Orbitcast: April 2007 Archives

April 2007 Archives

Hands-on install of the XM CommanderMT

XM CommanderMT

The boys over at XM411 got the awesome opportunity to install and play with the upcoming XM CommanderMT. Finally the upgrade to the classic XM Commander, which (as the "MT" moniker indicates) integrates usage of the XM Mini-Tuner, will be available in June.

It's mainly targeted to those who would like to retain their current car stereo headunit, maintain a clean dashboard - all the while reaping the benefits of portability that the Mini-Tuner provides. The XM CommanderMT seems oddly simple, but would be attractive to many.

The downside? Installation isn't for the lighthearted. "Installation is relatively simple as long as you are comfortable with opening up your vehicle’s dashboard," it's noted in the XM411 review. The reality is that for most, opening up your dashboard isn't simple at all. The XM411 review goes on to describe other details of the install.

Personally, I think people who will want to have a clean dashboard, also wouldn't mind dropping a few bucks for a professional install. Me? I'd get one of the upcoming XM Mini-Tuner headunits instead.

[XM411

Mel Karmazin's pay weighs in on merger prospects

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New York Post on the Sirius + XM merger
A recent article in the New York Post isn't very forgiving of the Sirius-XM merger, dramatically (in classic Post-style) highlighting Mel Karmazin's salary and how it would be taken into account when considering the merger.

"Details of Mel's pay package couldn't have come at a worse time for Sirius and XM," said Sanford Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett.

"Their credibility is already stretched pretty thin on Capitol Hill after weeks of anti-trust grilling. This will add fuel to the argument that their merger attempt is a way to enrich management rather than listeners."

At least, that's fuel to the fire that the NAB would love to feed. The reality is that Karmazin's compensation was likely put into place in his original contract back in 2004 when he signed on to Sirius. But who needs reality when you've got drama? Check out this ridiculous quote from an NAB spokesman:

"This outlandish pay package confirms that the proposed monopoly Sirius-XM merger was crafted mainly to enrich the companies' CEOs and their close friends on Wall Street," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "The notion that consumers or small shareholders would benefit from a government-sanctioned monopoly is pure fiction."

Apples... meet Oranges.

The unfortunate thing is that regardless of how little this should affect the decision by the FCC and DOJ - Peter Lauria at the NY Post is absolutely correct... the negative attention this stirs up certainly doesn't help.

[New York Post]

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XM puts the 8 million up

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It was likely a joyous moment over at XM as the "8 million" sign finally went up outside their Washington D.C. headquarters on Eckington Place (lovingly referred to as "The Eck").

XM 8 Million 

XM had hoped to hit this milestone last year... but hey, better late than never.

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Sirius and PodShow part ways

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SiriusAs of May 1st, Sirius and PodShow will reportedly be parting ways. A relationship that was started two-years ago with much fanfair, is now over... and I'm not so sure that many Sirius listeners will care.

It was a neat idea at the time - to take a social media like podcasting and stream it over satellite radio. But I have to agree with Podcast NYC in that there probably is no winner or loser in this case. It was low-cost programming for Sirius, and great PR for PodShow, but it likely didn't bring in mass subscribers for Sirius. Aside from new subs, I'm also not convinced that the show garnered many listeners aside from those who are already into podcasting (and who already have favorite podcasts they follow). Four-hours is a lot of time to dedicate to a channel with redundant content.

Frank Truth posted an email from Richard Brewer-Hay of PodShow, stating that the deal "has become less productive for both parties." Which I think puts it nicely - the value just wasn't there for both parties. That's it.

It's hardly the case of satellite radio becoming even less important... which I think is a hilarious take on the issue. I'm a huge fan of both the podcasting medium and the satellite radio medium, but the notion that this will cause satellite radio's "numbers further flushing down the toilet" due the dropping of podcasting content is a slight delusion of grandeur.

If you're going to look at the marriage of social media and new media, I think shows like Blog Radio are far more popular. But that's just me... will any of you be missing the podcasts on Sirius?

[via paidContent

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XM Kids Traveling Roadshow kicks off

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XM Kids Traveling Roadshow
Today the XM Kids Traveling Roadshow kicks off with its first live broadcast from Los Angeles starting at 12-noon PT/3pm ET.

The official start of the 20-day tour will include a live concert featuring kiddie fan-faves Paulie Litt, Rhythm Child, Laughing Pizza, Meredith Brooks and the Jonas Brothers.

The tour is a joint charity effort by XM, Wal-Mart, and the Children’s Miracle Network to help raise awareness and funds for local children's hospitals across the country. At each Children's Miracle Network hospital that XM Kids visist, kids will be encouraged to support the Children's Miracle Network by taking part in Wal-Mart's "Buy a Balloon" campaign.

This is all in an effort to raise $10 million in 30-days. A great goal for a great cause. The FCC should take note.

Check out a couple other shots of the XM Kids Traveling Roadshow tourbus - all wrapped up and ready for action - after the jump... 

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Martha's morning format expands on Sirius

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Martha on Sirius
Starting on Monday, April 30th, "Morning Living" on Martha Stewart Living Radio (ch 112) on Sirius has named a new host, and expanded its format to 3 hours.

Recently named host of "Morning Living" and veteran radio personality, Dean Olsher, is actually the first male morning show host on Martha Stewart Living Radio. Olsher roots are from NPR – he started there in 1987 as a cultural reporter and then launched "The Next Big Thing" at WNYC in 1999.

Olsher, a lifelong foodie, brings kitchen karma to life every morning. Freestyle conversation, humor and personality drive his show. Olsher, his show regular - Betsy Karetnick - and a wide-ranging mix of guests do much more than trade recipes and make coffee (thankfully).

As a fun touch, they actually cook breakfast and other treats in the studio, never afraid to experiment with morning food. In fact, after one too many breakfasts consisting of eggs, Olsher has issued a plea to his audience to call and send in creative alternative ideas.

Like "Whatever with Alexis and Jennifer" (the evening drive time show), "Morning Living" is an open forum for everything plus the kitchen sink.  Listeners to both shows are privy to up close and personal radio unique to Martha's channel.

Expect the unexpected. This is not your mother’s morning radio show.

"Morning Living" will air Monday – Friday from 7am - 10am ET on Sirius' Martha Stewart Living Radio (ch 112).
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Stern extends free Howard TV offer

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who's High Pitch?Howard Stern fans will be able to enjoy more of the free Howard TV promotion for a few more days than originally planned.

Registration problems prevented many users from accessing the site on the first day of the preview, so In Demand and Howard Stern said they plan to extend the offer until May 1st (instead of April 29th).

The Howard TV registration process requires users to prove that you're 18, as well as to prove that you're a US resident. The form asks that you enter your current and previous home address, date of birth, gender and the last four digits of your social-security number.

All of which apparently led to the delay.

At the time of posting, I encountered a repeated failure in the registration process myself. So instead of reaping the rewards of the striptease seen during registration... I saw this picture instead. Ugh.

Sign up for the free Howard TV preview by going to howardstern.com/free

[Multichannel News

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How much bandwidth would Sirius Backseat TV use?

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Sirius Backseat TVLong before Sirius Backseat TV was even announced, many a satrad geek has questioned how much bandwidth would be required to deliver the mobile video entertainment.

Well, the math-geniuses over at Satellite Radio TechWorld have a pretty darn good theory. Based on Sirius' response to a complaint filed by the WCS Coalition about Sirius Backseat TV, we learn that the video programming will use less than 1/5 of its bandwidth.

Now for some number crunching:

"So, we can calculate that [Sirius Backseat TV] will consume 2.5 MHz of the 12.5 MHz band, or 0.625 to 0.833 MHz per channel. Since it is broadcast on 3 carriers (two satellites and one repeater), the numbers have to be divided by 3, meaning that each channel per carrier will consume 208 to 278 KHz. If we understand the technology correctly, that should translate into video streaming somewhere on the order of 625 to 833 kbps per channel."

That might be our nearest indicator as to the level of quality to expect for the service. The demo at CES looked pretty damn good, though that could have been, well, just a demo.

[Satellite Radio TechWorld

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Kyle Petty to debut on Fast Talk Live on XM

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Kyle PettyNASCAR driver Kyle Petty will join Doug Rice as the host of "Fast Talk Live," starting on Monday. The show airs on the Performance Racing Network (PRN), and is heard on XM Satellite Radio.

"Fast Talk Live" - which has been broadcasting for 15 years - airs Monday nights at 7-8pm ET on XM Sports Nation (ch 144) and is part of XM's Engine Block racing-centric programming.

Petty, along with several other NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers, will be a part of a rotating panel of hosts for the 2007 "Fast Talk Live" season.

"We’re hoping to make an informative and entertaining show," said Petty. "Whether it is the competition side, which includes the Car of Tomorrow, to the sponsorship and business side that is crucial to Petty Enterprises, we will leave no stone unturned."

Fun fact: Kyle Petty recently broadcast live from the Sirius booth at NYIAS 2007 for Sirius NASCAR Radio.

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Mobile phone usage and radio trends

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Jacobs Media's latest Technology Poll shows that cell phone usage not only dominates American culture, but that it's considered primarily as a communication device and not an entertainment device. Yes, an obvious conclusion, but interesting to see the numbers...

Top Mobile Phone Features 

Note where "Listening to MP3s" places in comparison to all the other mobile phone features. This doesn't necessarily indicate consumer's desire to listen to music over the cellphones - just what they are currently using on their cellphones.

What might that mean? That the experience of mobile audio just isn't satisfactory yet. A recent Arbitron study indicated that mobile audio is a massive growth opportunity for broadcasters, and it most likely is.

But right now, the over-the-air mobile audio experience, well... sucks. The interfaces are awkward, you need to know what you want before you can listen to it, and it's more difficult than it's worth. Especially when there's an alternative sitting next to you that you already spent $400 on (yes, the iPod). There's a growth opportunity here alright, and that's in streamlining the experience. (Side note: I really really hope that XM is trying their darnedest to utilize their relationship with Cingular to get XM Radio Mobile into the iPhone.)

Now here's another bit of data that is unsurprising:

Must-have Technology 

Given the choice of TV, the Internet, Cell Phones or FM Radio, which do you think most people could live without? FM Radio is the obvious loser in that equation. But consider why?

Gone are the days of radio as the sole purveyor of information to the masses - an argument that preserving terrestrial's monopoly on "localism" is not in the public interest. Or maybe more accurately, the "localism" argument is a moot one, since most radio isn't even "local" at all (and therefore, not a necessity to consumers anymore).

[Jacobs Media Tech Survey III

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XM remains positive about merger prospects

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XM HeadquartersXM Satellite Radio CEO Hugh Panero told analysts today that XM remains positive in their outlook for a merger with Sirius. “We continue to believe we will ultimately receive the necessary approval to continue with the merger,” Panero said.

Indeed, in response to the swarm of negativity coming from analysts about the merger passing regulatory muster, a spokesman for XM said after today’s conference call that other analysts are more positive.

He cited a report last week from the Washington Telecom, Media & Tech Insider, which retains former FCC chief of staff Blair Levin as an analyst. The report gave the merger better than a 50 percent chance of receiving federal approval.

The positive outlook from XM doesn't just come from the top. Internal sources tell me that the majority of people at XM feel the merger will go through. Something that Sam Litzinger from Washington Post Radio apparently has heard as well.

It's good to see XM keeping a chin-up even in the face of negativity. But there's still a business to run, and as Hugh Panero said at the earnings call this morning, "we continue to operate XM as very much a stand-alone company."

[TWICE]
Thanks MUSCLE13!

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Audiovox Xpress EZ features (yup, and photos too)

Audiovox XpressEZYou didn't think I forgot about a feature list for the upcoming Audiovox XpressEZ did you? Have no fear, all the preliminary details for Audiovox's entry-level unit are all right here:

  • Entry-Level Unit with Simplified User Interface
  • Large, Easy-to-Read LCD Display Shows the Channel, Artist and Song Title via a Bright, Three-Line Display
  • Favorites Button Gives the Option to Program up-to 10 XM Channels
  • Move Quickly Through XM Channels with the Tune and Press Dial
  • Universal Connector - Easily Move XpressEZ Between the Car, Home and Audio System with Compatible Accessories
  • Sleep Mode
  • Includes:  Vehicle Kit with Plug & Play Docking Station, XM SureConnect, 12-Volt Power Adapter and Magnetic Roof Mount Antenna
  • Available: June 2007
  • MSRP: $69.99
Check out the photos after the jump...

Tony Stewart vents about NASCAR on Sirius program

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Tony Stewart Two-time champion NASCAR champion Tony Stewart went off on NASCAR officials on his Sirius show, likening the sport to wrestling.

Stewart dominated Saturday night's race, but eventually lost to Jeff Gordon. Stewart said he was avoid ing bashing NASCAR after officials threw four cautions for debris on the track.

"It's like playing God," he said on his Sirius program, which airs from 6-8 pm ET, on NASCAR Radio (ch 128). "They can almost dictate the race instead of the drivers doing it. It's happened too many times this year.

"I guess NASCAR thinks, 'Hey, wrestling worked, and it was, for the most part staged, so I guess it's going to work in racing too.' I can't understand how long the fans are going to let NASCAR treat them like they're stupid before the fans finally turn on NASCAR.

"I don't know that they've run a fair race all year."

AudioListen to the audio (MP3) of Tony Stewart criticizing NASCAR.
 
NASCAR called Stewart's comments "very, very disappointing."

[Los Angeles Times]

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Audiovox XpressR feature list (and lots more photos!)

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The kind folks at Audiovox have sent me more photos of the new XpressR, including this one below showing its split-screen goodness:

Audiovox XpressR

They also included a preliminary feature-list for the items I may have missed, which is good, because I tend to miss a lot in my old age. Anyway, here's the list for your eager consumption:

  • Audiovox XpressR (Model XMCK20)
  • The First Satellite Radio Offering a Split-Screen Display
    • View the Current XM Channel and Five Other Channels simultaneously on a Large, Easy-to-Read LCD Screen
    • Easily View Channel, Artist, Song Title and Info Extras via a High-Contrast Six-Line Display
  • Includes 30-Minutes of Pause and Replay
  • TuneSelect Finds Your Favorite Songs or Artists, GameSelect Finds Your Favorite Sports Events
  • Universal Connector - Easily Move XpressR Between Car, Home and Audio System with Compatible Accessories
  • Number Keys for Direct Channel Entry and 30 Channel Presets
  • Scroll up to 20 Stock Symbols, Sports Scores and Updates from MLB, NFL, NBA, Racing, Golf, Tennis, College Football and Basketball, while Listening to XM Radio
  • Automatic Backlight Dimmer that Adjusts for Day-to-Night Viewing
  • Five-Way Tuner Knob to Navigate the 170+ XM Channels
  • Plug-and-Play Dock
  • Direct Channel Entry
  • Sleep Mode
  • Includes Vehicle Kit with Docking Station, XM SureConnect, Antenna, 5 Volt Adapter, Cassette Adapter, Magnetic Roof Mount Antenna and Remote Control
  • Available: June 2007
  • MSRP: $129.99
Check out more uber-crisp photos of the upcoming Xpress R after the jump...
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Live Blogging XMSR 1Q07 Earnings Call

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Orbitcast is live blogging the XM Satellite Radio 1Q07 Earnings Call for those folks who can't tune in. Just keep refreshing this page to see updates as they occur..

