PRISM: The Orignal Regional Sports Network

March 20, 2017

PRISM logoBefore Comcast SportsNet came about in 1997, there was PRISM. No, not the NSA’s mass surveillance program, but rather the cable television channel, Philadelphia Regional In-Home Sports and Movies. PRISM was launched in 1976 as a joint venture between Ed Snider’s Spectacor and 20th Century Fox. For a subscription fee of around $12, Philadelphians had, for the first time, the ability to watch all Flyers, Phillies, and Sixers home games, all Big 5 basketball matchups, and all WWF events held at the Spectrum.

In addition to broadcasting live sporting events, PRISM showed a variety of other programming. Under the direction of Sport Director Jim Barniak, PRISM and its sister station SportsChannel Philadelphia, had a slew of sport talk shows and anthologies (The Great Sports Debate, Broad and Pattison, and Sports Scrapbook among others), as well as countless movies (and even the occasional late night skin flick). PRISM had it all. However, the station had some teething issues.

PRISM spent the first five years of existence operating at a loss. This could be attributed to the cost of acquiring the rights to broadcast sporting events and movies, as well as management’s reluctance to run advertisements. At launch, PRISM had a grand total of six subscribers. In the early days of cable, there were very few cable providers and the vast majority of American urban areas were not wired for cable. Those who were fortunate enough to live in an area with the necessary wiring faced astronomical costs. In 1976 PRISM’s $12 price tag was the equivalent of $52.20 in 2017 dollars. At a time when gasoline cost $0.59 per gallon, and median income was around $13,000, PRISM was a luxury that many families could simply not afford.

By 1986, PRISM had a subscriber base of approximately 370,000 households in the Philadelphia area. The majority of these subscribers were suburbanites, as much of the actual city of Philadelphia remained unwired for cable. However, there was a slight loophole that Philadelphian’s could exploit. From 1983-1985, the signal for PRISM was broadcast over the air via WWSG Channel 57. The signal was scrambled, however, this scrambled signal was easily decoded with the proper equipment. This arrangement ended after channel 57 was sold to a new owner and changed over to an entertainment channel later to become UPN-57 (now CW Philly).

Ownership of PRISM varied a great deal over the station’s lifetime. Originally a joint venture between Spectacor and 20th Century Fox, the network became fully owned by Spectacor in 1982. Ed Snider’s group would promptly sell PRISM a year later to a joint venture between Rainbow Media and the Washington Post. In 1985, CBS purchased a minority share in the network before cashing out in 1987. The Washington Post also sold its interest in the venture to Rainbow Media, leaving the Cablevision (formerly owned by the Dolan family, now Altice USA) subsidiary as the sole owner. A deal to sell a 50% share to NBC for a 50% Cablevision interest in the new NBC cable channel CNBC fell through in 1989, leaving Cablevision as the sole owner of PRISM until shortly before the channel’s demise.

In 1990, Cablevision launched a sport-specific basic cable channel called SportsChannel. This channel carried PRISM sport events in the event that there was a scheduling conflict. While the channels were affiliated, they maintained their own separate graphics and announcing teams until 1995, when Cablevision created a uniform appearance that was used on both channels. With a growing network of channels, a new 10-year carrier deal with Comcast, and an ever growing subscriber base, life must have been looking pretty sweet to PRISM’s management. Unbeknownst to all, the end was nigh.

The end of PRISM came rather suddenly in the form of the juggernaut that is Comcast. In 1996, Comcast acquired Spectacor and all of its assets, including the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Philadelphia 76ers, the Spectrum, and the new arena now known as the Wells Fargo Center. The new Comcast-Spectacor behemoth announced that they would be allowing the Flyers and Sixers broadcast deals with PRISM to lapse in favor of starting a new regional sports network that would be centered around their team’s games. PRISM had already lost their TV deal with the Big 5 over a monetary dispute (The Big 5 wanted to be paid for the broadcast rights, while Cablevision felt that the Big 5 should have been paying them), and now lost two of their three professional sports broadcast deals. However, there was one saving grace: this new network would take some time to get started. As the Flyers deal had lapsed just after the merger, this meant that the team was without a broadcast partner. Cablevision, believing that they could get a one-year deal on the cheap, sent the Flyers (and thusly Comcast) a low-ball offer. The response from the Flyers was that they would be producing their own broadcasts in-house, and would sell the rights to said broadcasts to local networks until Comcast SportsNet was ready to air. Panicked, Cablevision agreed to a one-year deal worth approximately $5 million dollars.

