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Sapan takes reins at Rainbow

Josh Sapan was promoted Tuesday to president and chief operating officer of Rainbow Programming Holdings, a job that will make him responsible for more cable networks than any other executive in the business.

Including the regional sports operations of the Prime and Sportschannel networks, Sapan will oversee a total of 14 networks.

He replaces Sharon Patrick, who resigned last month.

Sapan spent the last six years as prez and COO of Rainbow’s two most visible nets, American Movie Classics and Bravo. He has also helped chart the development of the proposed Romance Classics net, a spinoff of AMC. Rainbow plans a Feb. 14 launch date as a commercial-free, a la carte network.

Under Sapan’s stewardship, AMC increased its subscriber count from 13 million to 44.6 million homes, a surprisingly high number considering that AMC insists on big license fees from cable operators because it gets no revenue from advertising. (Many of the traditional cable networks pocket as much as two-thirds of their annual revenue from advertisers.)

Sapan also engineered the transformation of Bravo from a pay channel to a basic-cable network, pushing the subscriber total from 350,000 to 11.5 million.

Another new cable network Rainbow is developing is New-sport, a 24-hour sports information channel that will “use the news-gathering resources of Prime and Rainbow’s regional sports networks,” according to the company.

Since NBC is a part owner of Rainbow, the speculation is that Newsport could end up with the cable rights to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, to which NBC won the rights last month.

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