On The Air
by Laura Nachman
Bucks County Courier Times
November 17, 2006

The NFL Network and major cable companies across the country (including Comcast) are accusing each other of illegal procedure as the NFL Network's first regular-season game on Thanksgiving night between Denver and Kansas City approaches.

“The cable companies are simply using the popularity of the NFL to get customers to upgrade to digital, which is much more lucrative with higher fees, video on demand, and high definition,” said Bucks County native Alan Berkes, owner of the sports advertising agency, The Ballpark, in Los Angeles. “It caused a major uproar in L.A. when Time Warner bought Adelphia and took the NFL Network off basic cable.”

(In this area, the NFL Network is available on digital cable.)

“Fans want football, particularly the NFL Network,” Berkes added. “The live games will certainly draw more viewers and increase demand for the NFL Network, which is the leverage they are using to get higher fees.”

In a related issue, though the current television contracts with the NFL run through 2011, some feel that the league may want to put all of its games on its own network someday.

“The NFL Network could never replace the local NFL games covered by local affiliates,” Berkes said. “They are only adding more national games to the schedule and hence want to be compensated for bringing more viewers to their systems.”

Bryant Gumbel, who already got into trouble for remarks he made about NFL players representative Gene Upshaw several weeks ago, and Cris Collinsworth will announce the game.

Graham Outta Here?

If published reports that Scott Graham's contract won't be renewed are true, it's a little surprising because he was given more responsibilities last season, including play-by-play on television as well as radio.

When we interviewed Graham last month about Cory Lidle's death, he gave no indication that he wouldn't be back this season, leading us to believe that this is the Phillies' decision.

Industry sources say the Phillies may be looking to drop someone from the crowded broadcast booth, which includes Harry Kalas, Chris Wheeler, Larry Andersen and Scott Franzke. It's also surprising that Graham, who has more seniority with the team than Andersen and Franzke, would be the odd man out.

There definitely hasn't been the same outpouring of rage over the possible departure of Graham, compared to a couple of years ago, when word broke that Harry Kalas' contract expired.

Graham did not return an e-mail. Rob Brooks, Phillies manager of broadcasting, said in an e-mail that he had no announcement to make at this time.

Channel flipping

Joe Namath will discuss his battle with alcohol on “60 Minutes” at 7 p.m. Sunday on CBS. ... In the Arbitron radio ratings that were released Wednesday, for listeners 12-and-over, WIP 610-AM had a 2.8 share for 15th place, and WPEN 950-AM had a 0.6 share for 26th place.

November 17, 2006 5:58 AM