NFL Roger Goodell doesn’t understand why members of Congress are writing him angry letters complaining about the NFL Network. In his view, the NFL has always and will continue to show all games on free television in some way shape or form, and is not moving toward a pay broadcast model, as other leagues have.
“This is the same policy we’ve had for 20 years that has made the NFL so successful, and that’s to have all of our games on free television in the local markets,” Goodell said at an ESPN-sponsored luncheon in Arlington Monday. “I think we’ve been very pro-consumer and responsible in the way we manage our policy and allow our fans to see the games.”
The NFL Network is a cable channel that now airs games on Thursday nights and some Saturday nights. Though those games are also shown on over-the-air television in the markets of the teams involved, more than a dozen members of Congress wrote to Goodell over concerns that some fans would be shut out of seeing their favorite team.
“These games are not available on quite a few networks where fans are following these teams,” Sen Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, told the New York Times. “This is a step toward pay television. And it’s a step toward compelling people to get the [NFL Network].”
The NFL is currently battling Comcast and other major cable companies, who have refused to place the NFL Network on a basic tier. The FCC recently said that there is enough evidence to suggest that companies are treating the NFL unfairly, and recommended an arbitrator resolve the dispute.
Meanwhile, Goodell said that the league has been feeling the effects of the credit crunch and the economic slowdown.
“We are obviously concerned about the debt that we have,” he said. “One of the things we’ve been looking at over the last year is how to do we manage the debt we have, how do we effectively manage it down, and the markets have only made that more difficult. The rates associated with that debt continue to go up, so costs continue to rise. When you look at that, and the pressure on revenues, that something all of us have to deal with. That’s why we’re taking a good hard look at the debt that we have and the costs that we have so we can continue to operate our business effectively.”