Orbitcast: November 2007 Archives

November 2007 Archives

New XM Commercial: The XM-erator

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There's a new XM commercial out called the "XM-erator" - and it's pretty neat in my opinion. Watch it below:

One of the key thing about XM's latest batch of commercials is the music. I love that. They select a tune that matches with the theme of the spot, and that just seems to work. This commercial is tied to an online ad campaign (which, if you haven't noticed, are everywhere recently).

Anyway, I just thought it was neat as we're in the midsts of the final stretch of merger madness.

[XM]
Thanks Roland!

UPDATE: There have been several requests for what the song is for this commercial. The artist is DJ Mehdi, and the song is “I Am Somebody” - you can hear the full song on his MySpace page.

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Jacoby remains "cautious" on (but doesn't dispute) latest Sirius-XM info

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S&MDespite a report from Bear Stearns analyst Robert Peck, who predicts that a DOJ decision could arrive as soon as today or Monday, Bank of America analyst Jonathan Jacoby advises clients to remain "cautious" - deal or no deal.

Jacoby has remained as the devil's advocate throughout the merger proceedings, which is a good thing because it helps keep some of the more irrationally exuberant investors grounded (to a degree). Historically he's been very skeptical of the merger prospects (putting chances of approval roughly around ~30%). The interesting thing in his most recent research note, though, is that Jacoby does not dispute what Peck is reporting.

Much of the Bank of America analyst's conclusions have been based on information from DC contacts, but we don't hear about them in this note. Instead, Jacoby brings to light the high hurdles that XM-Sirius need to overcome to get approval (and there's no denying that this isn't your rubber-stamp kind of merger). If the deal is not approved, he points to significant downside. And even if the deal is approved, he feels there's not much upside.

"However, we are not ‘naïve.’ We think investors will most likely run these stocks post-merger approval," Jacoby notes.

To me, it's a significant development when the naysayers stop saying "nay."

Peck and Jacoby have been on two sides of the coin for this merger. With no significant information coming from BofA's sources disputing the information of Bear Stearns, well, I'd say that's pretty telling.

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XM Canada kiosks "pop up" in less than 90 days

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XM CanadaToronto based, Pop Up Retail Group, announced today that they successfully launched XM Canada kiosks in mall locations across three markets, and had them selling radios in less than 90 days.

The exact number of kiosks was not disclosed, but the timeline was supposedly aggressive enough to put Pop Up Retail Group's turn key approach to the test.

"Kiosks give us incremental sales, a great brand presence and further support to our existing subscribers," said Donald McKenzie, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing at XM Canada. "We are not interested in shifting volume from our valued retail partners. We expect their sales to increase as well in the markets where we have a corporate presence."

XM booth displayI suppose that kiosks must actually work for satellite radio, since they've been using them for so long. But my own anecdotal (and granted, limited) experience is that they're fairly low-traffic and low-key. I love the concept of a focused, branded retail environment - but just think it could be more immersive than just slapping some logos and letting people play with a radio. Even just to include one of those funky car displays (pictured) that are seen in tradeshows - or a variation of them - would be nice to see. The goal not necessarily being on creating a point of sale, but rather a place for people to experience the service.

Just my $0.02.

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Report: DOJ decision could come today or Monday

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Sirius and XM merger approved?
A decision by the Department of Justice on the merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. could come as early as today or Monday, according to an analyst note issued this morning.

Bear Stearns analyst Robert Peck issued a research note this morning stating that a decision by the DOJ is imminent. According to Peck, conversations with their contacts in DC suggest that a DOJ decision could come as early as today or Monday.

Further, the Bear Stearns analyst believes that junior staffers at the DOJ are recommending blocking the merger, but that higher officer deputy officials likely disagree with the junior staff recommendation. The analyst expects Tom Barnett likely will rule along with the higher officials and announce that the DOJ will not be blocking the deal.

This is consistent with a Cowen & Co. note issued earlier this month, which also said that Antitrust Chief Tom Barnett is likely to approve the deal, "despite a staff recommendation against the deal."

Bear Stearns' Bob Peck also feels that the FCC has been coordinating its actions with the DOJ, and that an FCC decision will likely come near this year's end.

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3rd Grader outsmarts XM hosts (and they couldn't be happier)

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Rebecca Roberts

Chalk this up as the feel-good story of the day. XM's all-politics all-the-time channel, POTUS '08 (ch 130), started the day today with a reminder that there's an entire audience of listeners who might not be of voting age... but are still pretty darn smart.

Producer Joanna Welch came upon a unique letter (not email, mind you) this morning from Sophia McCrimmen, who turns out to be an 8-year-old and an avid politics and POTUS fan. Sure, Sophia might have misspelled a few words (don't we all?), but that doesn't diminish the fact that the 3rd grader noticed something that the POTUS pros did not.