  • Listening to lovely hold music.
  • Here we go... starting off with Joe Titlebaum introducing everything

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XM Satellite Radio 1Q07 Financial Results

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XMSRXM Satellite Radio (XMSR) just announced their 1Q07 results, showing that revenue increased by 27 percent year over year to $264 million, net loss narrowed to $122 million, and 285,000 net subscribers were added.

XM announced that it recently surpassed 8 million subscribers.

For 1Q07, adjusted operating loss (formerly adjusted EBITDA) improved by 45 percent to a loss of $27 million from a loss of $49 million in the prior year period. The 1Q07 adjusted operating loss includes $8 million in expenses related to the company's pending merger with Sirius Satellite Radio.

In 1Q07, XM recorded gross subscriber additions of 868,000 and net subscriber additions of 285,000 - compared to the 1 million gross additions and 569,000 net subscriber additions in the same period the year before.

XM's subscriber acquisition costs (SAC), a component of cost per gross addition (CPGA), was $65 compared to $59 in the first quarter of 2006. CPGA in the 2007 first quarter was $103 compared to $93 in the first quarter of 2006.

As of March 31, 2007, the company had $319 million in cash compared to $218 million at the end of December 31, 2006. XM has a total available liquidity of $719 million.

XM Satellite Radio reaffirmed their 2007 guidance of between 9.0 million and 9.2 million subscribers (with higher seasonal growth expected to occur in the latter part of the year); subscription revenue in the 1 billion dollar range; and full-year positive cash flow from operations in 2008.

XM has though made some refinements to its prior guidance for the full-year 2007: CPGA is expected to be in the range of $111-$114; and XM has adjusted operating loss, excluding any merger-related or legal settlement costs, in the range of $170 million to $180 million.

Full financials after the jump... 

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Analysts see doubt in Sirius-XM merger success

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Sirius and XM mergerThree separate analyst's reports this week have cast serious doubt on whether the Sirius-XM merger will be approved by federal regulators.

Bank of America analyst Jonathan Jacoby put the probability of approval of the merger at about 35 percent, but noted that it was likely much lower. Meanwhile, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co senior analyst Craig Moffett, and William Kidd, media analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities, put the chance of approval closer to 10 percent. 

Jacoby also lowered the merger synergy assumptions from $5 billion to $3.6 billion, stating that sports rights fees could increase initially.

"The merger faces a very tough road at the FCC, where the public interest test applied by the commission is inherently subjective," Moffett said. "In Washington, 'subjective' is codeword for 'political.' "

"The fact that there are different pricing schemes means you can effectively bake in price hikes," Kidd said.

"Regulators can see that's a problem."

[Washington Post

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Introducing the new Audiovox Xpress EZ, and Xpress Replay

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Introducing the new Audiovox Xpress EZ and Xpress Replay XM Satellite Radio receivers. I've heard whispers about these two new plug-and-play receivers since CES, but until recently I've never had any photos of them. Well, here's the full (unofficial) deets...

The 2 additions to Audiovox's Xpress line allows for different price points for customers with of course various levels of features. Note that as I understand it, the Audiovox Xpress is unchanged, these are two new receivers that are rounding out Audiovox's offering.

First, let's take a look at the entry-level version, the Xpress EZ:

XM Xpress EZ XMCK5
The Audiovox Xpress EZ (XMCK5) rocks a big, easy to read, three-line display. It also sports a simplified interface, with a single knob to navigate through the Xpress EZ's menus, and three buttons for additional functionality. You also get 10 user presets for your favorite XM channels.

The Xpress EZ includes an external antenna, docking cradle with DC adapter and mounting bracket (though no remote control). Expect to see the XpressEZ to go for an MSRP of only $69.99.

Then there's the top-of-the-line Xpress, the XpressR (aka the Xpress Replay):
XM XPress Replay XMCK20
The killer feature for the Audiovox XpressR (XMCK20) is the display. It's the first satellite radio ever to feature a splitscreen display - so (finally) you'll be able to view both the XM channel you're currently listening to, plus five other channels - all at once. The XpressR also has an automatic backlight dimmer that adjusts for day/night conditions, oh and... it has a 6-line display. Oh yeah.

The Audiovox Xpress Replay - as you can guess from the name - also features replay functionality allowing you to pause/rewind live content within a 30-minute buffer. The XpressR also has a five-way tuner knob, numbered keys for direct channel entry and 30 presets for your channel favs.

It includes a magnetic antenna, docking cradle with DC adapter, cassette adapter, mounting brackets and remote control. Look for the Xpress Replay to MSRP at $129.99. 

Both XpressEZ and the XpressR will be available in June.

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March Satellite Radio Retail Sales NPD Data (Verdit: lukewarm)

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Satellite Radio Retail SalesNPD Group's March sales data for satellite radio retail sales demand has risen slightly again consecutively since December. But don't get too excited because retail sales are still down in the annual comparison.

Year-over-year retail sales fell 28% in March (up from the 33% drop in February, 44% drop in January and a whoppin' 46% drop in December). We're slowing crawling out of the "Stern Effect" comparison bubble, so this is going to continue to get easier from this point forward.

The Quick Glance:

  • Sirius March 2007 Retail Sales:
    Down 31% YoY
  • XM March 2007 Retail Sales:
    Down 23% YoY

For the full quarter:

  • Sirius 1Q07 Retail Sales: -40% YoY
  • XM 1Q07 Retail Sales: -29% YoY

Marketshare:

  • Sirius Mar '07 Retail Marketshare: 53%
  • XM Mar '07 Retail Marketshare: 47%

XM is finally making a bit of a comeback in retail, gaining 3 percentage points against Sirius, and climbing up from a 35% YoY decline last month (though Sirius still beats XM in retail marketshare). Sirius also continues to show a bit of a comeback from a 33% drop last month, and the dismal earlier months.

Still, a decline is a decline, so don't go popping the champaign just yet guys.

I think it's time to get more creative with retail. Father's Day is looming and we need to see some new products, as well as some more aggressive marketing efforts. Mergers are distracting, (that's a fact) but if you want Wall Street to stop pummeling you... well, you need to show growth. Simple right? (Well, no not really, but we've got some ideas.)

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Tori Amos live on Sirius Satellite Radio

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Tori Amos
Sirius will be airing a performance by Tori Amos on the night of the release of her 9th album, American Doll Posse, live on The Spectrum (ch 18).

After her performance, Tori will give an in-depth interview with The Spectrum channel host, Demos.

Tori Amos’ “American Doll Posse” LIVE! will be broadcast from the New York club, Spotlight Live, next Tuesday, May 1st at 8pm ET.

Replays will air on May 2nd at 12-noon, May 4th at 11pm ET, May 5th at 8am ET, and May 7th at 12:01am ET.

American Doll Posse will be released on the same day as the performance, and it's Amos’ ninth studio album. It features Tori unveiling five characters (Tori, Pip, Clyce, Isabel and Santa... all making up the American Doll Posse) who each deliver their own unique songs, conveying different aspects of Tori and women in general.

Tori chose to debut her last studio album, The Beekeeper, on Sirius and it was her fifth album to debut in the Top 10.

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XM airing Bob Edwards Marathon

Bob EdwardsXM Satellite Radio will be airing a 48-hour marathon of the XM Public Radio (ch 133) flagship program, "The Bob Edwards Show," starting on May 12th at 8am ET.

The Marathon also coincides just a few days before the radio icon's 60th birthday. 

"The Bob Edwards Show" Marathon will include almost 50 interviews with some notable personalities including:

  • Actors George Clooney, and Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • Best-selling authors David McCullough and Maya Angelou
  • Political figures Al Gore and Bob Dole
  • Journalists Walter Cronkite and Bill Moyers
  • Musicians David Crosby and Jeff Tweedy of the band Wilco
  • Humorists Harry Shearer and Garrison Keillor
  • Edwards’ original reporting from the Appalachian region of Kentucky for his award-winning radio documentary, “Exploding Heritage.”

Check out the full schedule and more info on a special Bob Edwards Marathon page on XM's website.

Thanks Nathan! 

Yamaha RX-V861: 7.1 Channel XM-Ready Digital Home Theater with XM HD Surround

Yamaha RX-V861

Introducing the Yamaha RX-V861. For a mere $1,000, the RX-V861 provides yummy goodness like auto speaker calibration, multizone operation, HD video upscaling and deinterlacing, 1080p-compatible HDMI, and iPod compatibility all at 105 watts per channel.

Oh, and it's XM Ready with what appears to be XM Connect-and-Play (...not XM Mini-Tuner?). The RX-V861 also sports XM HD Surround. So you can rock out to XM Pops and Fine Tuning with six channels of digital full fidelity audio, powered by Neural Audio technology.

Available in May 2007. 

[Product Page via Crave

Sirius-XM: Is the FCC's Review 'clock' delayed?

Sirius + XM mergerThat's the question being posed by SeekingAlpha contributor M&A Researcher, as the FCC still has not started its review "clock" just yet.

They point out that there has been an unusually long delay from application filing to clock start, but given the magnitude and publicity surrounding the Sirius-XM merger, maybe it's not all that surprising.

No new filings have been posted to the FCC's transaction page in the last seven days. It could be an indication that the staff is preparing to launch the review clock shortly, or maybe that the volume of filings coming in is so large that the staff simply is unable to keep up.

Either way, another batch of ex parte filings can be expected to appear shortly, as can the beginning of the 180-day informal review period. Tick-tock.

[SeekingAlpha

Onkyo debuts new Sirius, XM, and HD Radio tuners

Onkyo
Onkyo has debuted several new tuners today at a press event, including four tuners that support both Sirius and XM, and two new tuners that combined Sirius, XM and HD Radio capabilities in one.

The Onkyo T-4555P combines Sirius, XM and HD Radio in one for only $499. Gizmodo (who also happens to have a photo of the sexy little thing) says the T-4555P is scheduled to ship "soon" which sources tell us is much earlier than "later."

Meanwhile Engadget brings to light the Onkyo TX-SR575, TX-SR705, TX-SR805, and TX-SR875 tuners that all support Sirius and XM, as well as the top-of-the-line TX-NR905 which packs the Sirius/XM/HD Radio combo. Pricing ranges between $899 and $2099.

[Gizmodo and Engadget via Sirius Uplink]

Sirius paid Mel Karmazin $4.3M in 2006

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Mel KarmazinSirius Satellite Radio paid its CEO Mel Karmazin $1.25 million in salary, plus a bonus of $3 million, as well as $16,937 in retirement plan contributions and profit sharing, according to a recent regulatory filing. His total compensation is valued at $4.3 million in 2006.

Karmazin was awarded the $3,000,000 cash bonus in February of this year in recognition of his performance, as well as based on meeting various other corporate goals. Note that the base salaries of Mel Karmazin (as well as Scott Greenstein and David Frear) were not changed in 2006.

It was also disclosed in the filing that Mel received stock awards of $2.83 million and options valued at $24.1 million... bringing the total tally up to $31.2 million last year.

[Business Week & LA Times

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XM's "rogue" repeaters in the spotlight

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XMBloomberg has a report today that discusses XM's "rogue" repeaters and how they are adding to the scrutiny over the Sirius-XM merger.

The article is sure to focus on the fact that at least a third of XM's 800 repeaters are in violation and these serve 42 percent of XM's network. It goes on to paint a bleak picture about the situation, even though they do allow XM spokesman Chance Patterson to state that "XM voluntarily disclosed these variances to the FCC" and has taken "unilateral action to eliminate many of them."

Regardless, it's brought the focus of U.S. Representative Edward Markey, who chairs the House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee.

"What is the expectation it will follow through or fulfill any public interest conditions?" Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in an e-mailed statement.

And you can bet all of this comes to the glee of the NAB. They even put the article front-and-center in their daily newsletter today.

"Given their repeated lack of candor in dealing with the FCC, it is astonishing that XM and Sirius would now seek a government-sanctioned monopoly,'' said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton, in the article.

Astonishing indeed, lest we forget all about that payola scandal

[Bloomberg

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XM WX Satellite Weather service expands

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XM WX WeatherXM Satellite Radio has announced that it will enhance its popular XM WX Weather package (most people just call it XM Weather), adding more features at no additional charge.

"We're excited to announce the expansion of coverage to Canada and Puerto Rico," said XM spokesman Roderick MacKenzie at the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Fla.

XM WX Weather will include Canadian weather products such as Weather Warnings, Outlooks, METARs, SIGMETs, and winds aloft. And who doesn't need METARs, SIGMETs and winds aloft? I know I sure can't live without 'em.

XM also said it will offer subscribers an "End of Season" package that allows them to put their payments on hold during the off-season when they don't need the service. It's not being thrifty, it's called common sense.

The "End of Season" package will reportedly also be available for the "consumer" version of XM WX, called XM WX SkyWatch. With limited fishing and hunting seasons, this would definitely help sell the service for the outdoorsy type who wants to rock out to XMLM while on the duckboat.

[AV Web]

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Mercedes-Benz extends relationship with Sirius

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Mercedes with Sirius
Mercedes-Benz and Sirius Satellite Radio have extended their relationship to include Sirius in over 80 percent of vehicles for 2007, and plans to grow the install rate to more than 90 percent over the next 2 years.

Sirius will also now be standard equipment on two additional models this year: the S-Class and CLS. Sirius is standard equipment right now in the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class and CL-Class, as well as all AMG and 600 model vehicles.

Sirius' factory install rate for Mercedes-Benz vehicles will grow to 90 percent for 2008, and continue to over 90 percent by 2009. The original installation rate was estimated at 50 percent - set less than two years ago.

All Mercedes-Benz vehicles with Sirius installed include 6-months of free service. 

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Spanish broadcasters speak out against Sirius-XM merger

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Independent Spanish Broadcasters AssociationUnsurprisingly, the Independent Spanish Broadcasters Association (ISBA) has joined up with their brethren, the NAB, to come out against the Sirius-XM merger.

Zee Ferrufino, a member of the ISBA board and the owner of KBNO 1280 AM in Denver, said, "Anything that's a monopoly will affect everybody. Not only Spanish broadcasters but any radio station."

And what of the chances of the merger going through?

"They are crazy," Ferrufino told The Denver Post. "I don't believe this is going to happen. Most people are against it."

[The Denver Post

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MerleFest on XM this week

 

MerleFest

XM is broadcasting the 20th annual MerleFest festival this week, from April 26th - April 29th, on both X Country (ch 12) and Bluegrass Junction (ch 14).

 

MerleFest brings together a mix of traditional and contemporary bluegrass, acoustic, Celtic, blues, folk, old-time, Cajun, and jazz; all in celebration of the music of the late Merle Watson and his father Doc Watson.

