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Volume 21 No. 1
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SiriusXM, MLB come to terms on streaming games

The four-year standoff between MLB and SiriusXM satellite radio appears to have found a resolution — at least online.

The satellite radio service started live audio streaming of MLB games at the beginning of this season via its smartphone app and at The streamed games are available to both XM and Sirius subscribers, which marks a switch from traditional satellite radio, where Sirius subscribers still don’t have access to live baseball games.

Live MLB games are available this season via a smartphone app and at
arly next month, SiriusXM will launch 30 MLB channels online, one centered on each MLB team. That will enable the service to carry both home and visiting teams’ feeds for all MLB games.

The deal marks a small shift in the relationship that began in 2004 when MLB signed an 11-year, $650 million deal to be carried exclusively on XM’s platform. When Sirius and XM merged in 2008, MLB was not willing to give up that exclusivity. The two sides have now been able to work out a deal that would give Sirius’ online and smartphone subscribers access to those games. SiriusXM has 21.9 million subscribers. It’s unclear how many of them are considered XM subscribers and how many of them are considered Sirius subscribers.

The move to stream MLB games is not a stop-gap solution for the satellite radio operator. Rather, it is part of an overall corporate strategy to make programming available on broadband and mobile devices, said Scott Greenstein, president and chief content officer of the company. SiriusXM negotiated with MLB to pick up the online audio rights, but the price is unknown. The MLB games will be available to both Sirius and XM subscribers.

Sports, obviously, is a big component of that push. SiriusXM started streaming NFL and NBA games last season; it started streaming NASCAR races last month; and it is streaming NHL Stanley Cup playoff games this month. It also streams PGA Tour events, English Premier League matches and Formula One races.

“We want our content to be in a business model that people pay for and to give them the best authorized organic content we can give them wherever they want it,” Greenstein said. “We want it to be seamless to take it from your home, to your car, to your iPhone, to your iPad, to anywhere you are, without ever leaving our brand.”

Greenstein is quick to point out that the move to stream live games is part of an overall programming strategy at the satellite broadcaster rather than one being led by sports. SiriusXM’s music and news channels also are being streamed, he said.

“You just had to watch the growth of iPhones to know ultimately where this was going,” Greenstein said. “The minute of the merging of the cell phone and the iPod, you started to see the one-device use of entertainment.”

Subscribers pay $199 per year for the All Access plan that allows them to stream audio.

Radio analysts say the move has been a good one for SiriusXM, so far.

“I think it’s a great strategy,” said Robert Unmacht of the radio industry publication “It has been successful already in terms of getting its subscribers to use new technologies to listen to that exclusive content.”

Greenstein said the company has spent the past year securing the rights to stream sports, though he would not divulge the cost of those rights. “Now we are the exclusive holder of virtually all of these rights, with the exception of, potentially, the leagues’ own sites,” he said.

Sirius is interested in streaming audio only. It does not plan to seek rights to stream video with it.

“We see a lot of people competing and knocking each other all over the place in video,” Greenstein said. “We like our model of keeping it under one umbrella wherever you are.”