ESPN and ABC Sports president George Bodenheimer kept the sports network’s public battle with Cox Communications Inc. alive Wednesday, saying Cox’s claims that ESPN is asking for a 20% rate hike are untrue.
"I would like to correct the false statements made by Cox about what we are seeking," Bodenheimer said. "They have stated that we continue to seek 20% annual increases, and that is just flat out not true. The proposal we have in front of Cox now is for significantly less than that."
Cox declined to comment.
Bodenheimer would not elaborate. However, after his presentation, ESPN executive vice president of administration Ed Durso said the proposal is similar to the multiyear deals ESPN has offered other operators.
Durso added that offering a long-term deal can be risky for ESPN, as well, as it doesn’t know what its sports-rights costs will be after contracts expire (the latest will be with the National Hockey League after this season).
Cox has said it would either accept a lower rate increase or the ability to place ESPN on a separate sports tier. It has said in the past that it has no interest in signing a long-term deal.
Bodenheimer said tiering ESPN is highly unlikely.
"I remain optimistic that we will reach an agreement with Cox that will preserve our existing carriage on expanded basic," Bodenheimer said. "We’ve been partners with Cox for nearly 24 years, and I would expect that to continue for at least the next 24 years."