"I love lisning to your shows!" she wrote. "I love politics so much! I just have one problem, you are underestimating the number of days until the election! You are forgeting that 2008 is a leap year!...Plese add one day too your total to acount for leap day. Keep up the good work.

"P.S. Can you mabie read this on the radio? That would be super cool!!!!

"P.P.S. If you have time. I don't want to mess you up."

Sophia was right. The POTUS folks had been counting the days to the '08 election incorrectly (ok, it was Scott Walterman's fault, but I'm not pointing any fingers). So "1600" host Rebecca Roberts (pictured above) got Sophia on the phone.

You can hear her three-minute on-air interview with Sophia below, or by clicking here.

[Los Angeles Times Blogs]

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Apple to unveil new faster 3G iPhone next year

Apple iPhone
Oh we've all known that Apple will eventually come out with a 3G iPhone, but when AT&T's Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson says, "You'll have it next year," we're all going to listen.

Stephenson doesn't give an indication as to how much it'll cost, that's up to Apple CEO Steve Jobs who "will dictate what the price of the phone is."

Jobs plans to sell 10 million iPhones worldwide in 2008, and so far Apple had sold a "mere" 1.4 million handsets through the end of September. Even with 10 million iPhones in everyone's pockets, that would give Cupertino only 1% of the mobile-phone market.

Of course this is all part of Apple's grand plan.

Introducing a 3G iPhone will still allow for the slower EDGE iPhone to penetrate the market - just at a lower price (and subsequently a faster pace). The 3G iPhone will likely also pack more features, which will make it the must-have mobile phone/music player once again.

And who wants to make bets that a "Mobile iTunes" will be part of the package? At 3G speeds, and unlimited bandwidth packages, streaming music (and talk, and sports) on your iPhone will be commonplace.

Long live planned obsolescence.

[Bloomberg via Engadget]

Celebrity vs Talent: Whoopi gets cut from New York

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WhoopiWhoopi Goldberg's syndicated morning show "Wake Up With Whoopi" has been dropped from Clear Channel's WKTU/New York. I guess star-power isn't enough to make it in the #1 radio market (just ask David Lee Roth).

New York Daily News reports that a memo was circulated around the KTU staff late Tuesday saying the station would no longer be carrying the show as of yesterday morning.

Whoopi's show launched in late July 2006, and while it's still in syndication (her site lists 9 affiliates), "Wake Up With Whoopi" is now gone from its flagship station in the leading radio market.

This brings back the roaring debate about Celebrity-ism versus Radio Talent. It's not much of a debate actually, since this is proof positive that it actually takes a lot of talent and effort to be a successful on-air host - especially when it comes to terrestrial radio.

Tom Taylor of Radio-Info is quick to point this out in his recent newsletter:

"Politicians, entertainers, TV stars, businesspeople, professionals – they’ve all thought 'Hey, I can do what Rush Limbaugh does, or Howard Stern, or Sean Hannity, or…' And mostly, they’ve been wrong."

That's not to say that famous-folk can't possibly be good on-air hosts, there's a few that have made it, but to build an audience in talk radio takes a lot of time. And the ever fickle terrestrial radio industry is constantly in seek of "hits." There's no time to experiment, take a gamble, and try something new (maybe that's why regular radio sounds the same since the '90s?).

So why is that celebrities have seemingly found a home on satellite radio?

Martha Stewart, Oprah, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Barbara Walters, Bob Dylan, Richard Simmons, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Tony Stewart, Cal Ripken Jr., Tiki Barber... the list goes on and on. Celebrities span the entire channel lineup on both XM and Sirius.

And while I'm not one to say definitively whether these celebrities are good at hosting shows (some of abysmal in my opinion), they do seem to hold a higher success rate than on terrestrial radio. The difference being, I think, that on satellite radio: it's not all about the ratings, it's all about the subscribers.

Celebrities on satellite radio are like mannequin displays at a store. Or those big posters of half-naked people frolicking with each other at Abercrombie. There's no chance in hell you'd actually wear what you see, but it gets the target demographic through the door.

That's the function on the celebrity. They create a level of familiarity with the product. "Oh, I like 50 Cent! I guess I'll get Sirius." "I'm a diehard Bob Dylan fan, so I'll sign up with XM."

And once you're through that door, you experience the rest of the service. You fall in love with a show that you otherwise wouldn't have listened to. Take Ron & Fez for example, by far one of the best kept secrets on XM. Incredibly funny, snarky, smart and entertaining all at once. But you have to give the show a chance to set in with the audience.

