Comcast trumps NFL in court, FSN Bay Area Sold

Supreme
Court decision last week could have far-reaching implications in regard to how
cable companies distribute NFL Network. The court ruled that Comcast, the
nation’s largest cable provider, has the right to put NFL Network on a digital
sports tier.
That decision could roil the channel’s
goal to be carried on the levels of digital distribution that would give it the
greatest number of subscribers. The NFL sued Comcast last year over its plan to
put the network on a sports tier on systems recently acquired from Time Warner.
Comcast carries the channel on the rest of its systems to about 8 million
subscribers on its second-biggest digital tier. Its sports tier is available to
about a million homes.

“This
decision means that our customers who are NFL fans will be able to watch the
NFL Network without burdening those who are not NFL fans with extra
costs,” said David L. Cohen, Comcast’s executive vice president. However,
making the NFL Network available only to those paying about $5 extra monthly
for the sports tier would greatly impede its availability.

“The
final word on this issue is most likely to come from the appellate
courts,” said Seth Palansky, an NFL Network spokesman. Justice Bernard J.
Fried found that agreements Comcast had made with the NFL in 2004 let it shift
the NFL Network to a digital sports tier.

That
permission, Comcast argued, was to go into effect if it did not reach deals to
carry eight late-season NFL games on its Versus network for about $400 million
a year or for the Sunday Ticket out-of-market package.
The
games ended up on the NFL Network, and Sunday Ticket stayed on DirecTV. “This
decision confirms that expensive niche programming like the NFL Network belongs
on a sports tier,” Cohen said.

Other News:

Marty Lurie’s
“Inside Baseball Saturday Night” and “Right Off the Bat”
this week (leading into the A’s-Giants game at 6:05 p.m. on Saturday) will be
broadcast live from

Oakland’s
Greek Festival from 3:15-5:15 p.m. The festival is located at

4700 Lincoln Ave.
in

Oakland.

Lurie, by the
way, is rethinking what he wrote in his Sunday “Batter Up” column,
that Jack Cust should go to Sacramento to “play every day” once Mark
Kotsay and Mike Piazza return. “Maybe he’s here to stay” Lurie now
says of Cust.

FSN Bay Area
has been sold to the Comcast Corporation, but it has yet to be determined what
changes are in store. Comcast already dabbles in the regional sports area with
Comcast Sports Net West, which holds rights to the Sacramento Kings and
broadcasts an array of college sports. Comcast will have cornered the market in

Northern California sports when the
transaction is complete.

Radio/TV
writer Ray Frager of the

Baltimore
Sun wrote that he has never been much of a fan of putting radio sports talk
shows on TV. “However, in its newest version, ESPN Radio’s ‘Mike and Mike
in the Morning’ has figured out how to make the radio-on-the-TV thing work. The
telecasts on ESPN2 are spiced with plenty of video related to the topics being
discussed by Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic.”

The Los
Angeles Dodgers succeeded in having their flagship radio station, KFWB-AM 980,
drop ads that it had been running for the Scores Gentleman’s club on the team’s
postgame show.

Jeremy Schaap filed a
report from
Cologne,
Germany,
for last week’s “SportsCenter” on an emerging sport in
Europe: Chessboxing. Matches begin with a four-minute
round of speed chess, followed by a two-minute round of boxing. This continues
for up to 11 rounds. The winner is determined by knockout or checkmate — whichever
comes first.