The Prime Network was a group of regional sports networks owned by Liberty Media that served several regionalized areas that was in operation between 1988 and late-1996. While Liberty owned many of these stations, some were affiliates and owned by other companies. As a result, affiliate stations had a choice of what the Prime Network programming they would air and when.
The original Prime Ticket Network (based on Los Angeles) launched in 1985 as a joint-venture between Lakers and Kings owner Jerry Buss and Bill Daniels. Within a few years Daniels bought out most of Buss's share and become majority owner.
In 1993, Liberty, NBC and Cablevision created a new venture called Prime SportsChannels America sharing programming and sales agreements between Prime and SportsChannel.
In August 1994, Daniels sold his share in Prime Ticket and the Prime Network to Liberty Media (a spin-off of TCI).
In 1996, Liberty Media sold 50 percent of their regional Prime Sports channels to News Corporation creating Fox Sports Net and a new company, FOX/Liberty Networks. On November 1, 1996, the Prime Network names were dropped for the FSN name nationwide.
In 2007, Liberty bought back FSN Pittsburgh, FSN Rocky Mountain, and FSN Northwest from News Corporation.
The Prime Network was revolutionary in the sense that it was one of the first sports networks to give live national coverage to regional auto racing series, such as the NASCAR West Series and lower-division national series, such as the ARCA stock car series. They were also the exclusive live broadcast home to the USAR Hooters ProCup Series from the series' inception in 1994 until Prime Sports' demise in November 1996, when ESPN2 secured the rights to the series from 1997–1999. In addition to this, Prime also televised a great deal of ASA (American Speed Association) races in the 1980s and 1990s, sharing broadcast rights with now-defunct TNN. The network also was the first to televise NASCAR Sprint (then Winston) Cup qualifying 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 broadcasting of both USA and Canadian equestrian competitions, at a level not since matched by any other North American network. The station developed a significant reputation among those who followed that sport. Prime also televised a number of regional NHL hockey games, college basketball, and college football games, along with bodybuilding and wrestling matches. They would also occasionally air workout programs, like Body by Jake. The network also was an early broadcaster of Arena Football League games up through the early 1990s.
Some of the Prime Network's affiliates were "time-share" stations. In other words, they shared time with other cable networks on some cable systems. For example, Home Sports Entertainment (now FSN Southwest) shared time with QVC network on some cable outlets, mainly in Texas. Ironically, QVC is now owned by Liberty Media, who owned Prime. However, during the Prime/QVC timeshare, QVC was owned by Comcast. Usually, QVC would air from about 3 a.m.-1 p.m. on a given day, and then Prime would take over with its feed and feature a brief sign-on and display its bright red HSE symbol in a large font. They would then give a program listing of the day's shows, which was usually superimposed over a decorative sports-related background, such as a basketball court. Some cable systems would scramble HSE when its feed took over because they treated it as a premium channel, such as Sports Time, which was on in the 1980s.