Cox Strikes Back at ESPN - Multichannel

Cox Strikes Back at ESPN

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Cox Communications Inc. Thursday launched a counterattack to ESPN’s ad campaign in the MSO’s major markets.

The day after ESPN debuted an ad campaign and Web site (www.keepespn.com) telling consumers that Cox was threatening to "rip" the sports channel from basic service, the MSO ran its own newspaper ads.

Cox wouldn’t confirm in which markets its ads appeared, but at the very least, full-page ads ran in the Los Angeles Times and TheOrange County Register and in San Diego.

One of the Cox ads used a photo of a granny wearing a catcher’s mask to set forth its argument that not everyone wants to watch sports on TV or bear the cost of ESPN.

In one of its print ads, Cox pledges, "We will do everything in our power to keep ESPN available to you at a reasonable price."

The Cox ad also says, "Some people love watching sports. Others don’t. But everyone pays for ESPN. In fact, more of your monthly standard cable-bill payment goes to cover the cost of the major sports networks than for any other channels."

Regarding the cable operator’s ads, an ESPN spokeswoman said, "We’re not surprised that Cox is again misleading customers."

Cox was reacting to the print and radio ad campaign ESPN launched in Cox’s major markets, with ads explaining the programmer’s position in its dispute with the cable operator.

ESPN rolled out an ad campaign at the sites of Cox’s major clusters -- Phoenix; Wichita, Kan.; Oklahoma City; Las Vegas; Norfolk and northern Virginia; Providence, R.I.; New Orleans; and San Diego and Orange County, Calif.

ESPN’s new Web site warns that Cox plans to move the sports network onto a tier that will cost consumers more. The site also provided consumers with information about how to buy satellite dishes, providing the Web sites and phone numbers for both DirecTV Inc. (www.directv.com/DTVAPP/index.dsp) and EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network (www.dishnetwork.com).

ESPN’s site garnered 8,000 registered users and more than 100,000 page views on its first day.

Cox posted a brief response to ESPN’s "attack ads" on its Web site dedicated to the issue (www.makethemplayfair.com).

"ESPN is merely trying to deflect your attention from the real issue: their 20% price increases, inflicted on cable and satellite consumers every year for the past five years," Cox said in its statement.

The MSO added, "In a world where the average American received a 4% increase in his paycheck this year and savings accounts are earning 1% interest, how can ESPN continue to justify 20% increases year in and year out?"

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