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The football will keep flying after this season at Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) .
The satellite radio provider is extending its deal with the NFL for another five seasons, providing play-by-play coverage on Sirius for all of the league's games through the Super Bowl in February 2016.
The financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed, and that's a pity. One is left to wonder who had the greater leverage in the negotiations. On the one hand, Sirius reaches a much larger audience now than it did when the original deal began in 2004. At the time, Sirius paid the league $188 million in cash and $32 million in stock for seven years.
On the other hand, it's not as if Sirius has to pay a premium to be the "exclusive" satellite radio provider: Sirius XM now watches over the only two satrad networks.
Streaming rights have been added to the deal. The NFL is now available for Sirius subscribers -- or XM accounts that pay a premium for the "Best Of" package -- with online access. It's not clear if this also includes streaming through the official smartphone apps for Apple, Research In Motion, and Google's Android. After all, Howard Stern's show is available as a stream, but not through the smartphone apps.
I'll admit it: I was a skeptic when Sirius signed the original deal. Play-by-play exclusivity may be huge for DirecTV's (NYSE: DTV ) Sunday Ticket, but how many people are spending three hours on the road on a Sunday? Satellite radio remains largely an entertainment appliance for commuters, making XM's deal with baseball -- where weekday games abound -- the more logical league tie-in. Terrestrial radio also covers the hometown favorites, though one can argue that there are plenty of displaced fans living far from their favorite teams.
The original math was tough to stomach, because Sirius was shelling out compensation of more than $31 million to the NFL for its 500,000 subscribers. These days, Sirius accounts for nearly half of Sirius XM's 20 million subscribers, so the new terms are likely far kinder on a per-subscriber basis.
In the end, it may be more about premium prestige than listener ratings for any particular game. After all, this is one more thing that some freeloaders can't hear on terrestrial radio. If Sirius XM is entertaining a rate hike when its FCC-mandated free time period ends next year, it needs to make sure that it arms itself with as much premium programming as possible.
It's how you win the game.
How big is the NFL for Sirius listeners? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.