Prime Network

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For the Canadian cable television specialty channel formerly known as "Prime", see DTour.
For the Australian television network, see Prime Television.
Prime Sports Network
Launched November 1988 (1988-11)
Closed October 31, 1996 (1996-10-31)
Owned by Liberty Media
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Country United States
Language English
Broadcast area Nationwide
Headquarters Englewood, Colorado
Replaced by Fox Sports Networks
Sister channel(s) SportsChannel

The Prime Network (originally known as the Prime Sports Network, and also known as Prime Sports 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 of selecting 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[edit]

Early history[edit]

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 November 1988, 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 Root Sports Rocky Mountain), an owned-and-operated outlet based in Denver, near TCI's corporate headquarters in the suburb of Englewood. Shortly afterward, Dallas-based Home Sports Entertainment and Orlando-based Sunshine Network signed affiliation agreements with Prime Ticket. HSE had been in operation since 1985, while Sunshine had debuted around the time of the Prime Ticket-Prime Sports alliance. These four networks formed the cornerstones of the Prime Network group.

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 of 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). Liberty also created a in-house sales service to sell national advertisements for the regional networks (replacing Group W Sports Marketing).[1] The rebrand took effect on January 1, 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.[2]

Restructuring into Fox Sports Net[edit]

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.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5] the Prime Sports-branded affiliates were officially relaunched as Fox Sports Net on November 1, 1996.[6][7][8]

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.[9] 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.[10] DirecTV Sports Networks, which assumed responsibility for the four Prime-turned-FSN networks,[11] rebranded them under the Root Sports brand on April 1, 2011.[12]

Networks[edit]

Owned-and-operated[edit]

Channel Region served Year joined/launched Current owner/status Notes
La Cadena Deportiva Arizona
California
Nevada
Hawaii
1993 Fox Deportes, owned by Fox Entertainment Group Operated as Spanish-language version of Prime Ticket.
Prime Sports Arizona Arizona
New Mexico
Utah
southern Nevada
1996 Fox Sports Arizona, owned by Fox Entertainment Group Joined Prime Sports in September 1996, two months before the group's relaunch as Fox Sports Net.
Prime Sports Intermountain West Utah 1990 Root Sports Utah, owned by DirecTV Sports Networks
Prime Sports KBL western, central and northeastern Pennsylvania
central and southern West Virginia
eastern Ohio
western Maryland
extreme eastern Kentucky
1994[13] Root Sports Pittsburgh, owned by DirecTV Sports Networks
Prime Sports Midwest Missouri
southern Illinois
Indiana
eastern Nebraska
eastern Kansas
western Kentucky
1989 Fox Sports Midwest, owned by Fox Entertainment Group
Prime Sports Northwest Washington
Oregon
Idaho
Montana
Alaska
1992 Root Sports Northwest, owned by the Seattle Mariners and DirecTV Sports Networks Acquired as Northwest Cable Sports.
Prime Sports Rocky Mountain Colorado
Wyoming
Southern Idaho
western Kansas
western Nebraska
northeastern Nevada
western South Dakota
1988 Root Sports Rocky Mountain, owned by DirecTV Sports Networks
Prime Sports Southwest northern and eastern Texas
Oklahoma
northern Louisiana
New Mexico
Arkansas
1988 Fox Sports Southwest, owned by Fox Entertainment Group Affiliated as Home Sports Entertainment (HSE).
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 ceased operations, doing so on December 31, 1995.
Prime Ticket Southern California 1988 Fox Sports West, owned by Fox Entertainment Group
(operates as a sister network to the present-day Prime Ticket)
Renamed Prime Sports West in 1994.
SportSouth Georgia
Mississippi
Alabama
Kentucky
Tennessee
1990 Fox Sports South, owned by Fox Entertainment Group Partially owned by Liberty Media, in conjunction with the Turner Broadcasting System during association with Prime.
Sunshine Network Florida 1988 Sun Sports, owned by Fox Entertainment Group

Affiliates[edit]

