Pro-Am Sports System
|Pro-Am Sports System|
|Closed||November 1, 1997|
|Owned by||William Wischman (1982–1984)
Tom Monaghan (1984–1992)
Post-Newsweek Stations (1992–1997)
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
Nationwide (via satellite)
|Headquarters||Troy, Michigan (1982–1984)
Ann Arbor, Michigan (1984–1992)
Detroit, Michigan (1992–1997)
The Pro-Am Sports System (better known as PASS Sports or simply PASS) is a defunct American regional sports network that operated from 1982 to 1997; PASS also served as an affiliate of the Prime Network from 1988 to 1996. Based in Detroit, Michigan, the channel broadcast regional coverage of sports events throughout Michigan, mainly covering professional professional, collegiate and high school sports in the Metro Detroit area and throughout Michigan.
The network launched in 1982, as one of the first regional sports networks in the United States. Originally headquartered in Troy, PASS was owned by William Wischman, who at the time also owned independent station WXON (channel 20, now MyNetworkTV affiliate WMYD). When the network (which operated as a premium service) launched, PASS initially included some Major League Baseball games involving the Detroit Tigers and NBA games featuring the Detroit Pistons on the schedule; it also carried hockey games from the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. In 1984, Wischman sold the network to Tigers owner Tom Monaghan; the network subsequently moved its operations into offices located in Ann Arbor at the headquarters of Domino's Pizza.
In 1985, Detroit Red Wings games were added to the network's sports programming slate, with the remainder of the team's games being shown on independent station WKBD (channel 50, now a CW owned-and-operated station). In 1988, PASS became an early charter affiliate of the Prime Network group of regional sports networks.
In 1992, Monaghan sold the Tigers to Mike Ilitch and sold PASS to Post-Newsweek Stations. PASS merged its operations with NBC affiliate WDIV-TV (channel 4), which is still owned by what is now Graham Media Group. Following the purchase, PASS moved its studios and offices from Ann Arbor, Michigan to WDIV-TV's studios in Detroit. Post-Newsweek also moved the channel to basic cable and expanded it to 24 hours a day; under Monaghan's ownership it had been a premium channel that only aired in the evening and on weekends.
In the fall of 1995, PASS began a conversion from a premium to a basic cable service through deals with providers such as C-TEC and Cable Plus; by April 1996, the network had reached 25% (or 22,700) of all cable television households in Metro Detroit and 80% (or 174,000 households) in other parts of its primary coverage area through expanded basic tiers.
Decline and shutdown
On October 31, 1995, Liberty Media, owner of the Prime Network and most of its affiliates, sold a 50% ownership interest in the group to News Corporation. That company would immediately assume operational control of Prime following the purchase's closure, with plans to launch its own slate of regional sports networks as an outgrowth of its fledgling Fox Sports division later announcing on July 3, 1996, that the Prime networks would be rebranded as Fox Sports Net beginning that November.
In 1997, Fox/Liberty Networks – a newly formed joint venture between News Corporation and Liberty – made a surprise bid for the local cable television rights to NBA games involving the Detroit Red Wings. News Corporation announced plans to launch its own regional sports network for Michigan to serve as a competitor to PASS; the network, later named Fox Sports Detroit, was originally targeted for a 1998 launch. As the respective broadcast rights to the Detroit Pistons and Detroit Tigers came up for renewal, Fox/Liberty made a joint bid with PASS for the contracts and was awarded the regional television rights to both teams on August 26, 1997.
Post-Newsweek concluded that its coverage area was not large enough to support two regional sports networks. As a result, on August 30, 1997, it chose to sell the remainder of the Tigers and Pistons contracts for the 1998 season and the contract of sportscaster John Keating to Fox Sports Detroit. Fox/Liberty Networks ultimately decided to accelerate the launch date of the new channel in time for the 1997–98 NHL season and 1998 Major League Baseball season, the respective seasons in which the Red Wings and Tigers contracts began. Post-Newsweek then announced that it would shut down PASS. The last program to air on the network was Trackside at Ladbroke DRC. The Pro-Am Sports System ceased operations at 12:00 a.m. on November 1, 1997, following a public service announcement for the National Ski Hall of Fame in Ishpeming; a slide of the PASS logo was shown for two hours after the network formally shut down. In addition to Keating, several other announcers and hosts that have worked for PASS moved over to Fox Sports Detroit, some of whom remain with that network to this day.
Former on-air staff
- Marty Adler – Live on PASS host
- Pat Caputo – Live on PASS host (1990–1992)
- Bill Freehan – Tigers analyst (1984–1985)
- Steve Garagiola – Live on PASS host (1993–1996)
- Ernie Harwell – Tigers play-by-play announcer (1994–1996)
- John Keating – Live on PASS host (1993–1996)
- Greg Kelser – Pistons analyst (1993–1996)
- Fred McLeod – Pistons play-by-play announcer (1984–1996)
- Jim Northrup – Tigers analyst (1985–1994)
- Larry Osterman – Tigers and CCHA Hockey play-by-play announcer (1984–1992)
- Jim Price – Tigers analyst (1993–1996)
- Mickey Redmond – Red Wings analyst (1985–1997)
- Jack Riggs – horse racing play-by-play announcer and trackside host
- Dave Strader – Red Wings play-by-play announcer, CCHA play-by-play announcer (1985–1997)
- Kelly Tripucka – Pistons analyst (1993–1996)
- Eli Zaret – Tigers reporter
- Rich Brown (April 15, 1996). "Sports nets make move to basic". Broadcasting & Cable. Reed Business Information. Retrieved April 12, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
- "The move for PASS". Broadcasting & Cable. Cathers Business Information. August 19, 1996. Retrieved April 12, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
- "FOX AND LIBERTY OUTLINE PLANS FOR NEW CABLE VENTURE". Sports Business Journal (Advance Publications). November 1, 1995. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
- "FOX GIVES NEW NAME TO SPORTS ALLIANCE: FOX SPORTS NET". Sports Business Journal (Advance Publications). July 3, 1996. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
- "FOX SPORTS NET ANNOUNCES DEBUT FOR NOVEMBER 1". Sports Business Journal (Advance Publications). September 13, 1996. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
- "Fox Sports Inks Deal with PASS for Rights to Tigers/Pistons". Sports Business Daily (Advance Publications). August 27, 1997. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
- "Fox Sports buying Tigers, Pistons rights". Broadcasting & Cable. Cathers Business Information. September 1, 1997. Retrieved April 12, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
- R. Thomas Umstead (September 1, 1997). "Fox Sports secures Detroit franchise". Multichannel News (Cathers Business Information). Retrieved April 12, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
- "Broadcast Giants Vie for Control of Regional Sports Markets". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). September 1, 1997.