Some interesting numbers on how much ESPN spends for its major sports programming.
ESPN spends about $2.2 billion annually for the broadcast rights to major sports in the U.S. alone, according to industry figures.
Its payments include $300 million for 80 Major League Baseball games, $270 million for the final 17 Nascar races, $1.1 billion for the National Football League's, and about $500 million for 75 NBA games and extensive coverage of the National Basketball Association playoffs.
ESPN's NFL payments nearly doubled from $600 million during the last round of negotiations, and each of its other major rights fees rose by at least 20%, a trend most people in the industry expect to continue.
"The only thing that seems not to be dropping off these days is sports viewership," says Lee Berke, a top sports media consultant. "You have increasing competition for a finite set of properties, and that is going to squeeze margins."
But those expenses have built a revenue powerhouse:
Since Disney acquired 80% of ESPN in 1995, the cable network has become one of the entertainment company's most valuable properties. ESPN is now the largest component of Disney's Cable Networks franchise, which delivered $4.1 billion in operating income in fiscal 2008, which ended Sept. 27. That dwarfed the $655 million in operating income earned by the Broadcast Networks, which include ABC, and was 49% of Disney's total operating income.