Disney’s Iger Blasts Cox Strategy

Nov 24, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Walt Disney Co. President Robert Iger called the public criticism by Cox Communications of ESPN’s programming fee increases “a negotiating ploy on their part” that could be damaging to the negotiations the programmer has with other large programmers. Speaking last week during the company’s fiscal-year 2003 earnings call, Mr. Iger said ESPN and Disney’s preference is to avoid negotiating new affiliate agreements in public, but that “Cox has been so public it was imperative for us to respond … to our customers.” He said Cox has misrepresented the factors leading to rising cable rates, adding that cable operators’ push to offer new technologies over cable, such as telephony, digital cable and video-on-demand, are a more likely contributor to rising cable sub fees. Cox, whose contract with ESPN expires at the end of March, has been the most vocal of the multiple system operators about rising programming fees and has blamed high cable subscription rates squarely on programming rates that Cox said have risen faster than inflation. After remaining largely silent on the matter, ESPN recently began to fight back in a bid to tell its side of the story. Mr. Iger’s comments came as the ABC parent reported a 3 percent year-to-year increase in profit for the 12 months ended Sept. 30 to nearly $1.3 million.