Another example is "Whatever with Alexis & Jennifer," which by the traditional formula should be a complete trainwreck. Still, for having absolutely no radio training whatsoever, these two deliver a surprisingly high quality and entertaining show. They have the drive and put in the effort, which is apparent on the air. But again, there needs to be a chance for people to experience that.

So bringing to back to Whoopi. Her show is (was?) personable and funny and worked hard at it, but for Clear Channel, it just didn't bring the "hit" that they needed. That's money on the table for them. Ad dollars that are disappearing as she (and the industry) struggles to gain traction in an increasingly fragmented audience.

The moral of the story: Whoopi, maybe you should've gone to satellite radio. Instead of failing to become a "hit" you could have become one of those secrets that people fall in love with.

A devote audience is better than none at all.

[via FMQB]

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Sirius to air World AIDS Day special

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World AIDS DaySirius will be honoring World AIDS Day this Saturday with a special six-hour broadcast event on Sirius OutQ (ch 109).

This broadcast event unites renowned musicians, leaders from the GLBT community, and listeners from the Sirius OutQ audience for a presentation devoted entirely to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. World AIDS Day is annually observed on December 1st and is dedicated to raising awareness of the global AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection.

Larry Flick from "OutQ in the Morning" will host the live 6-hour event: "World AIDS Day 2007: A Celebration of Life and Hope." The special will include musical performances, discussions with medical experts, pioneering activists, and Sirius listeners sharing their perspectives on the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS and the progress being made in the GLBT community.

In addition, the broadcast will feature an interview with Madonna - not to mention performances by Cyndi Lauper, Indigo Girls, Travis, Joss Stone, Erasure's Andy Bell, Jimmy Somerville, Marc Cohn, Leann Rimes, Littlehorse, and others.

"World AIDS Day 2007: A Celebration of Life and Hope" will air this Saturday, December 1st, from Noon – 6 pm ET.

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Sirius highlights NAB form letters in FCC filing

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David RehrJust in case the Federal Communications Commission wasn't already aware of it, the Sirius-XM camp has filed an ex parte filing highlighting the NAB's dubious tactics for garnering "support" for their cause.

The counsel for Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. says little else in the filing beyond simply linking to the Washington Post article, but that's really more than enough for them to do. It's better to put the issue on record and let it speak for itself.

It still boggles me that the NAB needed to resort to these "inspirational" tactics so as to generate 8,500 form-letters, when they advocate on behalf of 8,300+ radio/TV stations and networks.

John Gorman said it perfectly in a recent blogpost:

"Is this how your NAB members want their money spent? Is this the image the radio industry wants or needs right about now?"

I would wager to say the answer is a resounding "no" and the NAB will have a lot of explaining to do once this is all over.

[Ex Parte filing (PDF) via SiriusBuzz]

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Artie Lange to star in next Leisure Suit Larry game?

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Leisure Suit Larry

Yesterday, Artie Lange mentioned on "The Howard Stern Show" that he was doing voiceover work for an upcoming Leisure Suit Larry game.

While there has yet to be an official announcement for a new Leisure Suit Larry, Artie did say that he would be playing the role of "Big Al" in the game. Very little other details are known at this time other than what was said on-air. Joytiq points out that the last Leisure Suit Larry game, "Magna Cum Laude," didn't even star the original character and "was an amateur-hour" Larry adventure.

Does this mean that King's Quest is coming back too?

[Joystiq]
Thanks Todd!

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XM to air round-the-clock coverage of MLB Winter Meetings

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MLB on XM

The XM Satellite Radio MLB Home Plate broadcast team is headed down to Nashville next week for baseball’s annual winter meetings.

If you’re a hardcore baseball fan, the winter meetings have more twists and turns than a Telemundo soap opera... just, without the cleavage and snazzy soundtrack. Baseball's bigwigs come to gather at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland hotel for four days of trading and deal-making.

And XM's MLB Home Plate (ch 175) will have live, round-the-clock coverage of the meetings from December 3rd to December 6th.

XM on-air hosts Mark Patrick, Buck Martinez, Charley Steiner, Kevin Kennedy, Billy Ripken, Ronnie Lane, and Joe Castellano will be on site to report on the latest deals, day and night.

MLB Home Plate will be stationed at multiple locations in the hotel to deliver breaking news as it happens. The live coverage from Nashville starts Monday morning at 6am ET.

It’s sweet relief for baseball addicts counting the days until spring training.

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Big 12, SEC, and ACC football championships on XM

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Big 12, SEC, and ACC championships on XMXM subscribers will be able to hear seven different broadcasts of the 2007 Big 12, SEC, and ACC football championship games this Saturday, December 1st.

XM Sports Nation will also be live from the three host cities with exclusive pre-game coverage on Friday and Saturday.

