XM/Sirius Merger Soon?

Posted by Sam Churchill on

FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin said yesterday that he will support a merger between the nation’s sole satellite radio operators, XM and Sirius, a decision that could remove the last regulatory hurdle in the lengthy and heavily criticized move to make the companies one, reports the Washington Post.

Critics have argued that a merger of XM and Sirius would hurt consumers, with fewer choices of programming.

As early as this week, Martin is expected to issue an order that the commission vote to approve the merger, which at least two of the remaining four commissioners must also agree to, the aides said.

According the Washington Post, the companies have agreed to:

  • Place price caps on programming and allow subscribers to could pick programs they want.
  • Open their technology standards to any radio-device manufacturer, paving the way for consumers to buy radio transmitters from retail stores.
  • Provide interoperable radios. Current subscribers have radios that deliver programming from either XM or Sirius. Within one year of the merger, these listeners will receive radios that could access programming from both providers.
  • Each set aside 4 percent of their radio spectrums, or 12 channels, for noncommercial services such as educational and public safety programming.

Noticeably absent from the agreed concessions are iBiquity’s proposal to require HD Radios be built-in to satellite radios.

Seventeen months ago, XM and Sirius announced they would merge, saying it was their best chance at surviving an increasingly competitive marketplace with Internet radio, MP3 music players and terrestrial HD radio. If they combined, the companies would have 17 million subscribers.

Sirius was launched on July 1, 2002 and currently provides 69 streams (channels) of music and 65 streams of sports, news and entertainment to listeners. XM features 73 different music channels, 39 news, sports, talk and entertainment channels, 21 regional traffic and weather channels and 23 play-by-play sports channels.

There are currently 7 satellites in orbit: 4 XM and 3 Sirius satellites. Each company also has a ground spare, of identical construction to its first generation of satellite. Sirius will continue its plans to launch its newest satellite, Radiosat-5. Currently, XM and Sirius use different compression and conditional access systems, currently making their receivers incompatible with each other’s service.

Meanwhile, AOL has revamped its online radio service, says the AP, adding streams from all 140 CBS-owned radio stations and upgrading its player to add more functions and expand the service’s reach.

AOL’s streaming radio application for Apple 3G iPhone won an Apple design award for “Best Entertainment Application” at this year’s WWDC. Other streaming audio services such as Pandora, Last.fm, Muxtape, and others may also find a home on the iPhone, says C/Net.

AOL’s online radio service replaced a previous arrangement AOL had with XM Satellite Radio. David Goodman, the head of digital media and integrated marketing at CBS Radio, said the deal could double the total number of people listening to streams from CBS stations during peak periods. Today, that figure can be as high as 125,000, he said.

Lisa Namerow, the general manager of AOL’s online radio unit, said the company’s music streaming business was still unprofitable, even though recent figures from Arbitron indicate AOL has the largest average weekly online audience.

Streaming media (audio and video) advertising is forecast at $1.37 billion in 2007, up 38% over 2006, according to the latest industry wide analysis report. Wireless internet penetration is expected to grow significantly in the next few years and take internet radio with it.

The National Association of Broadcasters has a campaign against the merger. Broadcasters get their radio and television channels free from the government. Everyone else pays. How is that democratic?

I like “free” broadcasting, but if the NAB can’t make a go of it using free spectrum, maybe they should turn their channels over to someone that can – like M2Z.

Pardon my rant, but you’d think the NAB could figure out a better system than the ATSC royality fix which virtually every other country in the world rejected in favor of the ghost-eliminating technology enabled by OFDM. Good luck with their mobile tv standard. How it’s supposed to work with 8VSB and not degrade the high definition television signal is not entirely clear.

About 15% of TV households, or 40 million households, receive tv broadcasts off-air. Some 75% of households getting off-air reception have only set-top antennas. Unfortunately, digital cable boxes trying to decode ATSC-enhanced multipath using only rabbit ears, may have a problem. The ATSC digital settop converter box (dtv.gov) may not work. The current FCC will have to deal with it.

The NAB’s ATSC royalty holders won. Consumers lost. You can thank Richard Wiley for that.

Related Dailywireless articles on Satellite Radio and mobile television include; Broadcasters Unite Around One Mobile TV Standard, Sat Radio Merger Provisions?, Satellite Radio Merger Goes to FCC, Battle Over 2 Dot 3, Sat Radio: Merger Approval = Lower cost?, Car WiFi Radio: Huge, MXtv Makes Its Move, HughesNet + Wayport + ICO/DVB-SH, $99 Settop = Free Triple Play?, Cable Goes Wireless, ICO Deploys 40 Foot Antenna, ICO G-1 In Space, Dish Network Testing DVB-SH, MobiTV Combines Unicast & Multicast, AT&T Goes with FLO, Samsung Phones Do Media, Dishes, NAB: Unlicensed Devices Threaten America, What’s Dish Network Planning?, WiMAX TV from NextWave, BBCiPlayer on iPhone, MediaFLO: In Trouble?, YouTube Mobilizes, Motorola Does DVB-H, Italy Testing DVB-SH Mobile TV, Software Defined Radio: DVB-H, too?, Original Content on Sprint Mobile TV, The War on Mobile TV, ICO Wants Its Mobile TV – via DVB-SH, MobileTV: Modeo KOed by Crown, and Mobile TV War at NAB.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Monday, June 16th, 2008 at 6:26 am .

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