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LIBERTY SPORTS TAKES ANOTHER NATIONAL NETWORK STEP
Published November 16, 1994
Liberty Sports, the sports programming arm of TCI's Liberty Media, is changing the names of its owned and operated regional sports network to Prime Sports. The name change is part of Liberty Sports' bid to unify its regional networks. Liberty owns and operates nine regionals: Home Sports Entertainment (TX), KBL (Pittsburgh), Prime Sports Network-Intermountain West, Prime Sports Network-Midwest, Prime Sports Network-Rocky Mountain, Prime Sports Network-Upper Midwest, Prime Sports Northwest, Prime Ticket and Sunshine Network (FL). Liberty also owns interest in other regional sports networks: Home Team Sports (Mid-Atlantic), SportsChannel Pacific, SportsChannel Philadelphia, SportsChannel Chicago and SportSouth. Liberty Sports President Ed Frazier: "We feel a move toward more consistent programming throughout the regions will provide today's mobile society the ability to find their favorite show at the same time every day, no matter the time zone" (Liberty Sports). WHAT IT MEANS: In an interview yesterday with THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY, Home Sports Entertainment GM John Heitke talked about the changes: "We're trying to become more viewer friendly, and one of steps in doing that is to develop some continuity across the nation with a common branding identity and I think Prime Sports allows us to take a real good first step in that direction." Asked if the change is a sign that Liberty Sports wants to compete with ESPN on a national level: "I don't think it's a direct competition to what ESPN does. They are a national network and do the things that they do very well. We have built our strengths over the years on being able to bring in the regional and home town team audiences. What this signifies is the first step in trying to create a more simplistic approach to our networks, not only to our viewers across the country but to advertisers as well" (THE DAILY). NATIONAL AD SALES: Liberty also has decided to create its own national sales service in-house, replacing Group W Sports Marketing which had previously sold the national spot time for the regional networks. National ad sales offices will be located in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco (Liberty). Heitke explained the benefits of this change: "If I'm a media buyer in New York City, ... and I'm buying baseball, I'm getting the Marlins in Florida, the Rangers in Texas, the Angels in California, the Pirates in Pittsburgh." Previously, a media buyer would have to deal with each regional network separately (THE DAILY). PROGRAMMING: Programming will be restructured to create uniformity throughout the regionals, while maintaining their regional identities. Prime Sports programs will be aired so as to be seen during the same time slots across the four continental U.S. time zones. Liberty plans more emphasis on women's and children's sports programming. Another significant change will be the national roll-out of a sports news show, "Press Box." The show will include national sports news, with a portion of each telecast dedicated to highlighting regional sports and teams. Production of "Press Box" will occur eight times a day, so that the show will be seen live at 6:30pm and 10:30pm in each time zone (Liberty).