XM Satellite scores $650 million baseball deal

"This is the crown jewel," XM's chief says. But will it offset Howard Stern's move to rival Sirius?

Game 7 between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees isn't Wednesday's only ballpark news. Major League Baseball has agreed to a grand-slam broadcasting deal with XM Satellite Holdings.

The baseball signing will total roughly $650 million over the course of 11 years and will let XM broadcast games beginning with the 2005 season. Under terms of the deal, XM will also gain the rights to use MLB's logo of a batter in silhouette and the emblems of the league's 30 teams. XM said a subscription to the MLB service will retail for $10 per month or $120 per year.

"This new partnership with XM Radio is great news for baseball fans across the United States," MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said in a conference call. "XM Radio can now bring its 2.5 million subscribers baseball games from every team, no matter where subscribers are, in their cars, at home, at work, or on the go."

Hugh Panero, chief executive of XM called the MLB deal a "crown jewel" for his company and said that negotiations between the two organizations have been ongoing for some time. He said baseball is a sport "ideally suited for radio," given the game's relatively slow pace and the ability for broadcasters to "paint a picture" in describing each play.

MLB officials gave Panero credit for also playing a role in the negotiations to bring MLB's Montreal Expos franchise to Washington, where XM is based, starting next season.

"Now baseball can be experienced across a number of platforms, whether it is by radio, on TV, in the car or on the Internet," Panero said during the conference call. "This is a fabulous and spectacular deal (for XM). Baseball has 10 times as many games as there are for (professional) football, and this is an opportunity for us with new subscribers, in addition to fitting the demographics of our existing customers."

XM said it will create an MLB radio channel featuring original content and classic game broadcasts. XM will also broadcast select games in Spanish. "Baseball has enormous appeal," Panero said, "not only to its millions of fans, but to automobile manufacturers as well, which will help further strengthen XM's leadership position in the automotive market."

The pact will serve as a powerful message of viability from XM, which saw its chief rival, Sirius Satellite Radio, negotiate a five-year, multimillion-dollar deal to air shock jock Howard Stern's daily radio show earlier this month.

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