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FCC Approves Comcast-NBC Universal Merger

By Dave Hughes,

The Federal Communications Commission has approved the merger of Baltimore-area cable giant Comcast and NBC Universal.

The union could have some impact on the local sports TV scene because Comcast owns Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, which serves the Baltimore region. CSN and PressBox have partnered with the sports news Web site.

Comcast owns regional sports networks in many other markets, plus national sports networks such as Versus and the Golf Channel. The cable company also owns two professional teams in its home base of Philadelphia, the 76ers and the Flyers.

The Comcast sports media base will give NBC more of a sports-media stable, joining its batch of news and entertainment cable channels like MSNBC, CNBC, SyFy, and Bravo.

"The new deal makes Comcast-NBC a solid bidder for future Olympics as they now have the deep pockets to bid against ESPN and Fox," Jim Williams wrote in the Examiner. “This will put Comcast-NBC in the game for a possible return to the NBA, Major League Baseball, or any other big event that they would choose to bid on.”

Another local impact of the merger could be a sports report/anchor-sharing deal between CSN and Channel 4/WRC, DC’s NBC-owned station. The deal would not have a similar impact with Baltimore’s NBC affiliate, Channel 11/WBAL, which is owned by Hearst and not NBC.

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The 2011 Indy Racing League Baltimore Grand Prix Sept. 4 will air on Comcast's Versus sports network, after ABC passed on carrying it.

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The Ravens' season-ending loss to the Steelers via CBS on Jan. 15 drew the network’s highest overnight rating for an AFC divisional game in 17 years. But that new record stood for about a day, when the Jan. 16 Jets-Patriots playoff game on CBS beat the Ravens-Steelers record.

The Ravens game attracted about 21 percent of the TV audience in the top 50 U.S. markets, which was up 12 percent from the Ravens-Colts AFC playoff game last season.

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The Nats Insider blog broke the news that F.P. Santangelo, a former big-league utility man who worked as a fill-in broadcaster for the Giants last season, has been chosen as the Nationals' new game analyst on Baltimore-based MASN. Santangelo was selected out of a sizable group of ex-players who applied for the job that became available after Rob Dibble was fired in September.

Santangelo, who will serve as analyst alongside play-by-play announcer Bob Carpenter, assumes the job previously held by Dibble, who lost his job after making critical comments about Washington pitcher Stephen Strasburg. Ray Knight, who filled in for the rest of the season, is expected to return to his original duties as pre- and post-game analyst alongside host Johnny Holliday.

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Is the lottery a “sport”? If you think so, the Maryland Board of Public Works has approved a Maryland lottery contract with Channel 11/WBAL, which will be televising drawings through June 2015. The 4.5-year deal is pegged at $7.4 million. Channel 11 has been running Maryland lottery drawings since 2006.

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So what's up next for former longtime Washington Post sports columnist Len Shapiro, who just penned his last piece for the paper? He'll be teaching a class in sports journalism at the University of Wisconsin this semester, via a three-hour Monday session. He'll also have a batch of freelance work, including an NFL column for the Miami Herald through the Super Bowl.

Plus, Shapiro will continue his work for, which is devoted to professional and amateur golf around the world. "I would love to keep doing a sports media column, and I'm looking into that possibility, as well," Shapiro said.

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The Washington Post named Jason Reid its new sports columnist, taking the spot of Michael Wilbon. Wilbon recently announced that be leaving the paper to focus on his ESPN TV work, which includes co-hosting the afternoon daily, “Pardon The Interruption” with another former Post columnist, Tony Kornheiser.

Posted Jan. 20, 2011