The economy is struggling and that has cable and satellite TV providers scrambling to find ways to lower the prices of their service. The World Wide Leader in Sports could be an unwitting victim.

Time Warner Cable is planning to offer a cheaper programming package that wouldn't include ESPN or other sports channels, according to the New York Post.

The new low-cost, ESPN free cable plan would be available for between $30 and $40 a month. That could be as much as 60 percent cheaper than the $73.50 average bill for Time Warner customers.

Despite agreeing to a new $15.2 billion mega-deal with the NFL for Monday Night Football, ESPN could end up with fewer viewers. reports that with the new Time Warner plan (12 million video subscribers) and Dish Network (14 million subscribers) both considering the idea of placing ESPN on its sports programming tier rather than the basic package, roughly 26 million people could lose the sports network basically overnight unless they're willing to pay more each month.

ESPN, already asking for the highest rights fees to carry its channels, is expected to demand even more after signing its new NFL deal. But how many among us consider ESPN less of a luxury and more of a necessity?

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ESPN could lose 26 million subscribers