Channel Region served Year of affiliation Current owner/status
Empire Sports Network Western New York 1990 defunct; replaced by Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
Home Team Sports Delaware
Maryland
south-central Pennsylvania
Virginia
Washington, D.C.
West Virginia
1990 Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, owned by NBCUniversal
Midwest Sports Channel Minnesota
Wisconsin
Iowa
North Dakota
South Dakota
1993[13] Fox Sports North, owned by Fox Entertainment Group
MSG Network New York
northern New Jersey
northeast Pennsylvania
southern Connecticut
1993[13] Owned by The Madison Square Garden Company
NESN Massachusetts
eastern and central Connecticut
Vermont
Maine
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
1990 Owned by the Fenway Sports Group and Delaware North
Pacific Sports Network northern and central California
northwestern Nevada
parts of southern Oregon
1989 Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, owned by NBCUniversal
PASS Sports Michigan
northwestern Ohio
northeastern Indiana
northeast Wisconsin
1990 defunct; team broadcast rights acquired by Fox Sports Detroit

International[edit]

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 Asia 1991 Defunct; replaced by STAR Sports in 1993

Time-sharing[edit]

Some of the Prime Network's affiliates were "time-share" networks, which shared channel space with other cable networks on certain cable systems, due to issues with channel capacity that would not be resolved until headend upgrades to allow additional networks to be carried on a 24-hour basis during the 1990s.

One such example was Home Sports Entertainment, which shared time with QVC (owned at the time by Comcast; and now, ironically, owned by former Prime parent Liberty Media) on some cable providers, mainly in Texas. QVC usually transmitted from about 3:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on a given day, with the regional Prime outlet taking over the channel slot after a brief sign-on/ID sequence and a rundown of the day's schedule (normally superimposed over a decorative sports-related background, such as a basketball court). Some providers that carried it as a premium channel (in a manner similar to the short-lived Sports Time in the 1980s) scrambled the HSE feed upon its sign-on over the designated channel slot.

Prime SportsChannel Networks[edit]

In 1993, Liberty Media, NBC and Cablevision Systems Corporation formed Prime SportsChannels America, a venture in which the companies pooled programming and advertising sales between Prime and Cablevision/NBC's regional sports network group SportsChannel. 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.

Notable programming[edit]

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 Spike). The network also was the first to televise NASCAR Winston Cup qualifying races 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[edit]

  1. ^ "LIBERTY SPORTS TAKES ANOTHER NATIONAL NETWORK STEP". Sports Business Journal (Advance Publications). November 16, 1994. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  2. ^ "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. 
  3. ^ "FOX AND LIBERTY OUTLINE PLANS FOR NEW CABLE VENTURE". Sports Business Journal (Advance Publications). November 1, 1995. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  4. ^ "TCI, LIBERTY AND NEWS CORP. HAMMER OUT SPORTS NET DETAILS". Sports Business Journal (Advance Publications). April 10, 2015. 
  5. ^ "FOX GIVES NEW NAME TO SPORTS ALLIANCE: FOX SPORTS NET". Sports Business Journal (Advance Publications). July 3, 1996. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  6. ^ R. Thomas Umstead (July 8, 1996). "Liberty Sports regionals will become Fox Sports net". Multichannel News. The Walt Disney Company. Retrieved April 10, 2015 – via HighBeam Research. 
  7. ^ "FOX SPORTS NET DEBUTS ON NOV. 1". The Columbian (Columbian Publishing Company). Associated Press. September 13, 1996. Retrieved April 10, 2015 – via HighBeam Research. 
  8. ^ "FOX SPORTS NET ANNOUNCES DEBUT FOR NOVEMBER 1". Sports Business Journal (Advance Publications). September 13, 1996. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  9. ^ "News Corp. Reaches Deal with Liberty Media". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). December 22, 2006. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  10. ^ Todd Spangler (May 4, 2009). "DirecTV, Liberty Media Announce Spin-Off Plan". Multichannel News (Reed Business Information). Retrieved April 16, 2015. 
  11. ^ Mike Reynolds (November 20, 2009). "Liberty Sports Rebrands As DirecTV Sports Networks". Multichannel News. NewBay Media. Retrieved April 16, 2015. 
  12. ^ "'Root Sports' new name for sports networks". Denver Business Journal (American City Business Journals). December 17, 2010. 
  13. ^ a b c Affiliate through Prime SportsChannels America.