By: John Molori
June 19, 2006

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THIS WEEK:

- Auf weidesehen to a Berliner
- HD is OK

CN8's carrot-topped Cowboy rides into sunset; Comcast adds NESN and ESPN2 to high-definition lineup

CN8 "Sports Pulse" host Ed Berliner has left the regional network, a mutual decision between Comcast and the three-year host. In a candid interview with Media Blitz, Berliner says that it's the closing of another chapter.

"The time is just right to move on and try other things. I am considering offers from people here in Boston and elsewhere. I won't elaborate on why we 've come to this decision, but I will say that the hour on CN8 from 10:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. was the best time of my career."

Berliner would not get into the specific reasons for his departure, but states, "There simply comes a time in life when you find that in order for you to be professionally challenged and do things you want to do, you have to move on. I have recognized that now is that time."

"Sports Pulse" airs weeknights at 10:00 p.m. on CN8 and showcases a plethora of interviews, features and highlights. The strength of the show is its diversity. Unique guests, a focus on all sports and a slant toward humor, controversy and debate make the show a must-see, but will these traits continue?

Berliner clearly was the catalyst for what viewers saw. He steered the program while staking his claim as the most literate host in Boston. His introductions and commentaries were extremely well written and relevant. In short, he had a host's presence.

I admire reporters and current hosts John Carchedi and Phil Burton personally and professionally, but will they have the on-camera power and control that Berliner exuded?

Berliner brought to television heretofore underexposed media talents including Mike Reiss, Shira Springer, Mike Petraglia, James Murphy, Bob Snow, Mick Colageo, Tom King, Chris Price, Tom Cavicchi, Mark Farinella, Kevin Winter and the staff of Northeastern University's Sport in Society. Yours truly was also a periodic guest.

Says Berliner, "The guests and friends I gained made the show what it was. I have been very emotional for the past 48 hours. The program was like my child. I birthed it, burped it, changed its diapers and raised it.

"I loved the freedom of the show. There is nothing like it in Boston or nationally. We were the only show in Boston that tackled real issues like hazing, legal and racial issues and the drug issue. I hoped we helped make people think and change some minds."

The 43 year-old Berliner, whose sportscasting idol is Howard Cosell, has hosted sports radio programs at WFAN in New York, WIP in Philadelphia and KABC in Los Angeles. He is a TV veteran of Fox, ESPN and CBS.

In June of 2003, upon his hiring at CN8, he stated, "Finding our place in Boston is a matter of intelligence. I never talk down to my audience. I am biting and sarcastic. If a viewer wants to get into it with me, I am all ears."

Indeed, Berliner brought intelligence to television, a style that incited competitors to criticism. In February of 2006, FSN's Greg Dickerson verbally jibed Berliner while co-hosting on WEEI. He compared Berliner to Ron Burgundy, Will Ferrell's witless character from the movie "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy."

Dickerson mocked Berliner's deep voice and deliberate style, doing a spot on impression of the CN8 personality asking Red Sox GM Theo Epstein a question.

He also compared Berliner unfavorably to fictional TV anchorman Ted Baxter saying, "Ted Baxter is an Emmy Award winning anchor compared to Ed Berliner." When asked if Dickerson's remarks bothered him, Berliner replied, "Who?"

On Sunday night, Media Blitz spoke to a source at Comcast, a current employee who understandably asked to remain nameless. The source stated that there were "serious internal conflicts" with Berliner and other show staffers.

The source, who admits to privately siding with Berliner during many disagreements, also said that the program staff had "split into factions."

In addition, the source stated that although Berliner willingly left Comcast, he did so under great strain. The source stated, "Berliner had a tremendous passion for the style and potential of the show. Some of the show staff simply did not share his vision."

Berliner refused to acknowledge any problems with the staff at CN8, making it a strong point to say, "We have simply parted ways. I want to wholeheartedly thank Comcast for the opportunity to do this. I appreciate their allowing me to do something exceptionally unique and to be satisfied at the end of the day. I want to really stress that."

As of June 18, Berliner had not spoken to reporters John Carchedi or Phil Burton about his exit. Of the Emmy-winning Carchedi, he states, "John was out the door when I got to CN8, ready to leave the business. I told him not to give up this opportunity. I am happy to have been a part of making that kid what he is today."

As for his own future, Berliner plans to stay in the Boston area for the time being to "relax, ride my motorcycle and wander the city and New England. "

He relates, "Sports Pulse was the best sports show that New England ever had. I would love to stay in this area, and I am overwhelmed by the number of people who have called wishing me well. I have some meetings here in town scheduled for this week in and out of broadcasting.

"I may turn up as a supervising producer somewhere and I am really getting the auto racing bug again. The people in that business are honest. I will tell you that I am not going to Disney World, but I am going to buy a new Tommy Bahama shirt and new cowboy boots."

Comcast call

While Ed Berliner departs Comcast, more HD channels arrive. The regional cable provider has added NESN and ESPN2 to its high-definition (HD) lineup in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

"Watching Red Sox games or events like the World Cup in crystal clear HD is the next best thing to actually being at the stadium, " says Randy Waddell, VP of sales and marketing for Comcast's Northern Division in a press release.

NESN in HD is found at channel 851, while ESPN2 is at channel 850. Says Sean McGrail, president of NESN, "We are proud to offer New England sports fans our coverage of the Red Sox and Bruins games in high- definition and we're looking forward to bringing Comcast subscribers more HD programming with NESN HD on Comcast Digital Cable Channel 851."

According to McGrail, NESN currently leads the industry in high-definition programming, offering more events in HD than any other regional sports network. Comcast was the first provider to carry Red Sox and Bruins games in high definition starting in 2003.

According to Comcast PR man extraordinaire, the company now offers twenty HD channels and services with the addition of NESN and ESPN2, including CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, PBS, UPN, WB, ESPN, TNT, Universal, Discovery Theatre, HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, INHD, INHD2 and Fox Sports Net Celtics Games.

John Molori's columns are published in The Boston Metro, Patriot s Football Weekly, ColdHardFootballFacts.com, Boston Sports Review, New England Ringside Magazine, Boston Baseball Magazine, Methuen Life, TheRemyReport.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportsReview.com, BostonPressBox.com, BostonSportsMedia.com and BostonSportz.com. Email John at MoloriMedia@aol.com.


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