In the meantime, Cablevision sold a 40% stake in their sports holdings to Fox/Liberty media for a cool $850 million in June of 1997. PRISM was meant to be rolled into the new Fox Sports Networks, with national pieces being mixed in with local content. There was a slight issue with this however, as the Phillies had just jumped ship to Comcast. This left PRISM with no long-term commitments from any sport organization. Fox decided that the best way to handle this was at the negotiating table. In late summer, Comcast and Fox came to an agreement. PRISM and SportsChannel were shutdown on October 1st, 1997, and the Sixers were let out of their broadcast deal. In exchange, SportsChannel’s signal was purchased by Comcast to be used by the new Comcast SportsNet, while PRISM’s signal was retained by Fox/Liberty, and hosted the Premium movie channel Starz!. Just like that, PRISM was gone.

PRISM and SportsChannel undoubtedly changed the course of Philadelphia sports fandom. Prior to PRISM, Philly fans had three options for consuming Philly sports. They could go to the game, listen to it on the radio, or read about it the next day in The Bulletin, Inquirer, or Daily News. They could also hope and pray that their team was good enough to feature on nationally televised games. Outside of the ranks of the dedicated beat writer, the sport media lens was very broad and unfocused. PRISM was a key part in focusing that lens in Philly, and came about at a time where all of the teams were winning. This success, coupled with the ability to watch that success helped to create the Philadelphia superfan of today.




Leave a comment


Also in The Shibe Vintage Sports History Blog

Longest Streaks In Eagles History

July 20, 2017

We’re in the heat of the summer and you know what that means… football is right around the corner. In fact, there are only 52 days left until the Eagles kick off their 2017 season at Washington on September 10. Training camp starts next week at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia. The team will […]

Continue Reading

The 1983 NBA Champion 76ers: The Last Time The Sixers Were First

June 25, 2017

The Sixers will begin the 2017-18 season this fall, marking the 35th anniversary of the franchise’s last title winning season. Their 1982-83 season concluded with superstars Julius Erving and Moses Malone, alongside a tremendous supporting cast of Andrew Toney, Maurice Cheeks, and Bobby Jones receiving their first championship rings. Since then, the Sixers have suffered […]

Continue Reading

The Philadelphia Warriors: Yes, THOSE Warriors

April 26, 2017

The Golden State Warriors are currently one of the best teams in the NBA, and are the pride of the otherwise dreary San Francisco Bay Area sports scene. That’s just fantastic for the denizens of the nine counties by ‘the Bay’, and I applaud them on their success. It should be noted however, that the […]

Continue Reading

Size Charts

Select your brand and style to read more about how your purchase will fit:

American Needle fitted hats | '47 Brand hats | '47 Brand apparel | Majestic apparel | Majestic jerseys | Red Jacket apparel | Junk Food apparel | Next Level apparel (Shibe Originals)

Use these tips as a general guide when finding your measurements:

 

American Needle Fitted Hats

If you do not know your size, first determine where on your head you want to wear your hat. Usually it is worn about a half-inch to an inch above the eyebrows and/or just above the ears. Have a friend hold the tape measure (cloth, plastic, or download a printable version here) at the point where you want the hat to rest on your head.  Insert the tip of your little finger between the tape and your head.  Record the measurement and find your Fitted Hat size using the chart below.  This should provide you with a comfortable fit.

 

'47 Brand Hats

 

47 Brand Adjustable Hats Size Chart Size Hat Size Circumference (cm)
Adjustable Hats Men's 6 7/8 - 7 5/8 55 - 61
Women's 6 5/8 - 7 1/4 53 - 58
Youth 6 5/8 - 7 1/8 53 - 57

 

47 Brand Fitted Hats Size Chart Size Hat Size Circumference (cm)
Fitted Hats XX Small 6 1/2 - 6 5/8 52 - 53
X Small 6 3/4 54
Small 6 7/8 - 7 55 - 56
Medium 7 - 7 1/8 56 - 57
Large 7 1/4 58
X Large 7 3/8 - 7 5/8 59 - 61
XX Large 7 5/8 - 7 3/4 61 - 62
XXX Large 7 7/8 63
XXXX Large 8 64
XXXXX Large 8 1/8 65

 

