XM and Sirius to form one big happy satellite radio company

Stern_lRemember all those great XM Radio launch ads from a few years ago, with David Bowie and Snoop Dogg falling from the heavens like baby Superman? I do. They’re what helped convince me to install an XM receiver in my car when I moved to L.A. a while back. And I loved what I got out of the satellite radio service — lots of commercial-free music, channels devoted to public programming and comedy and political talk, Major League Baseball and Big Ten football games, Frank’s Place on Channel 73, and so on. But that car is now gone, and it’s been a while since I’ve listened to XM. And I can’t say that I missed it too much — after all, CDs have plenty of commercial-free music and I can play podcasts of my favorite shows whenever I feel like it.

So the announcement that XM and its slightly smaller rival, Sirius (you know, the one with Howard Stern, pictured), are planning on merging got me thinking about satellite radio again. It’s a good idea, in theory, but I’m curious whether, with the rise of iPods and such, it has already passed its moment. Moreover, while the union of satellite radio stars like Oprah Winfrey, Bob Dylan, and Stern makes a great story, I question what Sirius chief Mel Karmazin (yep, the former terrestrial radio and Viacom exec who stands to be CEO of the combined company) can do to make XM/Sirius relevant. Certainly, potential competitors are hardly quaking in their airwaves: NPR, for example, has already run a few stories, including this one, about the merger. The public radio folks don’t seem too afraid.

No, in fact, I wonder if the only people who should be afraid are consumers. Some pundits trumpet the merger as offering listeners more choice. But it sounds more like a monopoly to me, one that could reduce the diversity of programming (think every channel on both XM and Sirius is going to survive the merger?) and raise prices for subscribers. And the FCC may have similar anti-trust objections. Indeed, it was the FCC that originally ruled that there must multiple satellite radio outfits; if the merger is approved, there’ll be only one. In other words, PopWatchers, the future truly is still up in the air.

addCredit(“Howard Stern: Larry Busacca/WireImage.com”)


Comments (45 total) Add your comment
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  • Sven

    As a longtime xm subscriber who has also spent a few hours at their studios in DC being wooed to do a show, I am not pleased with the news. I was disappointed when XM signed Opie and Anthony, but I understood the reason. As someone who wants nothing to do with Howard Stern, and therefore Sirius, I am truly disappointed with the merger. But again I understand the reality of the business. Whether it actually happens is a different story. I just don’t see it getting approved.

  • Mario

    Oh please,
    the FCC won’t do jack.. unless it’s paid to do something about it. If it actually cared to do its job the way it’s supposed to, it would have never allowed Clear Channel Communications to own as many different stations in one single market as it does. If anyone wants to really make a stink about it, leave the XM/Sirius Radio merger alone and focus on your own local radio stations, you know.. the ones that are supposed to be “free” and public.. and prevent Cos. like Clear Channel to monopolize any given market, which would enable us all to have a little variety in our own towns.

  • daisyj

    As an xm subscriber whose sat. radio is the only thing that makes my 45-minute-to-1.5-hour commute bearable, I have to say that I definitely find the merger news troubling. Monopolies are bad for a reason– without competition, what’ll keep them from loading up the channels with ads and jacking up prices? Not to mention all the stations that would definitely be getting “consolidated”. (All I can say is, they had better stay away from my UPOP, or else.)
    And, as far as your other question, I do think that there is still a place for sattelite radio, at least for me. I love my ipod, but one thing it can’t do is introduce me to new music. Or play me baseball games when I’m out of range of local radio.

  • Ed

    When I found out that there was a monthly payment for sat. radio, I quickly lost interest – another bill?!
    I’m not suprised this merger is happening, sat. radio has been losing money for a while now. I never listen to the actual fm radio so why would I want a gizzilion channels to not choose from.

  • Adam

    The reason I got and continue to have XM is for Opie and Anthony. If they’re cut because of this merge (they have a long standing feud with Stern and Karmazin), I’m cancelling. No question about it.

  • adam

    it’s definitely a monopoly, but in a way it’s not because they are still competing with terrestrial radio & iPods and it’s easy for people to turn on the radio or iPod and never go back to sat (i did it for a month – luckily my subscription is free, for now)

  • Jen

    I love my XM radio. I’m hoping there’s not too much that changes for companies when the merger happens. I really don’t care if I could get Howard Stern – I still won’t listen to him. I listen to mainly the music channels, and occasionally sports. I am excited about the prospect of having more sports on my satellite radio, though. Mainly, as long as my equipment still works and they don’t jack up the prices, I’ll still subscribe.

  • KC

    NPR is on Sirius.
    I’m looking forward to this merger. I just pray that my lifetime subscription will be honored or there will be one heck of a lawsuit.

  • Joe C

    As a Sirius subscriber, and someone who will NEVER buy an !POD or whatever, this is troubling to me. I think satellite radio is one of the great things to happen to radio. I mean, this morning I listened to Jackson Browne, Led Zep, and LL Cool J! But if Sirius and XM combine, I won’t have more options, and they might raise my rates. Here’s hoping the merger doesn’t get approved.

  • bb

    I’ve had XM (3 subs!) since 2002. I cannot live without it! The only time I don’t listen to it, is at the gym and sometimes I listen to it recorded. An IPOD doesn’t give you the variety that XM (or Sirius), can give you.
    BTW Both have NPR

  • KC

    I’m surprised Apple hasn’t brokered a deal with either of these 2 corporations to have satellite-radio capabilities on their iPods.

  • cathy

    I drive a Tractor& Trailer for a living and I have really enjoyed my XM radio.I have been getting a little upset that the music channels are starting to run commercials on their stations and I don’t like that but, If they do become one and the charges go up I will cancel my sub.and there is no way I would listen to howard stern thats one of the reasons I didn’t get sirus to begain with.I like the music, and the news & weather.and the traffic reports

  • Lars

    Actually shows that run on NPR stations also run on XM (133), but NPR news shows (Morning Edition, All Things Considered) are exclusively on Sirius. As you can pick up an NPR station pretty much anywhere, I did not really see the advantage of getting satellite just for that. Add that sirius also has Howard Stern, and XM is really the only choice. Well, was…

  • Alan Levy

    To me, I see the first sign of cracking within the satellite radio space. In addition to the billions of dollars spent on building and maintaining the network, the cost of acquired content is simply exorbitant. Generation Y is simply not interested in what is happening on either terrestrial radio or satellite radio. We see a revolution taking place in radio. We see thousands of citizen broadcasters for the first time being able to communicate their message to a live streaming, global audience. We see these tens of thousands of broadcast being archived as podcasts. The barriers are beginning to crumble and Blogtalkradio is at the forefront of this movement.
    We see a revolution taking place in radio.
    We see thousands of citizen broadcasters for the first time being able to communicate their message to a live streaming, global audience. We see these tens of thousands of broadcast being archived as podcasts. The barriers are beginning to crumble and Blogtalkradio is at the forefront of this movement.

  • Max Turin

    One word: Sports. That’s what makes satellite radio relavent. Sirius and XM together will have the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, and college sports up the wahzoo! I’m an Sirius subscriber, and I LOVE my radio!

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