On Wednesday, ESPN announced it would not renew Keith Olbermann’s contract after two years with the network. The decision comes on the heels of Bill Simmons, editor-in-chief of Grantland and creator of the successful “30 For 30” series, getting dumped by ESPN months before his contract was set to expire in September.

Considering Olbermann and Simmons shared a high level of enthusiasm for calling out NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, many industry pundits speculated the network felt pressure from the league to jettison their most outspoken critics.

While the NFL factor does have some merit, including the belief ESPN was dealt a bad hand of Monday Night Football games as a not-so-subtle message to keep everyone in line, the real issue stems from the rising cost of televised sports rights fees.

The ballooning costs of live sports content hasn’t gone unnoticed on Wall Street. Investment firm Morgan Stanley recently raised questions about ESPN’s earning performance and its impact on parent company Disney. Sources told Jason McIntyre from The Big Lead that ESPN was instructed to reduce their 2016 budget by $100 million and roughly $250 million from 2017.

Slashing big talent salary is one way to go about it. Throw in ESPN walking back their plans to move “Mike & Mike” from Bristol to New York City, the recent departures of Olbermann and Simmons as a way to reduce costs seems more logical.

Cord cutting cuts ESPN’s bottom line

ESPN finds itself in a tricky situation. The Worldwide Leader taps into the lucrative and highly loyal demographic of live sports viewers. Live sports programming is mostly DVR-proof, pulls big ratings for high profile events and is attractive to advertisers. Properties such as the NBA, NFL and the College Football Playoffs give ESPN an incredible amount of leverage with cable and satellite companies.

However, rights fees for these properties have skyrocketed in recent years as FOX and NBC have made a collective push to challenge ESPN. While the network has lost a few properties such as major golf tournaments and international soccer to its competitors, ESPN has been able to outbid (some would argue overpay) for the sports they deem priorities.

ESPN is able to do so because it laps the field when it comes to subscriber fees. The cable network receives an average slightly over $6 per household, per month from cable and satellite companies for the rights to carry ESPN. These household fees are charged whether or not subscribers watch ESPN, and it’s responsible for half of the network’s revenue.

The problem for ESPN’s cash cow model comes in the form of cord cutters. Every consumer who ditches their cable or satellite package takes $6 a month (and the lesser rates for ESPN 2) out of Disney’s Scrooge McDuck bank vault. According to the Wall Street Journal, ESPN’s reach into homes has dropped 7.2 percent since 2011.

You don’t have to be a mathematician to understand those lost homes are costing ESPN millions of dollars.

To ESPN’s credit, they’re adapting to America’s transition away from tradition television by meeting consumers where they hang out. The Atlantic recently highlighted ESPN’s new digital strategy, dubbed “Push,” which focuses on social media. The goal is to take back eyeballs from websites such as USA Today, Gawker and others who dominate web views based on shareable content.

However, one thing The Atlantic and other similar profiles on ESPN’s plans for a “post TV world” fail to address? How Disney can maintain the influx of money derived from a cable model that is slowly eroding away. No doubt this is what keeps Mickey Mouse up at night.