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AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh is an American regional sports network that is owned by WarnerMedia News & Sports, a division of AT&T's WarnerMedia, as part of the AT&T SportsNet brand of networks and is an affiliate of Fox Sports Networks. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, the channel broadcasts local coverage of sports events throughout Greater Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania, as well as national programs from Fox Sports Networks including college sports, and magazine, entertainment and documentary programs. It is the exclusive home of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Penguins, and the cable home of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As of August 2013, AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh is available on cable providers throughout nearly all of Pennsylvania (outside the Philadelphia market), almost all of West Virginia (except the Eastern Panhandle), western Maryland, eastern Ohio, southwestern border areas of New York and Ashland, Kentucky, reaching more than 2.4 million homes. It is also available nationwide on satellite via DirecTV and Dish Network.

History


The channel launched on April 13, 1986 as Pirates Cable Network, exclusively serving the Pittsburgh metropolitan area; its first sports event telecast on that date was a Major League Baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs from Three Rivers Stadium, announced by Mike Lange, in which the Pirates shut out the Cubs, 8–0.

The network commenced full-time broadcasts on April 24, 1986 as the KBL Entertainment Network, in order to allow other sports besides the Pirates to be included on the network. Its first regular broadcast was a Pirates home game against the New York Mets.[1] The network was initially owned by Tele-Communications Inc. (now part of Comcast), then the largest cable television provider in the Pittsburgh market. KBL quickly expanded its cable coverage. As early as May 9, 1986; its cable footprint roughly approximated its present six-state coverage area.

While it primarily carried sports-related programming, KBL also served as a general entertainment cable channel while under TCI ownership, essentially filling the void left after independent station WPGH-TV (channel 53) became a charter affiliate of the Fox Broadcasting Company seven months after KBL's debut. It aired children's programming for part of the day, including reruns of the John Candy animated series Camp Candy.[1]

In 1994, TCI transferred the channel to its corporate parent Liberty Media; KBL then immediately dropped all entertainment programming and converted the renamed Prime Sports KBL into an affiliate of Prime SportsChannel America, a partnership between Liberty's Prime Network and the Cablevision/NBC-owned SportsChannel America regional sports network groups. In 1995, Prime Network's retail subsidiary, Prime Sports Merchandising, purchased some sports apparel stores located inside shopping malls and rebranded them as Prime Sports Shops, promoting them on its networks including KBL.[2]

In 1996, News Corporation, which formed a sports division for the Fox network two years earlier after it obtained the broadcast rights to the National Football Conference and sought to create a group of regional sports networks, acquired a 50% interest in the Prime Network from TCI parent Liberty Media.[3] Later that year on November 1, News Corporation and Liberty Media relaunched the Prime Network affiliates as part of the new Fox Sports Net group, with Prime Sports KBL officially rebranding as Fox Sports Pittsburgh.[4] The deal temporarily ended the Prime SportsChannel partnership, although News Corporation subsequently acquired most of the SportsChannel networks the following year;[5] the retail stores, meanwhile, retained the "Prime Sports" name for many years after the rebranding of the regional networks as part of Fox Sports Net. The channel was rebranded as Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh in 2000, as part of a collective brand modification of the FSN networks under the "Fox Sports Net" banner; subsequently in 2004, the channel shortened its name to FSN Pittsburgh, through the networks' de-emphasis of the "Fox Sports Net" brand.

On December 22, 2006, News Corporation sold its interest in FSN Pittsburgh and sister networks FSN Utah, FSN Northwest and FSN Rocky Mountain to Liberty Media, in an asset trade in which News Corporation also traded its 38.5% ownership stake in satellite provider DirecTV for $550 million in cash and stock, in exchange for Liberty Media's 16.3% stake in the company.[6] On May 4, 2009, DirecTV Group Inc. announced it would become a part of Liberty's entertainment unit, part of which would then be spun off into the separate company under the DirecTV name, in a deal in which Liberty would increase its share in DirecTV from 48% to 54%, with Liberty owner John Malone and his family owning a 24% interest. DirecTV would operate its newly acquired FSN-affiliated networks through DirecTV Sports Networks,[7] a new division formed when the split off from Liberty Media was completed on November 19, 2009.[8]

On December 17, 2010, DirecTV Sports Networks announced that its four Fox Sports Networks-affiliated regional outlets would be relaunched under the "Root Sports" brand.[9] The network officially rebranded as Root Sports Pittsburgh on April 1, 2011, coinciding with the start of the 2011 Major League Baseball season. For nominal purposes, the Root Sports networks continued to carry programming distributed mainly to the Fox Sports regional networks to provide supplementary sports and entertainment programming. On April 8, 2016, DirecTV Sports Networks rebranded under the AT&T name as AT&T Sports Networks.[10]

On June 12, 2017, AT&T Sports Networks announced that the network, along with Root Sports Southwest, and Root Sports Rocky Mountain, would re brand as AT&T SportsNet with the channel becoming AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh. All network programming and on-air talent remained intact, with the exception of Steve Mears, who in October 2017 replaced Paul Steigerwald as the play-by-play announcer of the Penguins.[11][12][13] The name change took effect on July 14, 2017.

On April 26, 2019, it was reported that Sinclair Broadcast Group (owners of WPGH-TV & WPNT in Pittsburgh, as well as other stations throughout the channel's coverage area) was the successful bidder of the Fox Sports Networks that were required to be divested as a condition of The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of much of 21st Century Fox.[14] While it wouldn't directly affect AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh, it is not known if Sinclair would keep the Fox Sports Networks programming (presumably to be merged into Stadium) on the channel or move it to Sinclair's over-the-air properties. Within AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh's viewing area, Sinclair either owns or operates WPGH-TV/WPNT in Pittsburgh, WHP-TV in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, WCHS-TV/WVAH-TV in Charleston/Huntington, West Virginia, WJAC-TV/WWCP-TV/WATM-TV in Johnstown/Altoona/State College, Pennsylvania, WOLF-TV/WQMY/WSWB in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and WTOV-TV in Steubenville, Ohio.

