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SIRIUS BUYS RIGHTS TO NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Will Broadcast All 66 'March Madness' Games

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In the continuing game of "can you top this?" currently being played in satellite radio, Sirius has struck again.
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New York-based Sirius Satellite Radio has purchased the rights to broadcast the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men's basketball tournament, the company announced.

All 66 games
All 66 games will be broadcast with no blackouts or any extra charges on top of its regular $12.95 monthly service fee. The NCAA tournament, otherwise known as "March Madness," is one of the most popular sporting events in the country. From small offices to Las Vegas sports books, even casual fans fill out "brackets" in an attempt to pick the winner of the three-week, 65-team, single-elimination tournament.

The 2005 tournament begins March 15.

Sirius paid Westwood One an undisclosed amount to broadcast the games. Westwood One owns the national terrestrial radio rights to the NCAA tourney.

Calls to Sirius and to NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis were not returned.

It is the first significant deal for Sirius since the company named Mel Karmazin its CEO on Nov. 18. Mr. Karmazin was formerly the president and chief operating officer of Viacom, which owns CBS, the television rights holder to the NCAA tournament for the past 21 years. CBS last year negotiated an 11-year extension of its deal with the NCAA for $6 billion.

Rival XM Satellite
The radio deal continues an escalating, back-and-forth competition between Sirius and its main competitor and the market leader, XM Satellite Radio Holdings, based in Washington. Six weeks ago, XM announced an 11-year, $650 million deal to broadcast Major League Baseball games beginning in 2005.

Prior to that, Sirius struck two key deals. Last year it landed National Football League games in a seven-year, $220 million agreement. Earlier this year, it signed shock jock Howard Stern to a five-year, $500 million contract that starts in 2006.

Sirius said it also will air English Premier League soccer matches for the next three years starting with the current season. The Premier League includes the U.K.'s 20 top soccer clubs, including Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.

Sirius has about 800,000 customers and expects to have 1 million by the end of the year. It has 120 channels and charges customers $12.95 per month. XM has 2.5 million subscribers, 130 channels and charges $9.99 a month.

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