You'll hear artists like Doc Watson and Merle's son Richard, Blue Highway; Sam Bush; John Cowan Band; Donna The Buffalo; Jerry Douglas; The Duhks; Paul Geremia; Pam Tillis; The Waybacks; and many others.

The action starts live on Bluegrass Junction, view the full schedule here.

Sirius covering the 2007 NFL Draft

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NFL DraftSirius Satellite Radio will be providing all-out coverage of the 2007 NFL Draft live, April 28th - 29th, from the NFL Draft Headquarters at Radio City Music Hall in NYC.

Sirius NFL Radio (ch 124) will feature the live gavel-to-gavel coverage of all 32 teams' selections, with analysis by NFL experts like Randy Cross, Gil Brandt, Pat Kirwan, Tim Ryan, Jim Miller, Adam Schein and Bryan McGovern. Listeners will also hear interviews with top draft picks and players around the country and team reactions from coaches and general managers.

Check out the full itinerary for the 2007 NFL Draft after the jump...

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Best Buy expands HD Radio offering

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HD RadioThe HD Digital Radio Alliance has struck a deal with Best Buy to offer HD Radios in all of their 832 stores nationwide.

"The HD Digital Radio Alliance and iBiquity have created momentum with customers that now make HD Digital Radio one of the hottest electronics choices around," said Chris Homeister, Best Buy vice president of Merchandising. "Product is now available in all of our stores, so no matter where our customers live, they can discover HD Radio and experience the crystal clear sound and new programming choices."

Earlier this year, the HD Radio Alliance struck a major deal to offer HD Radios in Wal-Mart stores. Crutchfield now also sells the first ever HD Radio converter for your existing stereo. Now we can add Best Buy to the list.

"This is another major step forward for HD Radio technology," said Robert Struble, president and CEO of iBiquity Digital Corp., the developer of the HD Radio system. "Following rapid adoption by the broadcast community and an increasing range of products for the mass market, Best Buy's efforts will dramatically accelerate consumer adoption of this great new technology."

Now, I wonder if the HD Radio displays will be placed next to the Sirius and XM displays?

[Radio Ink]
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Stern brings peep shows back to Times Square

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Howard TVHoward Stern has converted an old milk truck to a mobile peep show, and will be parking it on 42nd Street... effectively bringing the sexy back to Times Square for a day.

On Wednesday, the modified milk truck will have video booths inside playing "naughty bits" filmed during Stern's show for Howard TV. The truck will be parked on 42nd Street at 11am ET in front of Madame Tussaud's wax museum - 180 feet from where the Disney musical "Mary Poppins" is being performed.

The stunt is meant to promote a free Internet-only preview of Howard TV. Unfortunately for "Mary Poppins" goers, visitors will have to be at least 18 years old to enter. Sorry kids.

[New York Post]
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Clear Channel goes commercial-free in Dallas

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Lone Star 92.5As of today, Clear Channel Communications station 92.5 KZPS FM will no longer run traditional spot advertisements. Instead, they're trying something completely different in an attempt to compete with other commercial-free alternatives like satellite radio and iPods.

Instead of the regular 30 or 60-second spots, advertisers can now sponsor an hour of programming during which the DJ will promote a product conversationally in what Clear Channel calls "integration."

This integration technique will account for about two minutes of chatty product-placement throughout the hour, as opposed to the regular 12 to 16 minutes of commercials that most stations broadcast each hour. Advertisers will not just have the hour to themselves, but also their own unique categories. For example, Southwest Airlines, AT&T, Coors Brewing and Guitar Center; all will enjoy product placementwithout competing sponsorship from other airlines, phone companies, breweries or musical instrument stores on that station.

Whether or not the technique works is still unknown. In 2005, three stations on Long Island experimented with a similar model but eventually returned to conventional commercials. Either way, this indicates that Clear Channel is seeing commercial-free audio sources has competitive threats, and is experimenting with their own competitive response.

As they should, because according to Arbitron KZPS slipped to 17th place in the fall of 2006, from 7th in the fall of 2000 when Clear Channel acquired it.

"People are not as willing to listen to the commercials, and soon we’ll have the Internet streaming directly into cars," said Robert Unmacht, a Nashville-based radio consultant.

Thankfully, Clear Channel has over 1,100 stations nationwide that they can experiment with.

[New York Times]
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Connecting the dots: Is there indeed another suitor?

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With the CBS takeover rumor surprisingly still keeping warm, let's look at this from a theoretical standpoint. What if the timing is off? Maybe, like with most rumors, the overall concept is there but it loses out in the details?

Forget about a takeover while this merger process is underway, that would be too messy, but what if the merger is not approved? Sure, both companies have said that they would survive just fine without a merger, but we all know what would happen if it doesn't go through: the stocks would take a nose dive (more so than the already baked-in assumption by the Street that it won't happen).

So why wouldn't the merger be approved? Because regulators would buy the "satellite is its own little market" argument. And in turn there wouldn't be much in media ownership issues. If satellite radio is its own separate market, there's little in the way of a terrestrial radio company (any terrestrial company for that matter) scooping up one of the satcasters for itself.

Food for thought.

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Wall Street Journal on the NAB

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Boo NAB!Looks like the NAB's hypocrisy is being picked up by the media now. Yesterday's Wall Street Journal features an article, What's the Frequency, NAB? that questions the NAB's motives behind opposing the Sirius-XM merger.

I really like this piece, mainly because it cleanly and clearly spells the whole situation out:

"No one knows whether the public will ever really take to the pay model, but it's not the role of the government to help the NAB smother a fledgling competitor in the crib. This appears to be a merger of desperation more than anything, and blocking it could well result in no satellite-radio providers and thus fewer listening options for consumers."

Oh, and aside from all that, I do relish in seeing the NAB exposed for what it truly is.  

[Wall Street Journal

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NAB vs. New Technology: A history of stifeling competition

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RadioWe all know of the NAB's vehement opposition to satellite radio, not just against the Sirius-XM merger, but against the entire industry in general. But is this opposition limited to just satellite radio? Or has the NAB opposed other technologies? So glad you asked... read on!

For actually over twenty-five years, the NAB has objected to the evolution of communications technology. This includes satellite television, "drop in" radio stations, low-power radio and low-power TV band devices.

So what makes satellite radio different?  Opposition to the Sirius-XM merger is simply the latest and greatest in the NAB’s persistent resistance to change. Let's take a look at the evidence...
Satellite Television
In the 1980s, the NAB fought the FCC's decision to award DBS licenses, claiming that the Communications Act forbade a nationwide licensee. The NAB's position was so extreme that a federal appeals court described the NAB as "luddite[s]," saying it would be irresponsible to deny consumers "new technology that offers the promise of substantial public benefit." The court also chided terrestrial broadcasters, commenting that "the Act does not entrench any particular system of broadcasting: existing systems, like existing licensees, have no entitlement that permits them to deflect competitive pressure from innovative and effective technology."
(NAB v. FCC, 790 F.2d 1190, 1197-98 – D.C. Cir., 1984)

"Drop-In" Stations
In the 1980s, the FCC issued a decision allowing the allotment of additional FM frequencies. The NAB and other broadcasters sought to have restrictions imposed on the operation of these so-called "drop-in" FM stations, which were made possible by technological improvements in radio receivers. The NAB also filed a petition for reconsideration of the FCC's decision to authorize the new stations.
(Modification of FM Broadcast Station Rules to Increase the Availability of Commercial FM Broadcast Assignments, 87 F.C.C. 2d 279, 1984.)

Low-Power Radio
The FCC first proposed the establishment of rules for low power radio service in 1999. The NAB and other broadcasters submitted comments vehemently opposing this new service. The then-FCC Chairman William Kennard said this opposition was "about the haves—the broadcast industry—trying to prevent the have-nots—small community and educational organizations—from having just a little piece of the pie. Just a little piece of the airwaves which belong to all of the people."
(Statement of FCC Chairman William E. Kennard on Low Power FM Radio Initiative, 2000 FCC Lexis 1536 – March 27, 2000)

Low-Power TV Band Devices
In 2004, the FCC proposed to allow certain types of unlicensed devices to operate in the broadcast television spectrum at locations where the spectrum is not being used. As the Commission explained, permitting such operations would enable "more efficient and effective use of the TV spectrum and would have significant benefits for the public by allowing the development of new and innovative types" of broadband devices. The NAB and other broadcast interests sought to impede the operation of these new devices, though they would operate only on channels not being used for licensed services. Even after the FCC issued a decision in 2006 authorizing the devices, the NAB and other broadcast interests asked FCC to impose an extensive set of restrictions on the operation of the devices.
(Unlicensed Operation in the TV Broadcast Bands; Additional Spectrum for Unlicensed Devices Below 900 MHz and in the 3 GHz Band, 19 FCC Rcd 10018 – 2004)
(See Joint Comments of The Association for Maximum Service Telelvision, Inc. and the National Association of Broadcasters, ET Docket Nos. 04-186 and 02-380 - filed Jan. 31, 2007)


Satellite Radio
From the start, the NAB vehemently opposed allocation of spectrum for and licensing of satellite radio, asserting that it would destroy local radio broadcasting. The radio industry’s evidence was embarrassingly thin ranging from studies that assumed satellite radios would be free, claiming that a temporary revenue fall-off during a recession was indicative of the declining fortunes of terrestrial broadcasters, to a survey of radio station executives, each of whom claimed that satellite radio would be the death of localism. Ultimately, NAB’s opposition delayed licensing satellite radio for seven years. Now the organization is looking to stop the Sirius-XM merger from going through, using any means necessary.
(Rules and Policies for the Digital Audio Radio Satellite Service, 12 FCC Rcd 5754, ¶ 19 - 1997)
(Reply Comments of CD Radio, at 29 - filed Oct. 13, 1995)
The NAB's public opposition to the Sirius-XM merger is an effort to advance its members' interests. Period. This has nothing to do with serving the greater good. It has nothing to do with the public interest. The NAB is in business to advocate for their members, and that's all.

The NAB's opposition to the merger is not indicative of the value of the merger itself. Rather it's symptomatic of the NAB's self-interest and consequent hostility toward new technology.
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Jimmy Buffett "Bama Breeze" tour live on Sirius

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Jimmy BuffettJimmy Buffett fans can hear his upcoming "Bama Breeze" tour live on Sirius Radio Margaritaville (ch 31) starting tomorrow, April 21st, when it kicks off at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

Parrot Heads will be able to hear every concert of the "Bama Breeze" tour as it runs through September’s two night stand at the Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA.

You can probably expect each broadcast to start with a pre-show party from backstage hosted by Jimmy's own daughter, Savannah Jane Buffett, and will also feature interviews with Jimmy himself. Check out all the tour dates, including pre-show broadcast times, after the jump...
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Reason Magazine on the NAB vs. Sirius-XM merger

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Dinosaurs vs SatelliteIn an incredibly descriptive article entitled Dinosaurs vs. Satellites, senior editor Radley Balko paints a clear picture of the NAB's efforts to undermine the satellite radio industry.

From their consistent flip-flops in defining competition, to anti-satellite radio advertising (which, miraculously, has disappears from their website) to vehement protection of "localism" - we see the true colors of the NAB through this article.

One interesting thing I didn't know: "... the NAB lets members of Congress and their families record public service announcements in NAB studios free of charge. The commercials are then broadcast in the members districts on NAB stations, also free of charge. That's broadcast time politicians often have to pay thousands of dollars to reserve."

Wow.

[Reason Magazine

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Two Can Play: NAB's contradictions on competition

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In response to the NAB taking out an ad quoting their own paid advocates' statements, here's my own faux print ad, highlighting the NAB's own contradictory statements about "competition" in the audio market.

NAB Contradictions 

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Hilary Duff totally taking over XM 20 on 20

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Hilary Duff OMG!Hilary Duff, who's like totally single right now (you go girl!), is going to be at XM’s 20 on 20 (ch 20) tomorrow, April 20th, to pick the top 20 songs that like rule her world. Serious!

The party starts at 9pm ET, when Hilary is going to tell us what songs she's like really lovin' right now. She's also going to give the totally dark secrets and behind-the-scenes dirt on her latest CD "Dignity."

Her new album has a couple of songs aimed at her ex-bf, Joel Madden of Good Charlotte. Which you can totally understand because Joel and Hilary broke up after almost two and a half years together, which is so sad.

But we know she's totally better off without Joel, and you can probably bet that Good Charlotte won’t be making her XM favs list. LOL! 

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Jane Pratt to feature REM's Michael Stipe on her Sirius show

Jane Pratt
Jane Pratt, host of the newly launched show "Jane Radio" on Sirius Satellite Radio, is heading down to Athens, GA this weekend for a live broadcast. There she will feature special guest and acclaimed frontman of REM, Michael Stipe, on her new Sirius show.

Media pioneer Jane Pratt, founder and former editor-in-chief of both Sassy and Jane, is now the host of Jane Radio.

Jane Radio breaks new ground in radio for women and interacts heavily with listeners on each show. From the "Jane Rant" of each week to segments such as "Jane Needs Help" - where listeners get to help Jane with her problems - Jane’s show explores current events, her life, and through their calls, the lives of her listeners. 

Pratt recently revealed on her Sirius show that she and Michael Stipe dated years ago. Pratt also appeared in REM’s Shiny, Happy, People video.

Jane Radio airs on Fridays from 6pm - 8pm ET on Sirius Stars (ch 102).

"Commercial-Free" Lawsuit against XM allowed to proceed

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Sue everybody!Matthew Enderlin's lawsuit, alleging that XM Satellite Radio falsely advertises its music channels as 100% commercial-free, can proceed in U.S. District Court.

Enderlin's suit filed in January 2006 alleges XM's claim that its music channels are free of commercials is "false, misleading and deceptive" because the channels' programming includes "promotional and advertisement segments."

Enderlin alleges the company's commercial-free promise violates the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and similar statutes in 41 other states and the District of Columbia. He is seeking punitive damages and a court order that XM Radio no longer advertise its music channels as commercial-free.

He also is seeking to have the suit certified as a class-action suit so all XM Radio customers can be considered plaintiffs.

XM Radio has said the suit is without merit and the company does not air commercials on its music channels.

The company filed a motion last year for dismissal or, alternatively, a stay of the proceedings pending arbitration. It argued the case should not proceed in court because the customer service agreement it entered into with Enderlin contains a clause requiring that he submit any claims to arbitration.

Enderlin challenged the validity of the clause requiring arbitration, calling it "unconscionable."

A U.S. District Court judge denied the XM's motion, and the 8th Circuit on Wednesday affirmed that ruling, and so the lawsuit can proceed. Fun fun!

[The Morning News

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Slacker interviewed by Hear 2.0 (highly recommended)

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Slacker
Slacker's head of marketing Jonathan Sasse sat down with Mark Ramsey of Hear 2.0 in an incredible audio interview, and I highly recommend everyone take a listen to it.

Not only does Ramsey address the thought that Slacker, with their own satellite delivery system, would be competing directly with Sirius-XM (several times throughout the interview). But he delves deeply into exactly what Slacker does, and how it's going to change the face of radio as we know it. Both consumers and industry-watchers alike will find interest in this interview.

