Ever wonder why your cable rates keep climbing? Take a peek behind the scenes at what cable providers have to pay for programming: With only three months remaining on its current contract, ESPN, the sports network, and Cox Communications are still negotiating future annual affiliate rate increases—which are currently projected at 20%. Merrill Lynch analysts estimate that Cox pays ESPN (and parent Walt Disney Company) approximately $400 million per year, costs that are passed on to subscribers. Cox is seeking a reduction in fees, a move that could become a model for other cable companies and satellite services. Similarly, Fox Sports Net reportedly asked the Cox organization for a 35% increase for use of its 12 regional sports networks. Affiliate fees account for more than 10% of total annual revenue for big media companies like Disney, TimeWarner, and Viacom, according to <I>The Hollywood Reporter</I>.