While cable and satellite operators have long complained about the cost of so-called retransmission consent fees -- the fees demanded by broadcast stations to allow their signals to be carried by the operators -- those fees actually pale in comparison with what the operators must pay to carry sports programming. And there are hints that the operators may begin to fight back. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times, cable pioneer John Malone commented, We've got runaway sports rights, runaway sports salaries and what is essentially a high tax on a lot of households that don't have a lot of interest in sports. Studies have indicated that fees for sports programming account for nearly half the pay-TV bill, which has nearly tripled over the past decade. The beneficiaries are a handful of media conglomerates, the Times observed, including News Corp, the Walt Disney Co., Time Warner, and Comcast. Disney's ESPN alone accounts for more than $5.00 per month per subscriber, whether the subscriber watches it or not, according to a study by SNL Kagan.