"This thing is going to be huge," Mark concluded... and honestly, I couldn't agree more. 

[Hear 2.0

UPDATE: SSG also has a nice interview with Slacker here

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The Business of Music: A Competitive Look at Sirius, XM, Muzak and DMX

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Sirius and XMMany don't realize it, but there's a whole business behind music provided for commercial applications. When you're out shopping for some new clothes, getting a cup of coffee, or laying in a chair at the dentist's - the music you hear is being delivered to you in some form or another.

That music can have varying effects on you, either enticing you to linger in-store a bit longer, or relaxing you (somewhat) during a stressful root canal. All these are meant to enhance your experience at the business, and eventually lead to that business's bottom line.

This is a look at the different nationwide multichannel commercial music packages, and how they compete to provide businesses with that content you hear.

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NAB's latest Anti-XM/Sirius Merger ad (and website)

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The NAB has placed the advertisement below in recent issues of Communications Daily, Congress Daily and Roll Call.

From this ad, we also learn of a new website launched by the NAB - xmsiriusmonopoly.com - which must still be hot off the presses, because some of the links on their site aren't active yet. The site features select media clippings on the merger, video of NAB members' testimony and other links supporting their position.

NAB: Merger to Monopoly Ad 

It's funny that three of the quotes used in this ad are based on the NAB commissioning 3rd parties to write them (if you don't know what I'm talking about then see here, here and here).

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Copps calls Sirius-XM merger a "pretty steep climb"

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Michael CoppsWhile the Senate was holding a hearing about the Sirius-XM merger, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps was talking with David Rehr during the annual FCC Breakfast at NAB2007 on the same subject.

When asked about the merger's prospects, Copps pointed to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's comments, "Chairman Martin has already indicated it's a climb for him, well, it's a pretty steep climb for me."

Copps added that he would not prejudge the merger since it was currently before the commission.

Copps also said that there seemed to be quite the disconnect between the NAB's argument that broadcasters did not compete with satellite radio when it came to this merger, and the argument that it was "one big happy competitive family" when it came to seeking media ownership rule changes.

[Broadcasting & Cable

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Bob Dylan's XM show: Season 2 debuts in September

Bob Dylan "Theme Time Radio Hour"XM's award-winning music show hosted by Bob Dylan, "Theme Time Radio Hour," is wrapping-up its first season today with a special two-hour episode, and will return with all-new episodes in September.

In its second season, fans of "Theme Time Radio Hour" can expect to hear contributions from more special guests (including Ellen Barkin, whose sultry voice has heralded the start of each episode since it debuted about a year ago).

Also for the show's first-anniversary on May 3rd, XM will air a "Theme Time Radio Hour" marathon broadcasting every episode from the first season of Dylan's show back-to-back. The "Theme Time" marathon kicks off May 26th at 6pm ET on The Village (ch 15) and will air during Memorial Day weekend.

Competitive Enterprise Institute urges regulators to approve Sirius/XM merger

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Sirius SatelliteThe Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a non-profit public policy group, is urging federal regulators to approve the Sirius-XM merger, and to proceed with the modernizing of antitrust rules for all industries.

CEI feels that the satellite radio industry is not its own thinly segmented market, but rather a small part of a great media market that includes commercial radio, cable television, the Internet and more.

"The approximately $13 billion in market capitalization of both companies pales in comparison to $57 billion value of one major cable company alone," CEI stated.

“Regulators also should refrain from using the merger review process to extract a parade of concessions from these struggling companies,” added CEI Vice President and Director of Technology Studies Wayne Crews.

The CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group, that has long encouraged policy makers to reform antitrust law and its enforcement in the interest of fostering increased competition and innovation. 

[Competitive Enterprise Institute

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iBiquity to introduce HD Radio subscriptions

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HD RadioAt NAB2007 in Las Vegas, iBiquity Digital has revealed that they've selected NDS Group to provide the industry's first conditional access solution for HD Radio.

NDS Group is the same company that provides the system enabling DirecTV and Cablevision to offer pay-per-view and other opt-in services for consumers. Called RadioGuard, NDS Group's system encrypts content before it is transmitted over the airwaves, then decrypts it once the radio signal has been received and verified.

"We believe this will be key for monetizing HD Radio," said Tom Rucktenwald, director of data applications security for NDS.

Services that could be made possible through RadioGuard include pay-per-listen options for live concerts or other events, improved reading services for the blind, private channels for emergency services, and free opt-in events sponsored by advertisers. So HD Radio will not just be competing with satellite radio for listening time, but soon will be competing for subscription dollars as well.

RadioGuard-capable radio receivers are planned to be introduced to the market by the holidays.

[MediaWeek]
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Video: Wal-Mart/XM Kids Roadshow Spot

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Remember how XM and Wal-Mart teamed up to benefit the Children's Miracle Network? Well here's a new TV spot that will air on Wal-Mart video monitors in retail stores.

The first XM Kids Roadshow broadcast and live concert will be in Los Angeles on April 30th. The channel will broadcast from the road every day and host fund-raising events at select Wal-Mart locations to help raise $10 million in just 30-days for Children's Miracle Network.

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Siriusly Sinatra debuts on Sirius April 19th

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Frank SinatraSiriusly Sinatra, Sirius' all-Sinatra-all-the-time channel that was announced back in February, is set debut this Thursday, April 19th at 3pm ET.

The channel will kick off with a special live performance from Ol' Blue Eyes himself recorded at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in 1966.

Siriusly Sinatra (ch 75) is dedicated to the music, time and spirit of Frank Sinatra and will be the only channel available on radio produced by the Sinatra family. The channel will broadcast an extensive catalog of hits, rarities and concerts - as well as favorite standard hits performed by other classic artists from our time.

Soon to debut will be "The Chairman's Hour," hosted by Frank Sinatra himself (seriously) culled from archival material of Sinatra's past. Nancy Sinatra will also host "The Nancy Sinatra Show," a weekly show. Launch dates for these shows will be announced shortly.

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From the Rumor Mill - CBS takeover?

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If you're wondering why the stocks went nuts mid-day, that's because several sources have reported that CBS could make a bid for either XM Satellite Radio (XMSR) or Sirius Satellite Radio (SIRI).

Call me a Negative Nancy, but I don't buy it. Especially since we've heard this one before.

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The NAB: A history of hypocrisy

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NAB vs Satellite RadioWhen NAB President and CEO David K. Rehr delivered his opening keynote address at NAB2007 in Las Vegas yesterday, he unsurprisingly used the opportunity to voice the NAB's adamant opposition to the Sirius-XM merger. Rehr said the merger "certainly would not be in the consumer's benefit," adding his view that "this is not about the consumer. It is not about advancing technology. It is about lining the pockets of financiers and corporate executives."

So let's take a look at the NAB's long history of lobbying in Washington against the development of satellite radio. Afterall, this is an organization that is so concerned with the advancement of technology, the benefits of the consumer - and at same time, not concerned with the lining of one's pockets. Surely then they wouldn't try to stifle open competition from satellite radio right?

The reality is that for more than 25 years, the NAB has objected to the evolution of communications technology, including satellite television, "drop in" radio stations, low-power radio and low-power TV band devices... all in addition to their opposition to satellite radio.

Their latest effort to block the merger of Sirius and XM is actually only part of a massive multimillion dollar effort that began 17  years ago. Below is a timeline of the NAB's efforts against satellite radio, long before a single satellite was even launched:

1990: The NAB tried to make end run around government plans to create a satellite system by proposing a digital system using land-based radios.
1992: The NAB mobilized opposition to the FCC’s proposal to set aside spectrum for satellite radio.
1994: The NAB submitted a filing to the FCC opposing any licenses to operate satellite radio technology.
1995: The NAB filed a report with the FCC and mounted a publicity campaign warning that satellite radio “will fragment radio audiences and make local radio unprofitable.”
1997: The NAB paid Kagan Consulting to produce an “independent report” claiming that FM radio would suffer great financial harm from satellite radio.

The NAB’s efforts to stop satellite radio failed. That, however, didn't stop their opposition.

At the heart of NAB’s argument is the claim that the merger is anti-competitive. But to me, the best validation of the true competition in the audio marketplace is the fierce response that the NAB has had to the Sirius-XM merger proposal. Understand this: The NAB is not motivated by serving the greater good. They are in business to advocate for their members.

The NAB knows that Sirius and XM compete with over 10,000 free radio stations in the country. The NAB (and its members in numerous SEC filings), have admitted it:

  • Last September, in his remarks to the NAB Radio Show in Dallas, Texas, NAB President and CEO David Rehr declared, “In 2006, we have satellite and internet radio [as competitors]. And barely a day passes without the introduction of a new competing device or service. But we have news for our competitors: ‘We will beat you – as we have beaten those change agents in the past.’ ”
  • The NAB in October 2006 provided media ownership comments to the FCC seeking relaxation of radio ownership regulations (how ironic?) and cited satellite radio and other competitors as justification.
  • That same month at the National Press Club, the NAB’s President and CEO, David Rehr, cited satellite radio as one of AM/FM’s competitors.  

But as soon as the merger was announced, the NAB embarked on a non-stop campaign to distract regulators and consumers from the facts surrounding the proposed Sirius-XM merger:

  • Washington guns for hire...
    The NAB has used its money for any Washington hired guns it could find, notably John Ashcroft. The Wall Street Journal reported that "Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, who sent a letter…to his successor Alberto Gonzales blasting the proposed merger of Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., approached XM in the days after the merger was announced offering the firm his consulting services." The NAB has since hired James C. Miller and Philip M. Napoli to send their own "independent" letters of opposition.

  • And the verdict from the Carmel Group is...
    The NAB also paid the Carmel Group, a California consulting firm, to change its views about competition in the audio entertainment market. In an article written a year-and-a-half ago, before being hired by NAB, Carmel’s Jimmy Schaeffler described satellite radio’s competitors as "traditional analog AM & FM radio, as well as burgeoning services like MP3 players, terrestrial radio, and video- and Internet-to-the-vehicle." Yet, after receiving funds from the NAB, Mr. Schaeffler produced a white paper saying exactly the opposite.

  • The best funded college student group I know...
    On February 28th, Corporate Crime Reporter uncovered the real story about the Consumer Coalition for Competition in Satellite Radio (C3SR), a group of law students opposed to the XM-Sirius merger. C3SR claimed to be an independent grassroots consumer organization and refused to say who funded it. But admitted to being "supported" by the NAB. And is able to afford commissioning reports (which reportedly can cost upwards of $400/hour) by Gregory Sidak of Criterion Economics.

  • Legislators legislating on their own behalf...
    Mike Hubbard, Alabama's House Minority Leader, was the lead sponsor of a non-binding resolution against the merger of Sirius and XM, which was passed by the Alabama House of Representatives on March 29th. Interestingly, Hubbard is a member of the Alabama Broadcasters Association who owns a terrestrial radio station and an audio production company serving the national broadcast industry.

And, of course, their rhetoric has changed. NAB President Rehr now claims that satellite radio doesn't compete with AM and FM radio.

Now the competition is "one way" (how convenient), and the $20 billion radio industry will face unfair competition from a combined Sirius-XM (which together have a mere 3.4% of total radio listening, according to a recent Arbitron survey).

NAB members like Clear Channel claim that a merged satellite radio company would unfairly hurt "local" radio (imagine that, Clear Channel is now "local"). Of course, Clear Channel Communications is well diversified and is working to provide nationwide mutlichannel audio content for HD Radio stations, mobile wireless audio providers and more. Don't believe me? Just listen for yourself.

The harder the NAB works to quash competition, the easier it is to see their hypocrisy. "Words have consequences," Rehr said in his keynote yesterday. So true.

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A look at the Audio Entertainment market

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Audio Entertainment Marketplace

Terrestrial Radio:

  • AM/FM radio is offered free of charge to all consumers and comes as a standard feature in virtually every vehicle, home stereo, and clock radio sold to U.S. consumers.
  • Nearly 14,000 radio stations exist nationwide.
  • Approximately 230 million Americans choose to listen to terrestrial radio each week.


HD Radio:

  • Over 1,200 HD Radio stations broadcasting across the nation.
  • Recent FCC decision allows radio broadcasters to provide HD Radio subscription services on an experimental basis. This allows HD Radio to compete not only for listening time, but also for subscription dollars.
  • HD Digital Radio Alliance—a consortium of broadcasters including Clear Channel Communications, CBS, and ABC Radio—the terrestrial radio industry has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to promoting this technology. 


Internet Radio:

  • 2006 Arbitron study found that weekly listenership is up 50% in one year, and now approaches 1-in-5 Americans among key demographic segments.
  • Internet radio broadcasts have no geographic limitations and can provide listeners with radio programming from around the country and the world.
  • Mobility coming soon. For example: Slacker will allow users to listen on a portable devices, including in their cars.
  • Various Internet radio offerings are already available on mobile phones, and Internet radio is expected to become widely available on portable devices, including car radios, by 2008. 


iPods and Other MP3 Players:

  • More than 116 million MP3 players have been sold.
  • A variety of accessories available to play MP3 players in cars, through the vehicle’s FM radio or tape deck.
  • Apple has teamed with Ford, General Motors, and Mazda to provide iPod integration in more than 70 percent of 2007-model US automobiles.


Mobile Phones:

  • Approximately 75 percent of all Americans currently own a mobile phone.
  • Several major carriers are now offering audio entertainment options (e.g., Sprint, AT&T, Verizon Wireless)
  • Approximately 23.5 million wireless subscribers currently own phones with integrated music players.
  • AT&T and Apple make the Apple iPhone available for sale this summer.


Adding to the above, there's a number of other companies have announced plans to deliver broadcast audio and video content through mobile phones and other wireless devices. Three companies - MediaFLO USA, HiWire, and Modeo - have acquired nationwide or near-nationwide spectrum to deliver audio/video content through existing wireless service providers and are in the process of implementing, testing, and launching service. A joint venture of Sprint and several cable companies is implementing a similar mobile entertainment platform.

Here's a key takeaway: products need not be identical, to be substitutable. If they are substitutable, then consumers have a choice.

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Karmazin: Merger will "allow us to lower prices"

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Mel Karmazin

Mel Karmazin's testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee today drove the concept that a combined Sirius-XM would offer "more choice, lower prices." It's a mantra that has been repeated time and time again.

But Karmazin pointed out that a purpose of the merger is to compete better against free radio, and so the goal is to provide better value for consumers. In other words, the combined company will actually lower prices.

"Consumers who want fewer channels than currently offered will be able to select one or more packages of channels for less than $12.95 per month," said Karmazin in his testimony. "These packages will include an attractive mix of music, news, informational, sports, children’s, and religious programming."

An encouraging statement for those skeptical of a merged satellite radio provider.

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Senate Hearing on Sirius-XM Merger Today

Yay government!The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on the Sirius-XM merger is set to kick off today at 10am ET. The list of witnesses includes:

  • Mel Karmazin
    Chief Executive Officer
    SIRIUS Satelite Radio
  • W. Russell Withers Jr.
    President
    Withers Broadcasting Companies
  • Gene Kimmelman
    Vice President for Federal and International Affairs
    Consumer Union
  • Gigi B. Sohn
    President and Co-Founder
    Public Knowledge
  • David Bank
    Managing Director-Equity Research
    RBC Capital Markets

A webcast should be available shortly (15 mins prior to the start of the hearing), or just come back later and read all about it here. 

