Here's how the cable business works: Cable companies pay monthly fees to media companies for every channel they carry as part of basic cable. And then, of course, they pass those fees onto you, the subscriber. As the chart below shows, those fees vary widely — from $5.54 per month per subscriber for ESPN, all the way down to $.05 per month per subscriber for CMT Pure Country. In other words, if you have cable, you're paying at least $5.54 per month for ESPN — even if you never watch it.
On today's show, we'll have lots more about the cable business (including an explanation of why you have to pay for all those cable channels you never watch). For more on the cable business, see Adam Davidson's column. And for more on ESPN, and how it manages to command so much money, see this recent story from the New York Times.