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ESPN is now valued at more than $50 billion

ESPN basically owns sports. The facilities and salary boom across college football and sports in general has been underwritten by the broadcasting of sports on cable television, and by cable television I'm pretty much talking about ESPN. The Worldwide Leader has broadcast agreements with each of the 10 FBS conferences, and it also televises by FCS, Division II and Division III playoffs. 

Beyond college football, ESPN shows the NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball (sorry, NHL!), college basketball, college baseball, NASCAR, the PGA, men's and women's tennis, bowling, fishing, college hockey, college lacrosse, college cheerleading, the national CrossFit championships, the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee, college fishing, high school football, high school basketball and competitive eating.

And that was just last week!

(Kidding, of course.)

On Tuesday, Forbes released that ESPN is now valued at $50.8 billion according Wunderlich Securities research analyst Matthew Harrigan. That's billion, with a b. Disney, wich owns ESPN, is valued at $137 billion. Its sister network ABC, purchased in a package deal by Mickey Mouse, Inc., in 1996 - is listed at a paltry $3.2 billion. ESPN's value comes from its cash flow - $4.5 billion, up nearly 40 percent from just half a decade ago. The next closest television network is CBS at $1.6 billion. That $4.5 billion figure is boosted significantly by its $5.54 carriage fee (that's $5.54 per subscriber, per month); the next closest on television is TNT at $1.33. Add in ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, ESPN Classic and ESPN Deportes, and suddenly ESPN, Inc., is raking in $7.04 (or almost $85 a year) multiplied by its millions and millions of consumers, before it sells a single advertisement or sponsorship. 

ESPN is the most valuable media brand in the entire world and, according to this chart, has a net worth larger than the entire economy of the following nations:

Lithuania
Slovenia
Turkmenistan
Tunisia
Lebanon
Panama
Serbia
Yemen
Ghana
Tanzania

And that's just the first ten.

Regardless of what you think of ESPN, it's undeniable that the Worldwide Leader underwrites America's entire sporting economy. 

Next time you say your prayers, hold a good thought for the folks at Fox Sports 1.