Virginia Tech local coverage and reaction on XM

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Virginia Tech
As the country continues to reel in the aftermath of the devastating shooting yesterday at Virginia Tech - that left 32 people dead, along with the gunman, and at least 30 others injured - XM will provide a special local perspective starting this morning.

Beginning at 6am ET, XM Channel 120 will simulcast three stations from the Roanoke VA radio market which are the closest commercial stations to the campus in Blacksburg, VA. XM listeners will be able to hear News Talk WFIR, and music stations K92 and WXLK, as they follow this story and let the local community talk about the tragedy.     

Kevin Scott, PD of WXLK (K92)/Roanoke, has been on the air since yesterday afternoon and will continue today to take calls from his listeners.

"My A.M. show has been on the air since 2:00 p.m. this afternoon letting K92 listeners speak their minds and share their feelings," said Scott. "Some are very emotional... some are angry... most are in disbelief.

"Another reason for concern," Scott continued, "is that there are a lot of local parents of students that go to Tech that, for a while, could not get in touch with them because of the massive amount of calls coming in and going out off the VT campus. K92 is one of the biggest stations in Blacksburg, so this is a real tragedy that hits home for our listeners."

As of last night, only one of the Virginia Tech victims had been officially identified. This is the deadliest shooting rampage in American history, and comes nearly eight years to the day after 13 people died at the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado.

Simulcast coverage begins on XM Channel 120 this morning at 6am ET.
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Video: NAB - Say Anything, Do Anything

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Here's a video that was sent to me that I think everyone will find entertaining. It pretty much speaks for itself:

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NAB enlists two more hired guns

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NABLast week the NAB enlisted two more hired guns to battle for their cause: Philip M. Napoli and James Miller. Both offered their "assessment" of the Sirius-XM merger, and submitted their documents to Members of Congress and their staff.

Philip M. Napoli is a director of the Donald McGannon Communication Research Center at Fordham University, and James C. Miller is the former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission and former director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Both men with distinguished careers.

The letter (PDF) from James Miller is far less of interest. It's a short piece that simply involves Miller stating that "the merger of XM and Sirius would be contrary to the public interest." But it's hardly an detailed analysis, and looks like simply the hiring of a big gun to submit a letter.

Napoli's 8-page report (PDF) on the otherhand is far more detailed. Napoli examines the Sirius-XM merger according to three definitions: the "upstream" market, the 'downstream" market, and the "audience" market. Each point can probably be argued until we're blue in the face.

Even more interesting is that Napoli had previously testified in front of a Senate Committee about Media Ownership rules, back in October of 2003.

During his testimony, Napoli acknowledged that there's not yet enough evidence to demonstrate that the relaxed ownership rules will harm localism and diversity. Still, regardless of any evidence  (or lack thereof) stating otherwise, he stuck to his guns and concluded that, "For the public, the best outcome would be a policy that protects and promotes localism and diversity."

Now it's interesting that the NAB (of all groups) would hire someone who promotes the integrity of localism and diversity, while at the same time their members are pushing for more consolidation within local markets.

But hey, if I was a group that would say anything and do anything to stop a merger, I'd hire someone that may not support my own member's agendas as well.

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John Mayer on XM's Artist Confidential

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John Mayer
John Mayer dropped by Studio A at New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center to play live and take questions from a packed house for the latest XM "Artist Confidential" series. The show will air tonight (April 16th) at 9pm ET on XM Cafe (ch 45).

Mayer is an XM customer who actually once wrote an article (partial pay-wall, sorry) about listening to the 40s on 4 channel in Esquire magazine. Think that's cool? He also once stopped by (unannounced) on the Ron and Fez show to debut some of his new material. 

Plus, well, he dates Jessica Simpson. So that's just enough to counterbalance any complaints you might have about hearing "Daughters" for the hundredth freaking time. Full schedule available after the linkage below...

[XM Artist Confidential]

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Clear Channel outlines merger opposition to FCC Commissioner

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Clear ChannelClear Channel (CCU), by far one of the largest radio broadcasters in the country, has sent FCC Commissioner Deborah Tate several follow up responses from her meeting with the TAB.

According to the ex parte communication, Commissioner Tate questioned how Clear Channel can recognize and cite competition from other audio sources (iPods, Internet Radio, etc) as a reason for relaxing consolidation rules - while at the same time call the Sirius-XM merger a monopoly.

Conveniently, Clear Channel Vice President Thomas English gives three separate answers to this question. Here's a quick summary of his positions:

  1. A combined Sirius-XM would "distort" the marketplace because it would concentrate the spectrum, while local radio ownership rules would unfairly restrict terrestrial.
  2. How could free radio survive? Sirius-XM would have 100% spectrum, and local broadcasters can't compete against that.
  3. Free radio serves the public interest, and he opposes anything that would affect that regardless of how the market is defined.

It's funny to see Clear Channel actually positioning itself as "the little guy" in this endeavor, promoting "local radio" or claiming that free radio would have "trouble" surviving. Truly amusing. Especially on the heals of Clear Channel partnering with Google for ad distribution across 675 of its radio stations, and the industry as a whole pulls in over $20 billion (that's with a "b") a year.

Commissioner Tate has traditionally promoted less regulation in the evolving communications marketplace.

Testifying in February to the Senate Commerce Committee, Tate said, "XM and Sirius have signed up millions of satellite radio subscribers, and iPods and other digital music players are used by millions more, including one in five people under the age of 30; and our mobile phones now provide us with stock quotes and e-mail updates from sources across the globe. We must make sure that we account for these effects of the digital age, because, from a regulatory standpoint, the media marketplace of tomorrow is being shaped by our actions today."

[FCC Filing (PDF) via Public Integrity

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B-Real taking over Sirius Faction for "420"

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B Real on SiriusJoin B-Real - the hip-hop legend, famed cannabis aficionado, and of course founding member of Cypress Hill - as he takes total control of Sirius Faction (ch 28) on April 20th.

B-Real will light it up at 7pm ET in celebration of the annual "420" sub-culture holiday. Fun fact: the former Cypress Hill lead rapper has been convicted for possession of marijuana more than 50 times in California alone.

Now don't go getting all paranoid. If you miss the show next Friday (because you forgot), you'll still be able to catch the replay later that night on Saturday at 1am ET also on Sirius Faction.

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XM's Terry Young brings the "good ol' days" back to life

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Terry YoungTerry Young is the weekday afternoon DJ on XM's 60s on 6 channel (ch 6). He's also the creative force behind an XM show called "Sonic Sound Salutes," which airs on the same channel, every Friday from 4pm to 9pm ET.

Each show pays tribute to an influential radio station from the 60s. Terry "transforms" XM's 60s on 6 channel into that radio station just for the afternoon.

On "Sonic Sound Salutes," Terry plays the station IDs, radio jingles, and the real DJ airchecks from that era. When Terry opens his mic, he talks about the station, the local city, and what it was like living there in the 60s (he literally does a ton of research before the show including interviewing people who grew up there during the time). Terry also takes live phone calls from people who remember the station during its glory days.

"Sonic Sound Salutes" has generated a fair share of press for XM over the years (Young has been doing broadcasts since 2004). Like today's Buffalo News which waxes nostalgically about this afternoon's tribute to WKBW.

Even if you're too young to remember the 60s - like myself - you should listen to this show at least once. It's an incredible journey back to a golden age of terrestrial radio, an era (unfortunately) long behind us, and well worth the listen.

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Vote: Should Imus go to Satellite Radio?

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Imus, 66, was among the most recognizable voices on radio, and had an estimated salary of approximately $10 million a year. According to the New York Times, he recently signed a five-year contract extension.

So should he reach some sort of an arrangement with CBS Radio, should Imus make the move to XM or Sirius? Cast your vote below.

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Sirius-XM: DOJ Second Request explained

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XM and Sirius MergerYesterday both XM and Sirius reported in a SEC filing that the Department of Justice has issued a “Second Request”, under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act.

Reuters points out that antitrust authorities issue such a request if an initial review turns up potential antitrust problems. The Second Request requires that the companies to provide large amounts of information and is followed by a more in-depth investigation. 

While not necessarily a surprise, these Second Requests are not really typical. 

Bob Peck, analyst at Bear Stearns, wrote in a recent report that the DOJ/FTC use "significant restraint" in issuing these Second Requests.

"Between 1998 and 2005 ... the agencies issued second requests at an annual rate of between 2% and 4.1% of the total number of reportable transactions," wrote Peck, citing a FTC merger review announcement dated February 16, 2006.

"From 1998 to 2005, the annual percentage of second request investigations by the FTC that resulted in some type of enforcement action (that includes transactions that resulted in consent decree or restructuring as well as a very small percentage that were challenged) ranged from 44% to 78%," he added.

Sirius-XM said that they "intend to respond expeditiously to the Second Request."

"It doesn't surprise me at all. I didn't think anything was going to sail through on this merger. I would expect it to be as complicated as it can be," said David Bank, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets.

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Tennessee Association of Broadcasters met with FCC Commissioner

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TABThe Tennessee Association of Broadcasters (also known as... TAB) met with FCC Commissioner
Tate on April 6th. Guess what they wanted to talk about?

If you guessed the Sirius-XM merger, then you win a lollypop. According to an electronically filed letter to the FCC yesterday, executives from TAB, Clear Channel, The Crowmwell Group and South Central Communications discussed their concerns about the XM-Sirius merger and "its adverse impact on free radio and listeners."

In the same meeting, they discussed "the need for local radio ownership deregulation" with Commissioner Tate. (Isn't that ironic? Asking for deregulation and regulation at the same time?)

Read the full letter here. (PDF) 

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Imus fired by CBS Radio

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Imus fired
Well, we all saw the writing on the wall for this one. Don Imus was fired by CBS today.

"There has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society," CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves said in announcing the decision. "That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision."

Read the full statement here.

Note that the term "fired" is used a little loosely here. As far as I can tell, Imus' show has been "canceled" which means that CBS is still retaining, and probably paying, Imus for the meantime. But once his contractual obligations are over... well, welcome to satellite Imus.

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Competition: iRiver Clix Gen 2

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iRiver Clix

iRiver has released the second generation of their iRiver Clix digital audio player. This little guy isn't just cute, but has some muscle when it comes to audio.

First, there's the ultra-bright 2.2" AMOLED screen, 4GB of storage, support for digital music, video, and photos; oh and there's also a built-in FM tuner.

All for $200 (2GB version goes for $150). For another $50 you can get the FM-transmitter, letting you seamlessly integrate into your car. And since, according to TMF Associates (PDF), over 50% of iPod users have purchased vehicle-integration products, who wouldn't want that?

[Product Page via Engadget

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Sirius and Universal team up for Neil Young tribute

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Neil YoungSirius Canada and Universal Music Canada are teaming up to produce “Borrowed Tunes II” - a musical tribute to Canadian legend Neil Young - featuring Canadian musicians each contributing their own versions of their favorite Neil Young songs.

Artists joining in the tribute include: Barenaked Ladies, Emily Haines, Finger Eleven, Chantal Kreviazuk, Dallas Green, Hawksley Workman, Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace, Ron Sexsmith, Goldendogs, Quebec-based Dobacaracol, Jorane and many others.

Distributed by Universal Music in Canada, “Borrowed Tunes II” will be available at the end of the summer. Selected tracks from the “Borrowed Tunes II” recording will be featured on Sirius Canada’s Iceberg Radio (ch 95).

All proceeds from album sales will benefit two non-profit organizations selected by Neil Young: The Bridge School and Toronto-based Safehaven.

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Radio host (not Imus) fired for "nappy-headed ho" comment

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WSBGWSBG, Stroudsburg, Pa., morning radio host Gary Smith has been fired for using the same phrase that has put Imus in trouble.
 
Smith said "I’m a nappy-headed ho" as the "phrase that pays" on his April 10th "Gary in the Morning" show.

"He used the phrase with full knowledge of the reaction to Don Imus' use of the exact same phrase just a day earlier, which is the reason he was terminated and not suspended," said Nassau Broadcasting Senior VP and Market Area Manager Rick Musselman.

"Gary has done a tremendous amount of good in the community over the past 17 years as the morning voice of WSBG, but his comments yesterday crossed the line,” Musselman added.

[Radio and Records

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BREAKING: MSNBC drops Imus

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ImusMSNBC has just announced that it will drop its simulcast of the "Imus in the Morning" radio program, responding to growing outrage over the radio host's remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team.

"This decision comes as a result of an ongoing review process, which initially included the announcement of a suspension. It also takes into account many conversations with our own employees," NBC news said in a statement.

Remember that MSNBC still only simulcasts Imus' show. Imus broadcasts from WFAN-AM in New York City and is syndicated nationally by Westwood One, both of which are managed by CBS Corp.

Not for nothing, but you know he's going to get fired right? That's just my opinion, but this is a path that is very hard to turn back from.

[Yahoo! News

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The Imus situation is intensifying

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ImusIt looks like Imus isn't out of hotwater, in fact it looks like it's just getting hotter.

General Motors and Sprint Nextel have suspended advertising on Don Imus' show, joining Staples, Procter & Gamble. and Bigelow Tea. If those A-list names aren't bad enough, add American Express to the list.

"This is a very fluid situation, and we'll just continue to monitor it as it goes forward when he returns to the air," said a GM spokeswoman, adding that GM would continue to support Imus' charitable efforts.

Meanwhile, the former head of the NAACP and a director of CBS Corp, Bruce Gordon, has called for Imus' firing.

"As an African-American, I believe that Imus has crossed the line, a very bright line that divides our country," said Gordon. "His remarks are so significant that I believe that the right outcome is for him to be terminated."

So with the swarm of controversy swarming around, The Motley Fool asks "What if Imus was on Satellite Radio?" The Fool notes that satellite shock-jocks Howard Stern and Opie & Anthony wouldn't endure the same level of criticism that Imus has. They also call this the end of terrestrial radio as we know it.

Stern and O&A have both had their terrestrial radio offenses, but satellite not only allows for adult language, but for "the opportunity to expand and experiment before a receptive audience of subscribers."

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Fourth Capitol Hill hearing on Sirius-XM merger scheduled

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Capitol HillThe U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will be holding a hearing on the Sirius-XM merger.

With the intriguing title of "XM Sirius" the hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, April 17, 2007 at 10am in room SR - 253. A webcast of the hearing will be announced soon.

No witnesses are available yet, but this is listed as a "Full Committee" hearing. The committee is chaired by Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) being the Vice Chairman. Committee members includes Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) among others.

This will be the fourth Capitol Hill hearing on the Sirius-XM merger.

[XM Sirius Hearing

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Sirius now standard for select VW models in Canada

Volkswagon Touareg 2
Volkswagen will now be offering Sirius Satellite Radio as standard-equipment in 2 of their new vehicle models in Canada.