47 Brand Stretch Fit Hats Size Chart Size Hat Size Circumference (cm)
Stretch Fit Fitted Hats Youth 6 1/2 - 6 5/8 52 - 53
Small / Medium 6 7/8 - 7 55 - 56
Medium / Large 7 1/8 - 7 3/8 57 - 59
Large / X Large 7 1/2 - 7 5/8 60 - 61
One Size Fits All 7 - 7 1/2 56 - 60

 

47 Brand Knit Hats Size Chart Hat Size Circumference (cm)
Knit Hats Youth 6 1/2 - 6 3/4 52 - 54
One Size Fits All 6 7/8 - 7 1/2 55 - 60

 

'47 Brand Apparel

 

 
47 Brand Men's Size Chart S M L XL XXL
Neck 14"-14.5" 15"-15.5" 16"-16.5" 17"-17.5" 18"-18.5"
Shoulder 21" 22" 23" 24" 25"
Chest 36"-38" 39"-41" 42"-44" 45"-47" 48"-50"
Waist 28"-30" 31"-33" 34"-36" 37"-39" 40"-42"

 

47 Brand Women's Size Chart S M L XL
Size 2-4 6-8 8-10 10-12
Shoulder 14.25" 15.25" 16.25" 17.25"
Bust 32"-34" 35"-36" 37"-38" 39"-42"
Waist 26"-27" 28"-29" 30"-31" 32"-33"

 

 

Majestic apparel

Men's Sizing (measurements in inches)
  S M L XL XXL 3XL 4XL
Chest 34-36 38-40 42-44 46-48 52-52 54-56 58-60
Waist 28-30 32-34 36-38 40-42 44-46 48-50 52-54
Hip 34-36 38-40 42-44 46-48 50-52 54-56 58-60
Sleeve 32-33 33-34 34-35 35-36 36-36 1/2 36 1/2-37 37-37 1/2
Neck 14-14 1/2 15-15 1/2 16-16 1/2 17-17 1/2 18-18 1/2 19-19 1/2 20-20 1/2

 

Women's Sizing (measurements in inches)
  XS S M L XL 1X 2X
Size 0-2 4-6 8-10 12-14 16-18 16W-18W 20W-22W
Chest 32-33 34-35 36-37 38-40 41 1/2-43 1/2 43-45 47-49
Waist 24-25 26-27 28-29 30-32 33 1/2-35 1/2 36-38 39-41
Hip 34 1/2-35 1/2 36 1/2-37 1/2 38 1/2-39 1/2 40 1/2-42 1/2 44-46 46-48 49-51
Sleeve 29 1/4 30 30 3/4 31 1/2 32 32 1/2 33

 

Youth Sizing (measurements in inches)
  S M L XL XXL 3XL
Size 6-8 10-12 14-16 18-20 20 22
Chest 24-26 28-30 32-34 36-38    
Waist 21-23 25-27 29-31 33-35 37-39 40-42

 

 

 

Majestic Jerseys

Adult Men's Replica Jersey Sizing  
Jersey Size Small Medium Large X Large XX Large
Neck (diameter of neck) 6.5 6.75 7 7.25 7.5
Chest (underarm to underarm) 20 1/2 22 1/2 24 1/2 26 1/2 28 1/2
Sleeve (back of inside neck to end of middle sleeve) 8 1/2 8 3/4 9 9 1/4 9 1/2

 

Apparel Sizing Tips:

Use these tips as a general guide when finding your measurements:

Chest/Bust: With your arms at your sides, measure around the fullest part of your chest, across shoulder blades and under arms.

Waist: To measure your natural waistline, wrap the tape so it intersects your navel. Keep tape flat, but comfortably loose.

Hips: Stand with your heels together and measure the fullest part of your hips. Make sure the measuring tape is level all the way around your body.

Inseam: Stand up straight, and start the tape measure high in your crotch. Straighten the tape down the inside of your leg to the bottom of your ankle.

 

 

Red Jacket apparel

 

 

Junk Food apparel

 

Next Level apparel (Shibe Originals)

General Size Neck
(in inches)
Chest
(in inches)
Waist
(in inches)
Arm
(in inches)
Small 14-14.5 34-36 28-30 31.5-32
Medium 15-15.5 38-40 32-34 32.5-33
Large 16-16.5 42-44 36-38 33.5-34
X-Large 17-17.5 46-48 40-42 34.5-35
XX-Large 18 – 18.5 50-52 44-46 35.5-36