Goodell says conflict over NFL Network's reach unlikely to be fixed in time
ARLINGTON, Va. -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell doubts the impasse with cable operators over extending the NFL Network's reach will be resolved before this week's Broncos-Browns matchup, the channel's first Thursday night game of the season.
Speaking Monday to a group of reporters, Goodell rejected the idea put forth by 13 members of the U.S. Senate in a letter to him last week that the NFL is too narrowly interpreting what a home market is.
The league provides broadcasts of NFL Network games on free TV to the home cities of competing teams.
"This is not a new definition of home territory," Goodell said. "This is something we've had for over 20 years."
The senators want fans in every market to receive free TV access to games played by their closest team or the team to which their city has been historically aligned. Eight games will air this season on the NFL Network, which is available in less than 40 percent of households.
"The policy leaves behind NFL fans across the country simply because they live outside cities to which the NFL has granted franchises," the senators wrote.
One example in the letter: The NFL does not consider the western Pennsylvania town of Johnstown part of the Pittsburgh Steelers' home market.
The league is in a dispute with major cable companies over whether they should carry the channel as part of a basic package.
Goodell said the league has had talks with cable operators.
"The negotiations aren't going at the pace that we would like them to go," the commissioner said. "We start games on Thursday night. We know our fans are going to want to see those games. We hope to get broader distribution for it and that's why we're willing to negotiate, any time and any place."
Goodell also said the NFL is not moving toward a pay-television model.
"Our core success has been based off of free television," he said. "We continue to be the only league on free television with all of its games in its local markets, and I think we've done that very effectively and responsibly."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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