The new 2008 Touareg 2 (pictured) and the special edition Triple White New Beetle Convertible (not pictured) will be featuring Sirius as standard equipment. Both were unveiled at the 2007 Vancouver Auto Show as part of VW's North American premiere.

The factory-installed Sirius receivers are bundled with a 3-month subscription.

With the addition of the new Touareg and New Beetle Convertible Triple White, a total of 7 VW models (including the Rabbit, Jetta, New Beetle, New Beetle Convertible, Passat Sedan, and Passat Wagon) are now available with Sirius Satellite Radio in Canada.

Washington Post on the TMF Report

Sirius and XMThe Washington Post has picked up on the recent TMF report that criticized the Carmel Group limited view of the audio entertainment market.

"The FCC and DOJ aren't in the business of looking into some crystal ball and predicting some technology in the future," said Jimmy Shaeffler of the Carmel Group. "Somewhere down the line, maybe 5 years, 7 years or more, XM and Sirius can come back to this argument and possibly prevail."

"My view is that the criticism . . . doesn't jibe with the reality of the market," Farrar said, noting that almost 50 percent of iPod users have purchased accessories to allow for in-car playback.

One important thing that the Washington Post has highlighted (and something that I neglected) is that TMF Associates did not take a position for or against the merger - but rather said that consumers have choices, including not to subscribe to satellite radio at all.

[Washington Post

Randolph J. May on Satellite Radio Competition

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Sirius + XMRandolph J. May published a post that I've just read in disbelief. It's really a compelling argument for the Sirius-XM merger, in defining the market, and in explaining how this merger would actually lead to innovation.

Now, before those who are against the merger tune out, understand that Mr. May is a former Assistant General Counsel and Associate General Counsel at the FCC, as well as the current President of The Free State Foundation. May has also held numerous leadership positions in bar associations, and is a past Chair of the American Bar Association's Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice. Mr. May also served as Public Member of the Administrative Conference of the United States.

Yeah, he's no slouch.

Now, May points out that the FCC's 2006 report on video competition determined that "the market for the delivery of video programming services is served by a number of operators using a wide range of distribution technologies." The FCC's competitive examination included: cable operators, direct broadcast satellite operators, broadband service providers and other wireline video providers, wireless cable operators, Internet-based video services, and DVDs and videocassettes.

"It would be difficult to understand why, in assessing competition in the audio market, the full range of distribution technologies similarly would not be considered," May writes.

May continues to argue that the mere fact that XM and Sirius are operating on a government-licensed spectrum doesn't make them a separate and distinct market.

"Terrestrial radio and television broadcasters use spectrum too. So do DBS operators and wireless cable operators. Even cable and other multichannel video operators often use spectrum," says May. "The use of different spectrum blocks does not mean that these various forms of media do not compete with each other."

The thought that May is arguing, and one that I've said for years - though, maybe not so eloquently - is that distribution method doesn't matter anymore. The technology behind the media doesn't matter anymore. The methods of delivery are evolving just too quickly to simply "define" them. It's the application of the media, and whether there are alternatives to that application, that defines the competitive market.

I could essentially quote every sentence that Mr. May wrote, but I'm just not sure if I'm doing it any justice. Read it for yourself. Trust me, it's well worth it.

[The Free State Foundation]
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XM Executives reach compensation agreement

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XM Satellite Radio has disclosed in a recent SEC filing that their "Compensation Committee" has amended the employment contracts of XM's top brass.

Rather than read the SEC filing (which, like many filings, is deathly boring), I've done all the work for you. So here's some easy-to-consume bullet points to help you on your way:

  • XM Chairman Gary Parsons gets an increase in salary from $475,000 to $525,000.
  • XM CEO Hugh Panero gets an increase in salary from $650,000 to $700,000
  • XM President and COO Nate Davis gets... no raise. (sorry man)
  • Other Executive Officers get a lump sum payment of two-times their base salary if terminated.

The rest is essentially legal ramblings defining terminology and explaining in ponderous detail the length of everyone's term. If any lawyers who are reading this can find a nugget of joy amid the legal madness, feel free to comment.

[SEC Filing

(Side note, all this merger talk is frying my brain. Can we bring the fun back?)

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NHL Play-Off Action on XM Satellite Radio

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XMEvery National Hockey League play-off game will air on XM Satellite Radio across the continental U.S. and Canada starting with the first-round games on Wednesday (hey wait, that's tomorrow), April 11th.

You hockey fans can tune into every game from the opening round to the Stanley Cup final live on XM channels 204 to 209. On top of XM's NHL game coverage, XM also airs their 24-hour hockey talk radio channel Home Ice (ch 204).

Hockey legend Phil Esposito hosts the Home Ice show "In the Slot" with Jim Tatti every weekday from 4pm to 7pm ET. Esposito's annual Espo Awards are being announced on Tuesday (hey wait, that's today), April 10th, from 4pm to 7pm ET (hey wait, that's right now, crap!). Espo Awards Categories include Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year, Goal of the Year, Toughest Player, and even Most Difficult Name to Pronounce.

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Sirius Q1 2007 Earnings Call: May 1st

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Sirius Satellite Radio has scheduled their earnings call for Tuesday, May 1 at 8am ET to announce and discuss their first quarter 2007 financial results.

Audio To listen to the conference call, you can listen to the webcast here, or tune in on Sirius Channel 122.

(As usual, for those who are not able to listen in, I'll be live-blogging both the XMSR and SIRI conference calls - you can just check here for updates. But you knew that already.) 

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New Sirius show: YO On E!

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Michael YoSirius has launched a new live radio call-in show hosted by star Miami DJ Michael Yo, fittingly entitled "YO on E!"

Host Michael Yo, formerly of Y100 in Miami, will interact heavily with listeners through calls, e-mails and text messages to discuss the day's entertainment news on the three-hour live show. Celebrity guests will also join in the festivities, both in-studio and on the phone, while E! personalities will be special guests throughout the week.

The fast-paced, interactive and slightly ridiculous show launched on Monday and broadcasts live from E!'s Los Angeles studios Monday - Friday from 4pm - 7pm ET on Sirius' E! Entertainment Radio (ch 107).

Replays air on Saturday and Sunday at 11am ET.
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Satellite Firm blasts Carmel Group whitepaper

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TMF Associates vs Carmel GroupSatellite services consulting firm Telecom, Media and Finance Associates, Inc. (TMF Associates) has come out against the NAB-backed Carmel Group whitepaper.

TMF analyzed the positions taken by Carmel Group and concluded that this white paper "ludicrously overstates the case for opposing the merger of XM and Sirius and fundamentally misinterprets the competitive environment for satellite radio."

Note that TMF Associates performed this study independent of Sirius or XM, and was not commissioned by any related parties. TMF goes to great lengths to ensure that they have no financial interest in the final outcome of the proposed merger.

"Satellite radio is essentially a car-based audio service at present, so the primary alternative for consumers is free-to-air AM and FM radio, supplemented by the playback of pre-recorded music such as CDs," Tim Farrar wrote in the note.

"Carmel Group's assertion that MP3 players are not even relevant to today's in-car audio market is quite simply bizarre," he added.

The TMF study brings up some very interesting concepts, aside from lambasting the Carmel Group's "findings" in their whitepaper. (Note to Tim, you should expect a nasty email from Jimmy Schaeffler shortly - I received one on Friday.) TMF brings up a scenario of a "common technical standard" for satellite radio as being a result of the merger - allowing for spectrum to be allocated for use by new entrants to the market (or even by broadcast services for cellular networks).

I'm glad to see other groups standing up to the NAB's propaganda attempts. And on top of that, Farrar actually brings some intriguing concepts to the table with this report. Great job, and highly recommended reading.

[Read the TMF Associates Report (PDF)]

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News Bits for 04-10-2007

Sansa ConnectHere's a few items of note that I missed yesterday:

  • Apple sells 100 millionth iPod (ahh yes, quite the burgeoning technology) [Engadget]
  • Silicon Valley VCs eyeing the upcoming 700Mhz spectrum (one possible use? "software-defined radio") [New York Times]
  • WiMAX is coming, and music labels want in [Gizmodo]
  • The Sansa Connect MP3/Internet radio player is now shipping, is it a new face for radio? (you betcha) [Hear 2.0]
  • FCC Chief avoids mistakes of his predecessor... he's transparent. [LA Times]
  • Microsoft says they too will offer DRM-free music [FMQB]

MSNBC, CBS Radio suspend Imus

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Don Imus on Rev Al Sharpton's showCBS Radio and MSNBC have both said they are suspending Don Imus for two weeks after his reference of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.”

While CBS Radio issued the suspension without a statement, MSNBC said "our future relationship with Imus is contingent on his ability to live up to his word."

The suspension begins next Monday so as to air the previously scheduled Imus radiothon in support of the Tomorrow's Children's Fund, the CJ Foundation for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome research and the Imus Ranch planned for Thursday and Friday.

Imus continued to apologize on his show as well as on the Reverand Al Sharpton's own radio show, who also continues to call of Imus' firing.

So what's your feelings on this? Do you think Imus deserves to be fired? And if that does happen, should XM or Sirius offer him a job? 

[MSNBC]

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XM Q1 2007 Earnings Call: April 26th

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XM Satellite Radio has scheduled their earnings call for Thursday, April 26 at 10am ET to announce and discuss their first quarter 2007 financial results.

To listen to the conference call via phone, call: (877) 265-5808 or try the local call-in number: (706) 679-7931 with Conference ID#: 5409333.

Audio Or tune into the XM earnings call webcast here. (4/26 @ 10am ET)

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Slacker CEO profiled in USA Today

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Slacker CEO Dennis Mudd
Slacker CEO Dennis Mudd was profiled in USA Today, illustrating the history of his roots at MusicMatch (of which he and his founded, and eventually sold off to Yahoo).

It's an interesting look at this "dreamer" who is making some very large steps into bringing Internet radio for on-the-go use and into your car.

One interesting thing to note: Slacker apparently signed contracts with Sony/BMG and Universal Music, has an agreement in principle with Warner and is negotiating with EMI. So they won't be facing the same RIAA "scrutiny" that XM's Inno/Helix is experiencing.

[USA Today

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New XM Marketing Campaign: "Call Stars"

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XM Call Stars
I've always felt that XM never did enough when it came to promoting MLB, but recently it seems that things are turning around. They did some great on-site promotions at last year's World Series (and around the same time featured a baseball themed commercial). Then recently they've launched another sports-themed TV spot with some versions highlighting their baseball coverage.

And now they've launched a great viral campaign entitled "Call Stars."

Essentially you pick one of three Major League Baseball players and go through some steps for personalization, and you can have a custom message sent to a friend (or enemy) from your selected player. So Derek Jeter, David Ortiz or Cal Ripkin Jr can each call your friend (Ortiz can call in either English or Spanish). My personal favorite is Ortiz, but they're pretty hilarious - especially to baseball fans. You might have seen a similar campaign for the "Snakes on a Plane" movie. I had the opportunity to preview Call Stars last week, and it's only gotten better since.

One neat thing to point out: the custom voice message can be sent either by phone, by AOL Instant Messenger, or via Email. If you elect the phone message, it'll only call during daytime hours so your buddy doesn't get a call from Derek Jeter at 3am in the morning.

Definitely worth checking out. Go play with Call Stars here

5 Comments

XM drops Arbitron for OTX

| 2 Comments

ArbitronXM Satellite Radio is dropping Arbitron in favor of Online Testing Exchange (OTX), a Culver City, California based online research firm. Arbitron had provided XM with custom studies of its audience estimates since 2002.

In a statement, XM said, "We had a very good relationship with Arbitron, but XM is a highly specialized media vehicle, and Arbitron's methodology didn't adequately reflect that. After years of trying to work with its methodology, it was still not accepted by most agencies and clients. The feedback we have received from our clients on OTX's online methodology has been phenomenal and, based on one year's worth of side-by-side testing, it better represents our subscribers' listening habits."

Arbitron's methodology was based on telephone interviews with XM subscribers. OTX will provide XM with reports every four months, compared to Arbitron, who only provided reports every six months.

OTX will also provide audience estimates by channel and by daypart. “We also wanted to know how many additional listeners we had besides the primary subscribers,” said Eric Logan, executive vp of programming for XM. “The type of things we asked Arbitron to do became cost prohibitive for both companies.”

[MediaWeek

2 Comments

Gregg Allman hosts "Offstage" on XM

| 2 Comments
Gregg AllmanGregg Allman, the founding member of the The Allman Brothers Band, will be hosting a special "Offstage" feature this week on XM. The celebrated singer/guitarist actually recorded the unedited radio show from his home in the woods of Georgia.

"Offstage: Gregg Allman" features songs that trace the roots of Allman's career - combined with his personal stories about his upbringing, his early exposure to R&B and other tales illustrating his long artistic journey.

Allman selected songs for his show that offer an inspired look into his musical genius, including: Ruby and the Romantics’ “Our Day Will Come”; “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” by Otis Redding; “ Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top; B.B. King’s “Sweet Little Angel”; and Honeytribe’s “Torch.”

"Offstage: Gregg Allman" will air on XM, this Monday, April 9th at 10am ET. Replays will air throughout the week, check here for full schedule and channel details.
2 Comments

Analysts: NAB "sneaky" lobbying could backfire

| 1 Comment

Satellite RadioLooks like all the ruckus the NAB is making over the Sirius-XM merger is raising awareness of exactly who the competition really is. And its rapid-fire lobbying could end up backfiring according to one analyst.

The "sneaky" lobbying efforts by the NAB "highlights that terrestrial radio may be considered competition by the Department of Justice," wrote Kit Spring analyst at Stifel Nicolas. 

In the past few weeks, groups such as the Carmel Group, the C3SR, and the Alabama House of Representatives, all have shown to be supported by the NAB.

"It is our understanding that all of the parties are supported by, or have members of, the National Association of Broadcasters. Thus, such reports have conflicts of interest. We also read each of them except for the Carmel Group and found them to be filled with omissions and logical flaws. In our view, such lobbying efforts by the NAB point to the likelihood that terrestrial radio is competition for satellite radio," wrote Kit in a recent report.

"While there was healthy skepticism by congressman at hearings, there did not seem to be outrage. Nor has there been consumer uproar," Spring wrote. 

[MediaWeek

1 Comment

Two Can Play: Mock ad showing NAB flip-flops

| 17 Comments

I figured that since the NAB can create anti-merger ads, I can just as well create my own pseudo-ad showing the NAB's inconsistencies. So here goes:

NAB quotes on competition

 

17 Comments

Online Petition for the Sirius-XM Merger

| 14 Comments

Satellite Radio Petition
There's an online petition to members of Congress, the FCC, and other governmental units, in favor of the Sirius-XM merger. 

Right now there's 228 signatures, but just as you can submit a comment to the FCC, this is another way for your voice to be heard (that is, if you're in favor of the merger). One thing that I really like about this petition is that it directly addresses the fact that the government is being heavily lobbied by the NAB.

The best way for us to combat the NAB's relentless efforts against the satellite radio industry, is through the shear force of our numbers.

