In a move to bring two already close operations into even greater alignment, ESPN president George Bodenheimer will add the title of ABC Sports president, following Howard Katz's decision to resign as of March 14.
In his dual capacity, Bodenheimer will continue to report to Robert Iger, president and chief operating officer of The Walt Disney Co.
ESPN and ABC Sports will remain separate operations within Disney, though, with the latter still part of the ABC Television Network.
Bodenheimer and ABC president Alex Wallau talked up the advantages of having enhanced coordination between the companies relative to cross-promotion, scheduling flexibility in terms of event over-runs (ESPN picked up the conclusion of a recent ABC golf telecast) and rights negotiations.
During a March 3 conference call, they noted that executives from both networks worked closely on the six-year, $2.4 billion NBA rights deal, finalized in January 2002, which returned ABC and ESPN to professional hoops coverage this season for the first time in decades.
ESPN and ABC would "like to get back into the Olympics" under the right financial conditions, Bodenheimer added.
Negotiations for the 2010 and 2012 Olympics are slated to begin in June. NBC, which holds U.S. rights through the 2008 Olympics; Viacom; News Corp.; and Turner Sports are all expected to make a run at the upcoming rights.
Boedenheimer, who joined ESPN in 1981 and became its president in October 1998, said he "would spend a lot of time becoming even more familiar with ABC Sports." He left the door ajar for a new structure, noting that he would meet with "executives inside and outside the company to find the best way to organize ourselves."
Katz, who joined ESPN in 1993, served as its executive vice president, overseeing remote and studio production for its domestic and international activities, as well as its engineering and technical operations.
Katz became head of ABC Sports in March 1999. He succeeded Steve Bornstein, who also held the dual titles of president of ABC Sports and ESPN from 1996 through 1998.
Sources last week said Katz could next join Bornstein, who is now CEO of the fledgling NFL Channel, a network slated to kick off this fall.