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Moves are good news for NESN

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  December 9, 2010 04:33 PM

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If you thought the late Wednesday newsflash that the Red Sox had agreed to contract terms with dynamic free agent outfielder Carl Crawford altered your plans for a good night's sleep, imagine how Joel Feld felt.

"I went to bed around 11:45 [Wednesday night]," said Feld, NESN's executive vice president for programming and executive producer. "At 12:15, 12:10, my son came in and said he saw Peter Abraham's tweet that the Sox had come to terms with Crawford. He's usually all over this stuff, reading MLB Trade Rumors and so on, so I knew he knew what he was talking about."

That's not the kind of news you can roll over and sleep on when your job entails making programming decisions on the regional cable network that carries Red Sox telecasts.

"Oh yeah, I hopped out of bed, started working the phones like crazy, trying to find out all we could about this," Feld said. "It's one of those moves that really gets everyone fired up for baseball season."

The signing of Crawford, which happened just days after the Red Sox' blockbuster deal with the Padres for slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, is more encouraging offseason news for NESN, which is coming off a season in which ratings for Red Sox games fell 36 percent from 2009. After seven straight seasons leading major league baseball in local ratings, the NESN and the Red Sox fell to fifth last year according to Nielsen Company data.

Given the team's recent makeover following a season during which a slow start and numerous injuries damaged its appeal, it's reasonable for NESN to expect a ratings resurgence in 2011.

"We're as excited about the fans are," said Feld. "This is a great lineup, and our 2011 broadcasts will reflect the energy and excitement of these new players and this team."

Notably, NESN did not go live last night with the news of the deal, and repeat editions Thursday morning of Wednesday's night's "NESN Daily" program had outdated information indicating the Angels were the front-runners for Crawford's services.

Comcast SportsNet New England did have the news with two live reports from Sean McAdam, Lou Merloni, and Jessica Moran during its 1 a.m. "SportsNet Central" program.

"We didn't have the opportunity for confirmation past that time [that the news broke]," said Feld, who noted that NESN still emphasized the story before many fans knew about it early Thursday with the beginning of the "Dennis and Callahan" simulcast at 6 a.m.

Even if NESN didn't have the news first, it is good news for the network nonetheless.

"As Terry Francona said, [Crawford] is a game-changer, and on the heels of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, we couldn't ask for better Christmas presents," Feld said.

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