In July 2019, it was reported that AT&T was looking to sell AT&T SportsNet to reduce debt related to its acquisition of Time Warner as well as rolling out 5G on its cell phone networks. Following Sinclair's closure of its purchase of the Fox Sports Networks, it was reported that Sinclair and Comcast (the latter of which owns NBC Sports Regional Networks) could purchase AT&T Sports Networks. Such deals could reunite AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh with its former Fox Sports Network siblings through Sinclair or reunite it with TCI successor Comcast; the former would also make it a sister network to WPGH-TV/WPNT while the latter would make it a partial sister network with the Pittsburgh Cable News Channel co-owned between Comcast and WPXI.[15][16][17]

Programming


AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh carries more than 350 live sports events annually (all of which are also available in high definition), featuring a mix of professional, collegiate and high school sports. To fill out its schedule outside various local sports, the network also carries sports events, documentary and magazine programs distributed nationally by Fox Sports Networks through its programming affiliation with its former regional sports network group parent.

The network holds the regional cable television rights to the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball, carrying over 150 regular season and Spring training games annually, as well as rebroadcasts of recent games (as part of Pirates Instant Replay) and the team analysis program Inside Pirates Baseball.

From the 2013 to 2018 seasons, AT&T's telecasts of Pirates games were blacked out on DirecTV in many portions of the Pirates' claimed territory, including the Columbus, Ohio market, for reasons not released publicly. Despite the blackout, DirecTV did not allow Pirates games to be shown in the blacked-out area on its MLB Extra Innings package. The blackout was lifted in time for the 2019 season.

AT&T SportsNet also maintains exclusive regional rights to most regular season and any early-round Stanley Cup playoff games involving the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins; it also carries Penguins-related programs such as Penguins Instant Replay, Inside Penguins Hockey, Pens Pulse, and In The Room.

On April 27, 2011, the network reached a 20-year contract extension with the Penguins, allowing the network to continue carrying most of the team's NHL game telecasts through the end of the 2028–29 NHL season.[18]

The network formerly served as the cable home of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, broadcasting team-related magazine and analysis programs such as weekly press conferences held by coach Mike Tomlin during the regular season and the team coach's show The Mike Tomlin Show (both were hosted by Stan Savran). This continued through the 2016 season. KDKA-TV now airs The Mike Tomlin Show, while Tomlin's Tuesday press conference is no longer televised live.

AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh carries the exclusive rights to the West Virginia Mountaineers, carrying all football and men's basketball games not picked up by a national network, as well as select women's basketball games, select other live events (women's soccer, baseball, etc.), the football team's weekly Tuesday press conferences, a coaches show involving all Mountaineer sports, and Mountaineer Gameday, a football pregame show that airs at 11:00 am each Saturday morning during the college football season.

The network carries football, men's and women's basketball, and other events featuring the Pittsburgh Panthers, which are produced by Raycom Sports and Fox Sports South. The network will continue to do so until at least July 2019, when ESPN may obtain the rights through the new ACC-ESPN Network. The network also airs head coach Pat Narduzzi's weekly press conference and the weekly magazine show Beyond the Script, both of which are hosted by the network's Rob King.[19]

Beginning with the 2017-18 season, AT&T SportsNet has served as the regional home of the Duquesne Dukes, primarily for men's and women's basketball. The network's coverage of Duquesne athletics began on August 31, 2017 with a live broadcast of the Dukes' football opener against South Dakota State, and continued with live broadcasts of 4 home men's basketball games later in the academic year.[20][21] Coverage has expanded for the 2018-19 school year to include a weekly coaches show and women's basketball, including a live broadcast of the women's City Game on December 30, 2018.[22][23]

Additionally, the network carries telecasts of various athletic contests involving teams from the Atlantic Coast, Big East, and Big 12 conferences, all of which are produced by Fox Sports Networks. College basketball games featuring the Robert Morris Colonials and select football and basketball games from the Division 2 Mountain East Conference are also occasionally aired. It airs magazine programming featuring the Penn State Nittany Lions, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Villanova Wildcats, Big East Conference, and Atlantic Coast Conference.

High school sports events are also carried on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh, including Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League regular season football games and West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission high school football, baseball, softball, and boys' and girls' basketball championship games, as well as occasional broadcasts of regular-season WVSSAC football contests.[24][25]

On-air staff


  • Dan Potash –sideline reporter (also contributes to Pirates telecasts)
  • Steve Blass – color commentator (home games only)
  • Greg Brown – play-by-play announcer
  • Robby Incmikoski – field reporter (also contributes to Penguins, WVU, and WPIAL football telecasts)
  • Joe Block – play-by-play announcer
  • Bob Walk – color commentator (home and road games)
  • John Wehner – color commentator (road games only)
  • Michael McKenry - studio analyst
  • Warren Baker [30] – men's basketball color commentator
  • Marc Bulger – football color commentator
  • Meg Bulger - football sideline reporter, women's basketball color commentator
  • Rasheed Marshall – football studio analyst
  • Chris Schneider – color commentator
  • Rob King (also serves as play-by-play announcer for WVU football and men's basketball and WPIAL football)
  • Stan Savran
  • Paul Alexander
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