If you support this merger, voice your support. Remaining silent will help no one.

View the online petition here.

14 Comments

What the Blogosphere is saying about The Carmel Group

| 1 Comment

It's interesting to see the blogosphere's reaction to stories like this, so here's a snapshot from Technorati for the last 30 days:

Technorati Chart

The numbers speak volumes, but the powerful response from bloggers is even more compelling. Here's a few quotable quotes I think are worthy of being highlighted:

  • "Rather than competing in the marketplace, they [the NAB] use political influence and shady PR tactics to try and hamstring upstarts and rivals. It's preposterous that a group like the NAB can act like it's this great consumer watchdog that wants to promote competition in the marketplace when its very actions make it clear that the last thing it wants to do itself is compete." [Techdirt]

  • "...so many of the 'independent' actions look more like NAB-funded FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) when examined more closely." [Arstechnica]

  • "...it seems the very consulting firm that scoffs at the notion that satellite radio competes with regular radio, mp3's, etc. is quoted in an earlier statement saying exactly the opposite." [Hear 2.0]
I think it's time to go on the offensive...
1 Comment

Study shows Mobile Audio market "a major growth opportunity"

| 1 Comment
Mobiradio InterfaceArbitron and research provider Telephia have released a new study on the mobile audio market - that is audio entertainment provided for mobile phone users - and found that it is a major growth opportunity for terrestrial radio providers.

According to the study, 6% of mobile phone subscribers have used one or more audio features in the last 30 days. Over-the-air song downloading has the largest awareness, followed by subscription-based streaming radio and FM radio reception on cell phones.

Interestingly, the majority of these mobile audio users believe that commercials "are a fair price to pay" for free content on their phones. Over 75% of those surveyed who download content to their phones and listen to FM radio agreed they would be open to commercials.

Do you think terrestrial radio programmers are looking closely at this market? You bet they are.

"Most current mobile audio users prefer the ad-supported model over paying a subscription fee. And this group is a very attractive demographic for advertisers to target as it’s comprised mainly of affluent, tech-savvy early adopters." said Wayman Leung, senior product manager for Telephia.

"For broadcasters looking to expand their platforms beyond terrestrial radio, mobile audio represents an untapped marketplace that they can exploit in partnership with mobile phone networks,” said Neal Bonner, Arbitron product development manager. "Radio broadcasters are uniquely positioned to deliver programming for these promising new audio services."

So, when a major terrestrial radio company like Clear Channel, partners with mSpot - a mobile audio provider with over 1 million subscribers - do you think that constitutes a "nationwide multichannel mobile audio service"? You bet it does.

[FMQB]
[Download The Mobile Audio Media Study (PDF)]
1 Comment

Gary Parsons profiled in Wall Street Journal

| 2 Comments

Gary ParsonsToday's Wall Street Journal featured an in depth profile on XM Satellite Radio Chairman Gary Parsons. It's really a great read, especially for those who may not be familiar with Gary Parsons' background.

Favorite quote by Parsons:
"Satellite radio has been enormously successful for almost everybody involved -- consumers, the government got what they wanted out of it, programmers, car companies -- except for shareholders," he says. "I'm not going to rest until they're successful too."

It's a wonderfully transparent statement (and a necessary one).

[Wall Street Journal]
Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

2 Comments

Orbitcast vs Carmel Group in New York Post

| 7 Comments

Hello. I'm a satellite.Looks like the media is picking up on the inconsistencies in The Carmel Group's analysis. The New York Post, who incidentally had the exclusive on the Carmel Group anti-merger study, features a quick follow up article highlighting my "Busted" post.

As always with media interviews, only a snippet of the conversation makes it to print, but the quote Peter used I think effectively sums up my feelings on the situation. Of course Jimmy Schaeffler is going to defend his position, but I think the message was conveyed effectively.

One thing I want to point out:
I have no problem with research companies changing their position. It happens all the time because the marketplace evolves (hmm). But the fact that he used such harsh wording like "this position is ludicrous" in his report, without any acknowledgment that he took that exact position himself in an earlier, non-commissioned article - that's really what irks me.

Anyway, check out the NY Post article, it's a quicky but pretty cool to see the word is getting out about this. 

[New York Post

7 Comments

Audi offering Sirius standard on select models

| 1 Comment
Audi R8
And another standard-equipment announcement crosses the wires. This time from Audi, who will be offering Sirius Satellite Radio as standard-equipment in key 2008 model year Audi vehicles.

Audi will offer Sirius - again, as standard equipment (they KEY to growth) - in all 2008 model year S4, RS 4, A6, A8, and R8 models, as well as the Audi Q7 3.6 Premium, 4.2, and 4.2 Premium models, available at dealers later this year.

Included in that list, and pictured above, is the all-new (and badass) Audi R8. The R8 is the first mid-engine sports car Audi has ever produced.

Rockin' out with a 420 hp V8 4.2L FSI engine and rear-biased Quattro all-wheel drive system, the R8 can go zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and has a top speed of 187 mph. Yep, the fastest Audi ever produced will include Sirius standard.
1 Comment

Sirius now a factory option on every 2008 Mitsubishi (but wait, there's more)

| 1 Comment
2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder
Mitsubishi will offer Sirius Satellite Radio as a standard feature on the new 2008 Eclipse Spyder, which is going on sale starting in April.

Mitsubishi is also extending the factory availability of Sirius to the entire 2008 model year lineup of Mitsubishi vehicles. Sirius earlier last year signed with Mitsubishi to be standard-equipment for their 2007 model year vehicles.

Sirius will be packaged with the premium audio system on the 2008 Galant, Raider, Endeavor, Outlander, Lancer, Eclipse and Lancer Evolution. But for the new Eclipse Spyder - Sirius comes standard.

All Mitsubishi vehicles with Sirius installed include a complimentary six months of Sirius service.
1 Comment

XM launching special channel for Larry King

| 8 Comments
Larry KingXM is dedicating a special channel in honor of Larry King and in celebration of his 50th anniversary in broadcasting.

The new channel, "LARRY! A Celebration of Larry King's 50 Years in Broadcasting" (ch 130), will air over the course of five days, starting at 12-midnight ET, April 16th through April 20th.

"LARRY!" (ch 130) will air content spanning Larry King's earlier broadcasting years on Miami's WIOD radio station and his recent work as host of "Larry King LIVE!" on CNN. Highlights include some of his most memorable interviews with celebrities and newsmakers, such as Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason, Johnny Cash, Oprah Winfrey, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Gregory Peck, Richard Nixon, Larry Flynt and many others.

"LARRY!" will also feature live broadcasts of CNN's special anniversary week, including brand new Larry King interviews with Oprah Winfrey and Bill Clinton, an interview with Larry King hosted by Katie Couric, a tribute to King hosted by Bill Maher and the two-hour special presentation, "CNN Presents: Larry King - 50 Years of Pop Culture." This special anniversary week will also be available to XM subscribers through the CNN feed (ch 122).

XM also will air an exclusive interview with Larry King hosted by Bob Edwards and recorded during King's daily breakfast ritual at Los Angeles' famous Nate n' Al's Deli. The interview will premiere on Monday, April 16th at 8am ET on "The Bob Edwards Show," on XM Public Radio (ch 133) with additional encores features throughout the day as well as on the "LARRY!" channel.

[LARRY! A Celebration of Larry King's 50 Years in Broadcasting]
8 Comments

Hyundai expands XM standard install: Adds Veracruz and upcoming Premium Sports Sedan

| 1 Comment
Hyundai Veracruz
The XM and Hyundai relationship is running strong, as Hyundai has just announced that they're continuing the expansion of XM as a standard feature across their entire vehicle lineup.

XM is already standard on every single 2007 Azera, Elantra, Santa Fe and Sonata. And now XM will be included standard in the all-new Veracruz crossover vehicle (which is on sale now).

Hyundai Genesis Concept vehicle
Currently not on sale, but arguably more cool (at least for gearheads) is that XM will be a standard factory-installed feature in Hyundai's upcoming premium sports sedan - tentatively named the Genesis. A concept of the Genesis sports sedan was revealed today at the New York International Auto Show.

The Genesis concept car heralds the future architecture and design of Hyundai's first rear-wheel drive premium sports sedan. This premium sports sedan will feature a 4.6-liter V8 rocking "well over" 300 horsepower, but with more torsional rigidity and a lower body weight than the BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. All for under $30,000, and scheduled to grace the Hyundai lineup in 2008.

Want to guess which segment this car is targeting?
1 Comment

Sirius + XM Merger: Let your voice be heard (for real)

| 20 Comments

XM + Sirius MergerMany of us have strong opinions on the XM-Sirius Merger, whether it's for or against it. Regardless on what side of the fence you're on, I think everyone wants to have the opportunity to let your opinion be heard.

If you're a regular reader here, you're probably more educated about these companies than anyone else. Your opinion weighs on considerations that the average person just has no clue about. And so it's your opinion that counts the most.

So do something about it!

Go to the FCC's Electronic Comment Submission form, and simply enter in "07-57" in the Proceeding box (upper-left). The rest is pretty self explanatory. Your comment will be sent directly to the FCC and put on file for consideration of the merger.

This is your chance to truly make your opinion count - again, regardless if you oppose the merger or are in favor of the merger. So get in there and submit a comment to the FCC. You'll feel warm and fuzzy inside afterwards.

20 Comments

XM now a standard feature on the Lexus LX 570

Lexus LX 570
And the hits just keep on coming! XM Satellite Radio and XM NavTraffic capability will be standard factory-installed features on the all-new Lexus LX 570.

The LX 570 is the second Lexus vehicle with XM NavTraffic capability as a standard feature, the first being the Lexus LS 460 L luxury sedan. Right now XM Radio and XM NavTraffic are available factory-installed in the 2007 LS 460 in its navigation packages.

Later this year, Lexus will provide XM as standard factory-installed equipment in the new LS 600h L luxury hybrid sedan. This was actually announced last year at NYIAS.

All LS and LX models with factory-installed XM come standard with a 90-day trial subscription.

XM now standard on every 2008 Infiniti

| 1 Comment

Infiniti G37
XM Satellite Radio will now be a standard factory-installed feature on every single 2008 Infiniti model, including the G, M, FX and QX.

Infiniti is part of Nissan Motor Company, who announced a factory-installed partnership with XM back in 2005.

XM NavTraffic also will now be a standard, factory-installed feature on the 2008 Infiniti QX full size SUV. Infiniti will also expand the availability of XM NavTraffic in their 2008 model year vehicles.

The new 2008 G37 Coupe (pictured) will make XM NavTraffic available as part of its navigation service, and will obviously also feature standard XM.

I have to say that I'm loving these new standard-feature announcements. It's great to be factory-installed, but standard is the real force behind mass market adoption.

1 Comment

Busted: Carmel Group has already defined Satellite Radio's competitors

| 15 Comments

XM and Sirius Merger
In the recent Carmel Group study, Senior Analyst and Chairman Jimmy Schaeffler writes an analysis about the proposed XM-Sirius merger, and drafts point-by-point blows combating each argument in favor of the merger.

One key aspect that Schaeffler argues against is the definition of the competitive landscape. Here's a quote from the Carmel Group report:

"Sirius and XM make an argument that is critical to the success of this proposed merger. They state that their competitive landscape presently includes all forms of terrestrial radio (i.e., analog AM and FM, digital HD and Internet radio), as well as digital services such as MP3 devices and music-to-cellular telephones. This position is ludicrous. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth."

Note that I added the emphasis on the "ludicrous" statement. That's something that the media is picking up on very heavily.

But exactly how ludicrous is this position? Exactly how far from the truth could it be? Not too far I guess, because Jimmy Schaeffler took that position himself in a Carmel Group article written in October 05, 2005:

"...satellite radio, with more than seven mil. subscribers, and its competition comes in the form of traditional analog AM & FM radio, as well as burgeoning services like MP3 players, terrestrial radio, and video- and Internet-to-the-vehicle. "

Now that's not a selectively snipped quote. Read the full article yourself - it goes on to outline and describe satellite radio's competition, and what obstacles they will face in the years to come.

This is an article that was written (free of any funding from the NAB) only a year and a half ago by The Carmel Group, and it explicitly defines satellite radio's competitors. But yet an NAB commissioned report by the same group suddenly claims that any such definition is "ludicrous."

Coincidence?

15 Comments

A fascinating look at (re)designing XM's packaging

XM Packaging (Roughs)

Have you ever wondered how the hell they crammed all that gear into the package when you bought a new satellite radio? I've opened a fair share of units myself and (sadly) have had to put them back together to ship back after a review (sometimes not very successfully) - so it always sparks my curiosity as to the actual design behind the packaging itself.

Well, the folks over at .think have written a highly detailed explanation behind the process of designing XM's new retail packaging - from concept, all the way through to the final product.

XM Packaging (Finished Product) 

If you're even remotely interested in how this is done (it truly is an artform), this will be well worth the read.

[.think

Reader letters: Editorial: Merger? Two Words: Get Real

| 12 Comments

An editorial piece against the Sirius-XM merger spurred an Orbitcast reader to send in a letter in response. I liked what he said so much, that I'm posting it (yes, with permission).

From: Lee Tabor <reefshark1975@yahoo.com>
To: pmclane@imaspub.com
Sent: Sunday, April 1, 2007 10:51:24 AM
Subject: Editorial: Merger? Two Words: Get Real

Here is my take,
I am a subscriber XM Radio. I love it. If it is true that allowing XM and Sirius to merge would truly be a monopoly, then why is the National Association of Broadcasters complaining so vociferously?
I'll tell you why. It is because the true competition of satellite radio is terrestrial radio. If it weren't the case, then why is the NAB complaining so much.
I don't hear automakers complaining; that is because they don't compete with satellite radio.
I don't hear cigarrette manufacturers complaining; that is because they don't compete with satellite radio.
I don't hear Wal-Mart complaining; that is because they don't compete with satellite radio.
You should be honest, because it is too easy to see through your logic. You and the NAB have no interest in what is best for anyone outside of yourselves, yet you claim you have the best interest of all Americans at heart. Be aware that we are not as stupid as you take us for, and we know what we want. If free terrestrial radio is so good, and so good for America, then why is it that 15 million of us are willing to pay for what we could have for free. It is because terrestrial radio sucks, and it is clear that you are terrified of satellite radio, because it truly is your competition.
My name is Lee Tabor, and I build houses for a living. I live in Victorville, California, and I'll take you on anytime.

12 Comments

XM Canada signs content deal with Rogers Communications

| 1 Comment

Rogers and XM Canada partnerXM Canada and Rogers Communications have inked a deal to provide XM Canada content across the Rogers Wireless, Cable and Internet platforms. Remember, the CRTC gave Rogers the ok to provide satellite radio services to their customers late last year.

The new Rogers-XM Canada service launched this week as part of the Rogers Vision package which provides the incredible ability for wireless video calling as well as YouTube, ET Canada, CSI, CNN and Mobile Television.

Along with all these services, Rogers is offering customers up to 25 channels of XM music, comedy, sports, entertainment and talk programming.

