision Sports 3 (the "3" referencing its original channel slot on the provider), a sports network carried on the company's New York City area system. The network originated the SportsChannel brand on March 1, 1979, when it changed its name to SportsChannel New York.[1] The network carried games from several New York area sports teams including the New York Yankees and New York Mets Major League Baseball franchises and the NBA's New Jersey Nets. One of the notable accomplishments from the channel's early days was inking one of the earliest cable deals with a pro sports team when they signed a contract to broadcast games on cable for the National Hockey League's New York Islanders in 1978 while still known as Sports 3.

SportsChannel logo, used from 1979 to 1995.
SportsChannel logo, used from 1979 to 1995.

The network expanded to other regions with the launches and purchases of additional networks throughout the 1980s; the first expansion occurred through Cablevision subsidiary Rainbow Media's purchase of Boston-based PRISM New England in 1983, relaunching the network as SportsChannel New England. The following year, Rainbow purchased Sportsvision, a Chicago-based pay television network founded by Chicago White Sox owners Jerry Reinsdorf (also owner of the Chicago Bulls) and Eddie Einhorn, and media entrepreneur Fred Eychaner; that network subsequently relaunched as SportsChannel Chicago. Rainbow later launched SportsChannel networks in Florida, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Philadelphia between 1987 and 1990.

In December 1988, NBC and Cablevision announced that they would form a joint venture to operate their respective cable networks, including SportsChannel.[2] Through this partnership, SportsChannel acquired the regional cable television rights to several National Hockey League teams, while NBC and Cablevision also partnered to carry events from the 1992 Summer Olympics through a pay-per-view service known as the Olympics Triplecast.

In 1990, Rainbow/NBC acquired the San Francisco-based Pacific Sports Network, relaunching it as SportsChannel Bay Area. SportsChannel Los Angeles later ceased operations in 1993 due to financial issues, with all of its sports broadcast contracts being acquired by the competing Prime Ticket. On April 25, 1995, NBC sold its 50% interest in SportsChannel New York to Rainbow Media for US$93 million; NBC cited that "owning a piece of SportsChannel New York made less sense" after Cablevision and ITT purchased competing regional sports network, MSG.[3]

Merger with Fox Sports Net

On June 30, 1997, Fox/Liberty Networks, a joint venture between News Corporation and Liberty Media, purchased a 40% interest in Cablevision's sports properties including the SportsChannel networks, Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers. Through the deal, the SportsChannel networks would be integrated into Fox Sports Net, a group of regional sports networks launched in November 1996 through News Corporation's purchase of Liberty's Prime Network group; SportsChannel New York would also be rebranded as Fox Sports New York, with Cablevision-owned MSG also becoming a separately branded FSN outlet.[4][5][6][7]

National Sports Partners, the venture formed through Cablevision's entry into the News Corporation/Liberty partnership to operate the existing and newly acquired owned-and-operated regional networks, later announced that it would relaunch the other SportsChannel networks under the "Fox Sports Net" banner.[8] SportsChannel New York was the first to rebrand, as Fox Sports New York, on January 27, 1998. Five of the seven other remaining SportsChannel networks relaunched as member networks of Fox Sports Net later that week.

Two of the SportsChannel networks would not become part of FSN, one of them not immediately. After Comcast acquired a majority stake in Philadelphia-based entertainment company Spectacor to form Comcast Spectacor in 1996 and announced plans to create its own regional sports network, Rainbow Media decided to shut down SportsChannel Philadelphia and sister premium service PRISM on October 1, 1997, with both networks' NBA and NHL contracts with the Philadelphia 76ers and Flyers being acquired by the new Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (which replaced SportsChannel Philadelphia on local cable systems). SportsChannel Florida was also unable to join Fox Sports Net at the same time as its sisters as Wayne Huizenga, owner of the NHL's Florida Panthers, owned a 70% controlling interest in the channel (with Rainbow Media as minority partner). Cablevision repurchased Huizenga's share of the network in November 1999, relaunching it as Fox Sports Net Florida on March 1, 2000, formally dissolving the SportsChannel brand two years after the national group effectively ceased operations.[9]

On February 22, 2005, Cablevision acquired News Corporation's ownership interests in Fox Sports Chicago and Fox Sports New York, and a 50% interest in Fox Sports New England (with Comcast retaining its existing 50% stake), in a trade deal in which News Corporation sold its interests in Madison Square Garden, the Knicks and Rangers in exchange for acquiring sole ownership of Fox Sports Ohio and Fox Sports Florida. However, News Corporation and Cablevision retained joint ownership of Fox Sports Bay Area.[10][11]

