LIBERTY SPORTS FACES HURDLES IN ITS BID TO GO NATIONAL
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).