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Sirius XM Radio to offer the best of both services (sort of); Karmazin predicts success

This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

UPDATED: Mel Karmazin, the former Sirius chief executive who now heads the merged company, was a busy man today, appearing not only with Opie & Anthony but with Howard Stern and on CNBC. He told the business news channel that ‘the prospects for the combined company are extraordinary,’ and predicted $400 million in cost savings and positive cash flow by 2009. According to Stern’s website (look under ‘Wednesday’s show’), Karmazin said the question now was not if satellite radio will make money, but how much. He also said the government approval process was ‘dreadful.’ Given that Stern’s show, like the rest of satellite radio, is not subject to federal indecency standards, Karmazin could have used a lot of other words.

... allow customers to choose whatever channels they want -- the a la carte offering mentioned above -- and introduce a radio capable of allowing them to do that.

There will be two a la carte offerings.

One for $6.99 a month will allow you to choose 50 Sirius channels from a subset of 100 Sirius channels (Sirius has more than 130); or 50 XM channels from a subset of 100 XM channels (XM has more than 170).
The other, for $14.99 a month, will allow you to pick 100 channels, with Sirius customers able to select from a company-determined ‘best of’ XM’s channels, and XM customers allowed to select from the ‘best of’ Sirius channels.

Those programming selections haven’t been released, but it’s a good bet they’ll include some exclusive content, such as XM’s Major League Baseball broadcasts and channels featuring Oprah Winfrey and Bob Dylan. They likely will also include Sirius’ National Football League broadcasts, NASCAR coverage and Howard Stern channels (he’s so popular, he has two).

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But for those options you’ll need to buy a new radio that is capable of receiving individualized channel packages.

For customers who don’t want to buy a new radio, there will be several other packages available within three months.

For $9.99 a month, customers will be able to choose either a ‘mostly music’ package or a ‘news sports and talk’ package. For $16.99, Sirius customers will get all their existing channels, plus the best of XM, and vice versa for XM customers. And finally, in a concession to FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin, the companies agreed to offer a family-friendly version of Sirius or XM channels (presumably without Stern or Opie & Anthony) for $11.95 a month. There will also be a family-friendly ‘best of’ offering that will cost $14.99.

Phew!

The details of these packages are still up in the air. Plus, the company is looking for cost-savings from the merger, so it’s likely that some duplicative channels, particularly music genres, eventually will be eliminated.

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Puzzanghera, a Times staff writer, covers tech and media policy from Washington, D.C.

Photo: Howard Stern during his Sirius debut in 2006. Credit: Richard Drew / Associated Press


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