NFL Network tries end-around, but Comcast's defense is tough

ON MEDIA

The Kickoff

June 01, 2007|By RAY FRAGER

Flipping the channels in my head and the pages in my notebook:

To paraphrase the ubiquitous commercial: If you've got a cable channel, you've got a lawyer. Comcast and the NFL Network are still entangled in the courts over Comcast's decision to move the NFL Network to a sports tier of digital service on its cable systems. Comcast won the right to do so in a ruling last month, and the NFL Network is appealing.

(Remember how Comcast and Mid-Atlantic Sports Network kept their lawyers busy before things got worked out?)

Unless another court reverses the ruling, those who want to see the NFL Network will need to buy a sports package in addition to digital service.

NFL Network objects to having a smaller potential audience and forcing its viewers to pay more. Comcast says it doesn't want subscribers paying for the NFL Network if they don't want it.

Tell you what, I'll give up Lifetime Movie Network for the NFL Network. Deal? I'll just assume that Melissa Gilbert somehow overcame her stalker/secretly murderous husband/dread disease.

So when Rick Dempsey referred to Kansas City Royals pitcher Gil Meche as "Menke" on Wednesday night's Orioles post-game show on MASN, maybe he was just flashing back to former National League infielder Denis Menke, whose major league career overlapped with Dempsey's.

Yet another reason to enjoy listening to Joe Angel calling the Orioles on radio: He says what fans are thinking. During the Royals series, he wondered out loud whether the Orioles could petition the commissioner's office to get Kansas City on their schedule for 60 games.

When the Orioles are on the road, manager Sam Perlozzo takes a few questions after the game directly from MASN play-by-play man Gary Thorne and the analyst du jour, Buck Martinez or Jim Palmer. The Sun 's intrepid Orioles beat writer, Jeff Zrebiec, said that reporters waiting to speak to the manager can hear his answers, but not the questions. In addition, because of the delay in speaking to Perlozzo and putting the manager outside the clubhouse, reporters sometimes miss speaking to key Orioles, who might have exited before media members get inside, Zrebiec reported. Just another little fissure in the print-electronic media divide.

This is not a mocking reference to his short stature, but Jeff Van Gundy kind of grows on you as an NBA analyst. He has been a welcome addition to ESPN's playoff games - insightful, enthusiastic and good-humored. If he doesn't get another coaching job, NBA fans should hope he becomes a regular part of network telecasts.

If you've missed the pronouncements of Bill Walton on ESPN, he will return for studio duties during the NBA Finals. Look for the world's tallest Deadhead during SportsCenter.

Though the rating in Baltimore for Sunday's Nextel Cup Coca-Cola 600 on Fox was below the national number - 3.7 as opposed to 4.5 - local viewers far preferred NASCAR to the Indianapolis 500. ABC's telecast of the 500 did have a three-hour rain delay, but even during the last 1 hour, 15 minutes of the coverage, when racing was going on, the local rating was 2.3, actually .1 lower than during the hour of preview programming starting at noon. Nationally, Indy drew a 4.3 rating in the non-rain portion of the telecast (1 to 3 p.m. and 6 to 7:15 p.m.). During the three-hour rain delay, ABC got a 3.1. The Stanley Cup Finals could have a three-hour fire delay and not get a 3.1.

Anything worth hyping is worth hyping to a ridiculous degree. ESPN Classic will show 12 hours - yes, 12 hours - of Roger Clemens' greatest games Monday starting at 7 a.m. This is broken up into two repeating six-hour blocks, which, of course, makes it much less overkill. On Monday night at 7, ESPN carries Clemens' return to the majors for the New York Yankees against the Chicago White Sox.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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