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Prime SportsChannel merger complete

As expected (Daily Variety, Jan. 6), Liberty Media and NBC/Cablevision yesterday merged their competing cable sports services to create the Prime SportsChannel Networks, consisting of two national sports webs reaching virtually every regional market in the country.

Under the deal, Liberty Media subsid Liberty Sports Inc. will merge its Prime Network with SportsChannel America, a partnership of NBC Cable Holdings Inc. and Cablevision affiliate Rainbow Programming Holdings Inc.

The new company will continue to deliver two separate national sports channels.

Affiliated Regional Communications Ltd., a partnership in which Liberty owns 77%, will own 50% of the new partnership, while NBC and Rainbow will each hold 25%.

The new structure will keep the Prime Network as a live and taped sports events service, while converting SportsChannel America to a breaking sports service that will occasionally program sports events. Combined services will reach 41 million homes.

James Dolan, president and CEO of Rainbow, will serve as the managing general partner, with Jeff Ruhe, currently SCA president, being the president of the new venture based in Woodbury, N.Y.

NBC Cable sales will handle the advertising for both services.

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