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LIBERTY SPORTS FACES HURDLES IN ITS BID TO GO NATIONAL
Published October 21, 1994
Liberty Sports' attempt to become a more aggressive player in attracting national sports programming contracts "will be hampered if it does not have cooperation from the SportsChannel services, which have yet to be incorporated in its plans," according to industry observers. Liberty is in the process of consolidating its nine regional services into "one cohesive unit," according to a top regional executive. One Liberty exec: "It hasn't been a secret that we want to compete against ESPN. We're just putting ourselves in a position to do that." Liberty was recently outbid by Cablevision/ITT in its attempt to acquire the Madison Square Garden package, seen as an "important piece of Liberty's move to national status." One Liberty source said losing out on MSG "hurt" the relationship with Cablevision's Rainbow Programming Holdings, which combined forces with Liberty in the '93 Prime/SportsChannel merger. The Liberty source: "The industry was moving toward consolidation with two major regional sports network owners. We've actually taken a step backwards." Rainbow President & COO Josh Sapan denied any "animosity" between Rainbow and Liberty. But Paul Bortz, president of Bortz & Co., a sports analyst firm said, without MSG Network and key SportsChannel regional services, Liberty will have trouble exopanding to a national presence (Thomas Umstead, MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 10/17 issue).