Fox Sports Chicago ceased operations in June 2006, after losing the regional cable television rights to local professional teams (including the Chicago Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs and White Sox) two years earlier to the newly launched Comcast SportsNet Chicago.[12] In April 2007, Cablevision sold its interest in the New England and Bay Area networks to Comcast (the San Francisco Giants later acquired part-ownership of the San Francisco-based network in February 2008); both networks became part of Comcast SportsNet, with FSN New England relaunching as Comcast SportsNet New England in July 2007 and FSN Bay Area relaunching as Comcast SportsNet Bay Area in March 2008. Cablevision later rebranded Fox Sports New York as MSG Plus on March 10, 2008.



Channel Region served Year joined/launched Current owner/status Notes
SportsChannel Chicago northern Illinois
northern Indiana
eastern Iowa
1982 defunct Acquired as SportsVision in 1984 and rebranded in 1989, became the FSN Chicago; network ceased operations in 2006 after losing professional sports contracts to Comcast SportsNet Chicago (now NBC Sports Chicago, owned by NBCUniversal)
SportsChannel Cincinnati southern Ohio
1989 Fox Sports Ohio, owned by Fox Entertainment Group replaced with subfeed of Fox Sports Ohio
SportsChannel Florida Florida
southern Alabama
southern Georgia
1987 Fox Sports Florida, owned by Fox Entertainment Group Continued to operate as SportsChannel until 2000
SportsChannel Los Angeles Southern California 1989 defunct Replaced Z Channel which was acquired a few months before launch
SportsChannel New England Massachusetts
eastern Connecticut
central Connecticut
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
1983 NBC Sports Boston, owned by NBCUniversal Acquired as PRISM New England and rebranded in 1983
SportsChannel New York New York
northern New Jersey
northeast Pennsylvania
southern Connecticut
1976 MSG Plus, owned by MSG Networks
SportsChannel Ohio Ohio
eastern Indiana
1989 Fox Sports Ohio, owned by Fox Entertainment Group The Dolan family later established another Ohio RSN, SportsTime Ohio, which was later acquired by Fox
SportsChannel Pacific northern and central California
northwestern Nevada
parts of southern Oregon
1990 NBC Sports Bay Area, owned by NBCUniversal Acquired in 1990 as Pacific Sports Network, and rebranded as SportsChannel Bay Area; rebranded again as SportsChannel Pacific in 1993
SportsChannel Philadelphia southeastern Pennsylvania
southern New Jersey
1990 defunct; sports contracts acquired by Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (now NBC Sports Philadelphia, owned by NBCUniversal)

SportsChannel America

SportsChannel America was a national version of SportsChannel that launched in 1988, which was distributed to select cable providers in areas that were not served by a regional SportsChannel network. The network's feature programming was coverage of various National Hockey League games (see below). In 1993, SportsChannel America was replaced by NewSport, a 24-hour sports news channel.

Prime SportsChannel Networks

In 1993, Cablevision Systems Corporation, Liberty Media and NBC formed Prime SportsChannels America, a venture in which the companies pooled programming and advertising sales between SportsChannel and Liberty's Prime Network regional sports group. 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 that replaced NewSport in 1997 and operated until 1998.

Notable programming

SportsChannel broadcast several Canadian Football League regular season games produced by SportsChannel Pacific during the 1993 season, later losing the broadcast rights to the upstart ESPN2 (at the time devoted most of programming to extreme sports) through a four-year contract in 1994.

The network was also notable for providing live national coverage of NASCAR Busch Grand National races beginning in 1990, as well as coverage of the World Basketball League.

SportsChannel America aired the professional wrestling show UWF Fury Hour on Monday nights from 1990 to 1991, and later aired the live UWF Blackjack Brawl special in 1994. SportsChannel Philadelphia carried ECW Hardcore TV, a syndicated wrestling program of the now-defunct Philadelphia-based Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion from the program's debut in 1993 until the channel shut down in 1997.[13]

From 1994 to 1997, SportsChannel America also aired NewSport Talk, a two-hour sports talk show produced by SportsChannel Chicago for sister network NewSport, that was syndicated to most of its SportsChannel-branded sister networks.

National Hockey League

SportsChannel America was the American rights holder of the National Hockey League from 1988 to 1992. The logo seen here was used from 1980 to 1995.
SportsChannel America was the American rights holder of the National Hockey League from 1988 to 1992. The logo seen here was used from 1980 to 1995.

