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Comcast takes it to a higher level

WYC GROUSBECK 'This is exciting.' WYC GROUSBECK "This is exciting."
Email|Print| Text size + By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / February 8, 2008

For those waiting for Celtics games to be broadcast in high definition, the wait is over. And Comcast has gone one better. Not only will all the games be in HD on Comcast SportsNet's new full-time channel - with the first road game tonight against the Timberwolves - Comcast has launched Celtics On Demand, which will allow viewers to watch games and features during specific windows after they originally air.

For example, you can tune into game replays within four hours of its conclusion, and games will be available On Demand for 24 hours. The HD channel is 852 in classic Comcast communities and Channel 779 in cities and towns formerly served by Adelphia.

"This is exciting," said Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck. "People have been asking us all year about more Celtics content and particularly more HD. Both of those are sort of wrapped up in this announcement. It goes to show what Comcast SportsNet has done since taking control of the channel last year. There has been a real energy and focus and commitment, and it has resulted in this. It's terrific for us and terrific for our fans."

The features will allow fans to learn about the players on and off the court.

"We've seen really amazing ratings growth and amazing interest," said Grousbeck. "Any time I walk down the street, someone will say either, 'I was at the game,' or 'I saw it last night.' Everybody seems to be watching the games. [Comcast SportsNet] has invested in new feature programs so people get to know our players behind the scenes. When they get to know our players, they get to really like [them], and that's huge for us. We have a bunch of great guys on this team and we did that by design."

Comcast NorthCenter Division president Kevin Casey said it was a mammoth undertaking to get everything up and running, but it was worth it. "I think it's pretty groundbreaking and the beginning of a lot of innovative things to come," he said.

Although the Celtics front office expected the team to perform well, Grousbeck said even he is surprised at how well it's going.

"We really thought we had a chance to be pretty darn good this year," he said. "We really thought we'd be contenders, but I'm a little surprised at starting 29-3."

Grousbeck said Kevin Garnett's contribution is practically immeasurable. He learned a lot about Garnett as a person watching him stare at each championship banner at the Garden and discovering how much respect he had for history.

"He's really committed to this franchise emotionally," said Grousbeck.

The Red Sox' championship run and the Patriots' quest for a perfect season commanded the spotlight in recent months, but Grousbeck said there's no jealousy - quite the opposite. "There is more than enough Boston fan excitement to go around," he said. "We've always said if we win our games, we will sell out our building, and it is coming true. Boston fans don't just root for one team, they root for every Boston team."

'Inside' out

Wednesday night marked the end of an era. HBO aired its final "Inside the NFL" program, a staple for 31 years. HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg, who joined the network's sports division one year after the beginning of the show's run, said it was a decision that needed to be made. " 'Inside the NFL' has been a hallmark program for three decades on HBO," he said. "It has been a terrific franchise. But the television landscape has changed quite a bit over the last 30 years, and we have to recognize the realities of the business. I'm not sure we had more than one competitor when the show launched in 1977." . . . NESN will broadcast the Beanpot final between Boston College and Harvard Monday night. The game will be preceded by a half-hour special, "Prelude to a Championship," at 7:30 . . . For baseball fans, NESN will begin its coverage from Fort Myers, Fla., Wednesday with "Red Sox Spring Break Live" at 6:30 p.m. The 30-minute program features Tom Caron and Don Orsillo as well as guests. On Feb. 16, NESN will cover the first scheduled workout for pitchers and catchers with a two-hour program at 10 a.m. . . . Here are a couple of interesting viewership facts from Super Bowl XLII. The record 97.5 million average viewers exceeded the combined total of last year's Academy Awards (40.1 million viewers), the "American Idol" finale (30.8 million), and the "Dancing with the Stars" finale (24.9 million). The Super Bowl averaged 102.6 million viewers in the second half, and an average of 111 million were tuned in when Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress caught the winning touchdown pass.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report; Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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