There is more than meets the ear when it comes to yesterday's deal in which XM Satellite Radio (NASDAQ:XMSR) announced that it would be paying $650 million to broadcast major league baseball over its digital airwaves for the next 11 seasons.

For starters, back when rival Sirius (NASDAQ:SIRI) announced a $220 million deal for exclusive rights over seven years with the NFL, XM was quick to point out that Sirius overpaid for something that XM would have liked at a lower price. One executive even called the Sirius catch "desperate looking," which may seem odd now that XM will be paying nearly twice as much per year for baseball.

Granted, the regular baseball season features 10 times as many games as the NFL. The significance of landing a sport that also schedules plenty of games during weekday afternoons -- when commuters are more likely to tune in than over the weekend -- is also not lost on me. While baseball ratings are significantly lower than gridiron contests during the regular season, it's still a walk-off home run for XM. Does that mean that XM is the one that is "desperate looking" now? I don't think so.

But why is everyone always pitting XM against Sirius? I don't mean in a valuation sense, because that's a perfectly reasonable comparison when it comes to trying to peg a value for this dynamic sector. What perplexes me is why everyone assumes that just because they are the two satellite radio alternatives, they are fighting one another.

They're not really. They are more like a tag-team looking to take down free radio heavies such as Clear Channel (NYSE:CCU) and Cumulus Media (NASDAQ:CMLS). And I don't know about you, but I think XM and Sirius are going to kick their butts. Yes, I know, the words "butts" is weak. It makes me wish that I was scribing for satellite radio so I could really get colorful with the language.

That's ultimately one of the many lures of satellite radio. By 2006, Howard Stern will be exclusively on Sirius grilling celebrities with sex questions while Opie & Anthony will be free to broadcast all the debauchery and flatulence that they see fit on XM. Free radio will be beating its chest to thinning crowds on the merits of censorship that ultimately tastes as exciting as vanilla yogurt.

Sports will be a big deal on satellite radio, especially for the displaced fan, fantasy leaguer, or SportsCenter diehard, yet it was ultimately content that drove television viewers to snap their rabbit ear antennas and switch to cable and satellite television. Exclusive content, above and beyond the great commercial-free music streams, is what will ultimately have free radio staggering against the ropes.

Earlier this week, Sirius signed up its 700,000th subscriber. While that may pale compared with the 2.5 million subscribers that first-mover XM has landed, the disparity is no longer that wide. Sirius expects to sign up more than half as many subscribers as XM this quarter. But let's set aside all that to take a look at the bigger picture. With Sirius looking to close out the year with more than a million subscribers and XM aiming for 3.1 million, satellite radio as a whole is looking to win over roughly a million new fans this quarter. That's a million subscribers that will have little reason to revert back to free radio. And that's just now. With more carmakers coming out with factory-installed satellite radio and more content deals to come in the coming quarters, it's not even going to be a fair fight before too long.

XM and Sirius aren't the Yankees and Red Sox of satellite radio. They're playing on the same team. They are educating the same potential audience. If the game is longball, you've got to like their chances.

Are XM and Sirius misunderstood or overvalued? Have you checked out satellite radio? Will you be one of the million making the switch this quarter? All this and more in the XM Satellite Radio discussion board. Only on

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz would probably still watch his language on satellite radio. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.