SportsChannel America obtained the national cable television rights to the National Hockey League from ESPN in 1988; Rainbow Sports was able to secure the rights by offering the NHL a bid of US$51 million ($17 million per year) over three years, more than double what ESPN had paid ($24 million) for its 1985–1988 contract (a move not unlike the 2005 acquisition of NHL rights by Comcast/OLN over ESPN); SportsChannel America obtained a fourth year of the contract for just $5 million in 1992.

One problem that arose with the deal was that SportsChannel America was available only in a few major markets and reached only one-third of the households that ESPN covered, limiting the national availability of its NHL coverage. In smaller markets, especially those with cable systems whose headends had limited channel capacity, the channel was only made available on a gametime basis as a pay-per-view option and often limited telecast to only Stanley Cup playoff games. The NHL terminated its deal with SportsChannel America in 1992 and signed a new broadcast deal with ESPN, leaving SportsChannel America with very little sports content outside of outdoor sports shows and Canadian Football League games.[14]

The NHL rights deal proved for a disaster for SportsChannel, as even though it helped the national channel expand its coverage to 20 million homes within the first three years, Rainbow Sports lost as much as $10 million on the agreement, and SportsChannel America soon faded into obscurity.[14] Some regional SportsChannel networks – which carried NHL games in their local markets – were not affected by the national network's loss of league rights.

National Professional Soccer League

SportsChannel broadcast NPSL games at least as early as the 1992–93 season.[15] This was incidentally, the same year that for the NPSL being the top level of professional indoor soccer in the United States following the collapse of Major Soccer League. In February 1993, SportsChannel broadcast the NPSL All-Star Game[16] from Cleveland. Lee Zeidman,[17][18] Dave Johnson, and sideline reporter Keith Tozer served as the commentators for the occasion.

Besides Lee Zeidman and Dave Johnson, commentators for their Game of the Week coverage included Dave Phillips and Bob Bishop. For SportsChannel's coverage of the 1993 NPSL Finals between Cleveland and Kansas City, they employed the broadcast team of Dave Phillips (on play-by-play) and Dave Johnson.


  1. ^ "About Rainbow Media – Our Story Timeline 80's". Archived from the original on February 22, 2008. Retrieved April 10, 2015.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  2. ^ Geraldine Fabrikant (December 23, 1988). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; NBC and Cablevision Plan Joint Programming Venture". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "NBC SELLS OFF ITS SHARE OF SPORTSCHANNEL NEW YORK". Sports Business Journal. April 26, 1995. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  4. ^ "Fox putting together national Sports Net // Changes ahead for SportsChannel". Chicago Sun-Times. June 24, 1997. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  5. ^ John M. Higgins (June 30, 1997). "National net keys regional deal. (Fox Sports, Liberty Media Corp. challenge ESPN with stake in SportsChannel)". Broadcasting & Cable. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  6. ^ "SPORTS LANDSCAPE ALTERED WITH FOX/LIBERTY-CABLEVISION DEAL". Sports Business Journal. June 23, 1997. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  7. ^ John M. Higgins (June 23, 1997). "TCI/News Corp. $850M SportsChannel deal close. (Tele-Communications Inc, proposed acquisition of cable sports network)". Broadcasting & Cable. Cahners Business Information. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  8. ^ "About Rainbow Media – Our Story Timeline 90's". Archived from the original on January 11, 2008. Retrieved March 10, 2008.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  9. ^ Steve Donohue (November 15, 1999). "Rainbow, Fox Deal for Florida Net". Multichannel News. Cahners Business Information. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  10. ^ Richard Sandomir (February 23, 2005). "Cablevision Locks Up Garden". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Leon Lazaroff (February 23, 2005). "News Corp. exits Chicago Fox sports station". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  12. ^ "No need for FSN Chicago". The Daily Journal. June 27, 2006. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  13. ^ "History of the National Wrestling Alliance". Angelfire.
  14. ^ a b "Welcome to the New Jersey Devils forums!". New Jersey Devils. Retrieved March 28, 2013.
  15. ^ Knowles, Joe (December 20, 1992). "4 GOALS BY KRAFFT DRIVE POWER PAST MILWAUKEE; MARGETIC HURT". Chicago Tribune.
  16. ^ Summers, Robert J. (February 19, 1993). "THREE TO REPRESENT BLIZZARD IN NPSL ALL-STAR GAME". The Buffalo News.
  17. ^ Mushnick, Phil (October 10, 2010). "No surprise, major leaguers still play …". New York Post.
  18. ^ Chad, Norman (April 21, 1989). "LUCKILY, OUR CABLE CUP RUNNETH OVER". The Washington Post.
This page was last edited on 12 October 2020, at 22:57
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