"This is an incredible opportunity to expand the reach of satellite radio," said John Bitove, Chairman and CEO of XM Canada. "With Rogers products available throughout Canada, we will now reach more Canadians than ever before, and this agreement provides us new avenues for awareness and revenue growth."

This is a pretty significant development, and its good to see that XM Canada is getting their foot in the door for these mobile wireless services. These are media companies, and they should be doing everything they can to get that media heard as much as possible.

[Broadcaster Magazine

1 Comment

Sirius, XM respond to Carmel Group study

| 2 Comments

Sirius and XMIn response to the Carmel Group study released today, Sirius and XM have both issued the following statements.

This one comes from Sirius (via FMQB):

"The NAB and its members say one thing when they try to block the Sirius-XM merger but something entirely different when David Rehr speaks to the National Press Club, Clear Channel speaks to its investors, or the HD Radio Alliance boasts about its advantages on its Web site.

Broadcasters will do and say anything to block the merger because it will increase competition to terrestrial radio and all one needs to do to see the proof of that is to look at what broadcasters said about competition before the merger was announced."

Separately, I received the following statement on behalf of both XM and Sirius:

"NAB opposed the creation of satellite radio fearing that it would compete with terrestrial radio, so it’s no surprise that it's producing biased 'studies' hostile to the SIRIUS-XM merger by NAB-paid consultants."

...I think it's time to go on the offensive. 

2 Comments

XM and Wal-Mart join up to benefit Children’s Miracle Network

XM Kids Traveling Roadshow
XM Satellite Radio and Wal-Mart have teamed up to create the "XM Kids Traveling Roadshow" - a cross-country initiative to raise $10 million in 30-days for the Children’s Miracle Network.

The XM Kids Traveling Roadshow will kick-off on April 30th in Los Angeles, with XM Kids visiting local Children’s Miracle Network hospitals and hosting events at local Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores nationwide before ending the tour in Washington, DC on May 19th.

The entire on-air team from XM Kids (ch 116) will broadcast live from the "Balloon Bus" for 20 days. Live performances from premier recording artists for young people will air on XM Kids Saturdays from 10am – 2pm ET. The first XM Kids broadcast and live concert will be in Los Angeles on Monday, April 30th with a performance by Paulie Litt, Laughing Pizza, Rhythm Child and Meredith Brooks.

You can track the bus and find out about the events at xmradio.com/roadshow. Not only will you hear live performances every Saturday, but broadcasts from the XM Kids Traveling Roadshow in local Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores can be heard Monday through Friday from 3pm -7pm ET.

At every stop, the tour will encourage parents and kids to purchase a paper Miracle Balloon at Wal-Mart to help their local Children’s Miracle Network hospital. The Children’s Miracle Network a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children at hospitals across North America. Since 1987, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc has raised more than $388 million in support of the Children’s Miracle Network.

View the complete schedule of stops on the XM Kids Traveling Roadshow after the jump...

New XM sports themed TV commercial

| 16 Comments

Check out this new TV spot by XM. One thing I like about it is while it's generally sports-themed, XM gives special attention to baseball specifically (as they should). So they're appealing to all sports fans, but targeting the MLB fan. Nice.

This TV commercial is currently running during MLB games on Fox, ESPN, and DirecTV, as well as ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" and other sports programs.

I dig it. 

16 Comments

Carmel Group Whitepaper released

| 17 Comments

The Carmel Group whitepaper (PDF) has been released outlining their opposition of the XM-Sirius merger. Again, note that the NAB has commissioned this report (so some of the wording may read familiar).

Below is the famous Ping-Pong Chart that they're hoping will be the smoking gun for this merger:
Carmel Group Ping Pong Chart

17 Comments

Anti-merger study released by Carmel Group

| 5 Comments

Anti-Satellite Radio StudyThe Carmel Group, a self-proclaimed influential research firm, has released a study exclusively to the New York Post countering the XM-Sirius merger.

A key highlight of the study is the so-called "ping-pong chart" illustrating historically XM's and Sirius' competitive reactions to each other. The Carmel Group created a similar chart for the EchoStar-DirecTV merger, which they themselves cite as being a significant deciding factor for rejecting that merger (sadly the FCC says nothing of it).

The Post cites one example, where the chart notes that in December 2002, XM launched its first portable satellite radio, which they assume prompted Sirius to do the same just 5 months later. (You have to wonder what they consider the development cycles to be for receivers... I think a 5 month turn-around time from concept to production sounds reasonable - don't you?)

I'd like to see this ping-pong chart, because I'll make one just for terrestrial radio's reactions to satellite radio. Was HD Radio a reaction to Satellite? Nah! Was renaming your stations to "Free FM" a reaction? Absolutely not! How about those "Radio, you shouldn't have to pay for it" ads?

...oh, but let's forget about all that. I just want to highlight one specific thing about The Carmel Group report: It was sponsored by the NAB. 'nuff said. 

[New York Post

5 Comments

XM Radio co-founder Lon Levin joins Slacker

| 4 Comments
Slacker
Lon Levin, the co-founder of XM Satellite Radio and a 20-year industry veteran, has joined Slacker as a Senior Advisor.

Levin not only co-founded XM Satellite Radio, but he also played an integral role in the formation of other media, satellite and wireless companies, including Mobile Satellite Ventures, XM Canada, Motient, Terrestar Networks and American Mobile Satellite Corporation. He also has been a U.S. delegate to numerous International Telecommunication Union conferences.

"Slacker has a truly disruptive approach to radio," said Lon Levin. "I am thrilled to be part of the next significant phase in great radio and music. Slacker is about providing an amazing music listening experience that is simple to use and wonderful to hear."

Later this year, you'll have the ability to to purchase Slacker Satellite Car Kits which allow for personalized radio playback in automobiles. Check out more info on the Slacker player or read how Slacker works over satellite.
4 Comments

Sirius becomes standard equipment on Lincoln

Lincoln Navigator
Looks like Sirius is strengthening its relationship with Ford. Starting with the 2008 model year, Sirius Satellite Radio will be factory-installed satellite radio on the Lincoln MKZ, Lincoln MKX, Lincoln Navigator, Lincoln Navigator L and Lincoln Mark LT.

Last week Sirius announced that their satellite radios will be standard equipment in select Land Rover vehicles. Land Rover is owned by Ford Motor Co.

About 600,000 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles have already been shipped with factory-installed Sirius satellite radios. Those numbers are expected to more than double in 2007 as Sirius will be offered in 23 different models this year.

On top of being standard-equipment, a six-month pre-paid subscription to Sirius is included with each Lincoln vehicle.

(Hey, are you subscribed to Orbitcast? Well why the hell not? Keep up to date with the latest in satellite radio news and info by subscribing to the feed, or you can subscribe by email. Don't worry, you can thank me later.)

10 big ideas to increase Satellite Radio growth

| 11 Comments

Growing the satellite communityLet's free our minds for a second and look at 10 big ideas that will increase awareness (and in turn, subscribers) for satellite radio. These might go against the grain, but hey that's the whole fun of it. So in no particular order...

1. Go free, get heard.
You're a media company, so your first goal in life is to get as many people as possible to experience that media. And there's no better way of doing that than by going free. What would happen if there was a free satellite radio service (subsidized with commercials)? There's too much quality content hiding behind the paywall... at the very least, do something more with that online trial.

2. Make it a real satellite "radio"
Let's look at the device side. The problem with those satellite radios is that they lack the ability to receive "radio" - so why cripple the device? Enable your consumers to listen to AM/FM as well as satellite radio. Terrestrial is near ubiquitous as it is, so who cares? It's what consumers want. (Psst, the FCC/DoJ might like this one.)

3. Satellite + Internet Radio = Happy users
While we're at it, if you're going to have a WiFi enabled device (like the Stiletto), why not allow your users to tune into Internet Radio as well? Give them access to Pandora, Last.fm, etc. Your consumers are going to do it anyway, so it might as well be on your device.

4. Give me some space!
Enough with these half-hearted 1Gb, 2Gb devices. I'm a music fanatic, and so I have a lot of music. The only way you're going to convince me to replace my iPod is by enabling me to replace my iPod. It's either my entire collection, or nothing.

5. Use the OEM model on Retail.
Retail is hurting. We need to spur retail sales. So apply the same model you use with vehicle purchases to the retail side. Give away 3-months of service free with every device. (You do it anyway when someone tries to cancel the service.)

6. Target fanatics.
OK, to your credit, you're already doing this. Sirius at NASCAR and NFL events. XM at MLB and PGA events. Positioning yourself at events where there fanatics is a great approach, but there's more that could be done on the music side. Concerts, festivals, raves, dank pot-smoked basements, etc. Find a way for visceral placement in areas where music lovers converge.

7. Get social.
No, not Zune-style. Nobody cares enough for that to work. But you can make your websites work better for you by allowing listeners to meet, socialize and interact with each other. Music and sports are a great way to meet people. Word of mouth is the best advertiser, so encourage it! (Psst, your channels and DJs are already using MySpace to connect with listeners.)

8. Be seen and heard.
It doesn't take a genius to see that video is what everyone wants online. Don't just show us pictures from your studios, put up some videos. Create some YouTube channels (or use your own site). Yes, half your guys have "a face made for radio" but that doesn't mean the loads of footage from guest appearances and performances should be lost. Again, you're a media company, let people consume that media.

9. Razor and blades.
The reason why everyone listens to terrestrial radio, is because they can. Give away the razor (the receiver), and make your money on the blades (subscriptions). We all know the margins suck on the receivers anyway. And if that makes you sick to your stomach, then I'm sure a 1-year commitment might make the bosses happier. (Wireless carriers do it, why not you?)

10. Open it up.
You'll never reach critical mass until you get past all the early adopters. So why not open up the devices themselves to some tinkering? Allow the geeks to create customized widgets that can be downloaded to the device. Make the interface customizable. Go beyond your own service and let listeners "create their own channel" via a podcast. Make it interactive.

So there's some ideas. What's yours? Add your own concepts to the list and let's get some thoughts flowing.

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Kyle Petty live from Sirius booth at the NY Auto Show

Kyle PettyNASCAR driver Kyle Petty will host a special two-hour program live from the Sirius booth at the 2007 New York International Auto Show, on Sirius NASCAR Radio (ch 128).

Petty and co-host Jack Arute will broadcast from Sirius' Crystal Palace Booth on Saturday, April 7th at 1pm - 3pm ET. After the show, there will be a two-hour autograph session with Kyle Petty at the Sirius display.

The 2007 New York International Auto Show runs from April 6th - 15th at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.

Video: 2008 Chrysler Town & Country (with Sirius Backseat TV)

Ok, I'm not necessarily in the market for a minivan, but this thing looks incredible. Watch the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country promotional video below:

Delphi snuggles up to Chrysler with Sirius Backseat TV

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Chrysler Town & Country: Sirius Backseat TVDelphi, which is working to rise up from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, has historically depended on GM for a huge chunk of its sales. But with the introduction of Sirius Backseat TV in 2008 Chrysler vehicles, Delphi is further expanding their business beyond GM and getting cozier with the Chrysler Group.

You may not have known it, but Delphi makes the hardware for Sirius Backseat TV that Chrysler plans to introduce in the Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan soccer-mom-mobiles this fall. Delphi makes the receiver that accepts the satellite signal and the decoder that interprets those signals. The hardware is made in Delphi's plant in Matamoras, Mexico.

The technology will be exclusive to Chrysler for a year, and Chrysler is the first to offer live backseat TV as a factory-installed option. Other auto companies reportedly are interested but haven't committed to offering it just yet.

"We're proud to be working with Chrysler Group to help usher in the next phase of in-car entertainment," said Ken Erickson, Delphi product business unit executive, entertainment & communications. "With this video technology, passengers will be able to bring new entertainment content directly into their vehicle. They won't have to watch and carry around the same DVDs anymore."

[Detroit Free Press]

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Busted: FCC report not intended for merger review

NABI could go on and on about how the NAB is doing their best to spin the FCC Report on Satellite Competition, but let's just let the report speak for itself.

"We emphasize that the market descriptions included in this Report are intended to facilitate discussion of satellite markets and services as required by Section 703, and may not reflect the appropriate markets to be considered in other Commission proceedings, including merger reviews, rulemakings involving the Commission's ownership rules, or other reports to Congress." (Paragraph 27)

Oops. Guess this isn't the "evidence" that David Rehr was looking for.

Apple, EMI to sell DRM-free music

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EMI and Apple go DRM freeApple, and major music label EMI, have made the groundbreaking decision to offer DRM-free track for $1.29 per song through the iTunes Music Store. EMI will make available all songs from its digital catalog without DRM (songs will not be tied to the iPod or iTunes anymore) so that any device that plays AAC can play these tracks.

Testing earlier this year suggested people prefer non-DRM to DRM tracks 10:1.

Tracks will be encoded in 256kbps AAC (currently its at 128kbps) and sold at a $0.30 premium per song ($1.29 vs the current $1 per song). Customers can choose whether they want the DRM, or higher-quality DRM-free versions. Entire album purchases will stay at the same price, but you'll still have the choice between the two versions.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs says they are trying to do similar deals with other labels, and expect that by the end of this year 50% of all of their tracks sold will be DRM-free.

This is huge. 

[Press Release]
[Read more on TechCrunch]

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Sit & Spin: NAB hypes up FCC Competition Report

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NAB: waaaaahhhhhhThe FCC has recently issued a competitive report and analysis on satellite communications services, and the NAB is using it as an opportunity to spin the report's findings in their favor.

The NAB issued a statement stating that the recent FCC analysis determined that the relevant market for satellite radio consists solely of XM and Sirius - something that is being echoed (almost word for word) in several industry publications. Below is a quote from the all mighty NAB President/CEO David K. Rehr:

"This FCC decision that the current duopoly of XM and Sirius do not compete with radio, iPods or any other audio sources in the satellite radio market further undermines the arguments made by XM and Sirius to obtain a government-sanctioned monopoly. While the FCC clearly intends to examine all issues surrounding the XM/Sirius merger, the hurdle the parties must overcome to convince the FCC to change direction is very high. This is a dramatic blow to XM/Sirius' presumption of a broader market, and still more evidence that XM and Sirius compete ferociously against each other in the market for nationwide multichannel mobile audio services, and no one else."

It really reads like doom-and-gloom (as is the purpose of issuing such a statement), but that's actually not entirely the case. 

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Grindhouse on XM's Cinemagic

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Grindhouse
XM Satellite Radio's sound track music channel, Cinemagic (ch 27), is hosting Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez - the men behind the Grindhouse double feature - tomorrow, April 2nd at 2pm ET Thursday, April 5th at 5pm ET. 

The hour-long interview with Quentin and Robert will look into the concept behind Grindhouse, who both wrote and directed two horror movies that make up the Grindhosue double feature (complete with fake movie trailers in between both features).

We'll also learn what attracted them to make films of the exploitation genre and how far they felt they pushed the boundaries of film making.

UPDATE: Seems that I got my signals crossed, the Grindhouse interview will be on Thursday, April 5th at 5pm ET. Sorry about that.

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