  • Top-ranked Missouri plays no. 9 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game on Saturday at 8 pm ET and XM will air the national radio broadcast on Big 12 Channel 241.
  • The SEC Championship Game pits fifth-ranked LSU against no. 14 Tennessee on Saturday at 4pm ET. XM will air the national radio broadcast on SEC Channel 199, the LSU broadcast on SEC Channel 200 and the Tennessee broadcast on SEC Channel 201.
  • The ACC Championship Game will kick off Saturday at 1pm ET as sixth-ranked Virginia Tech takes on no. 12 Boston College. XM will air the national radio broadcast on ACC channel 190, the Boston College broadcast on ACC channel 191 and the Virginia Tech broadcast on ACC channel 192.

XM Sports Nation (ch 144) anchor T.J. Rives will be live from SEC Fanfare in Atlanta on the AT&T Press Box stage for game previews on Friday 6-9am ET and 1-3pm ET; and Saturday 10am - 2pm ET. XMSN analyst Gino Torretta will join sportscaster Earl Forcey in Jacksonville, Florida, for pre- game coverage of the ACC championship on Friday 1-3pm ET and Saturday 7-10am ET. XMSN's Scott Jackson and Kevin Blackistone will be at San Antonio's Alamodome to preview the Big 12 championship on Saturday from 3pm to 7pm ET.

Check out more info on XM's coverage of Championship Saturday here.

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Iowa Brown & Black Presidental Forum will be live on Sirius

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Iowa Brown & Black Presidental ForumThe Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum, the nation's oldest continuous minority presidential forum, will be broadcast live exclusively on Sirius Satellite Radio.

Co-founded in 1984 by current Iowa State Representative Wayne Ford and Latino Community Leader Mary Campos, the Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum gives all candidates the opportunity to answer important questions concerning issues affecting African-American and Latino-Americans.

All eight Democratic presidential candidates are expected to participate.

Mark Thompson, host of "Make It Plain" on Sirius Left, will broadcast his program live from Iowa on Friday, November 30th (5-8pm ET) and talk with members of the community. In addition, Thompson will host special live call-in programs, also on Sirius Left, immediately before and following The Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum where listeners will share opinions, comments, and debate.

The Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum itself will air live this Saturday, December 1st at 8pm ET on Sirius Left (ch 146).

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Verizon Wireless opens its network

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Verizon WirelessVerizon Wireless said yesterday that it'll open its network to any phone, device or software application by the end of 2008. It's a move that surprised many wireless industry watchers because of Verizon's voracious opposition to "open" access.

The company said they'll publish the technical standards for developers to meet for access to its network, sometime in early 2008. Any device meeting its standards would work on its network and any application the customer chooses will be allowed on these devices.

Some (like Reuters) might assume that this is some sort of reaction to Google's plans for buying up spectrum (not to mention their common wireless operating system). But this likely has been in the works for sometime.

"We as Verizon Wireless place our bets on what applications and devices will be a hit," Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam said during yesterday's conference call.

"At the same time, customers' needs are increasing and diverging. Soon Verizon Wireless will not be able to meet every customer's needs with our specific portfolio of devices and applications," he said.

The #2 wireless carrier said devices would be tested and approved in a lab, which received additional investment of $20 million this year in anticipation of increasing demand. This allows Verizon to still maintain control over what devices are permitted to access its network, but the intention is to ensure manufacturers have some level of standards to comply to.

And then there's this piece of info from McAdam [via Gizmodo]:

"This isn't just phones - it could be a very small module in a gaming station, a home appliance, something that goes into your car. It doesn't have to have the traditional distribution or volumes. [Traditionally] if a device is not going to sell hundreds of thousands, it's hard to decide because of our scale. But now, if something only sells five, now it can be on our network."

This "opening up" of their network to small players reduces the barrier to entry. If your device tests out, you can go to market. Folks in the satellite radio biz better be watching this, and watching it closely.

It's always better to manage change, than to react to it once it's too late. Verizon seems to be recognizing that by fostering an environment for development and innovation. If the gates are truly opened, then we could be on the cusp on revolutionary change.

[more on the New York Times]

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Volvo goes with HD Radio on almost all models

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2008 Volvo S40

Volvo, auto manufacturer from the land of Ikea, will be integrating HD Radio into almost all of its models as standard or optional equipment.

HD Radio capability will be offered in the S40 T5 (2008 model pictured above), V50 T5, C30, C70, S80, V70, XC70 and XC90 models. (UPDATE: Note that exactly which models get HD as optional and which get it as standard equipment is not made clear in the press release. The lack of this information leads me to believe it's skewed more towards the former.)

The introduction of the HD Radio equipped Volvo vehicles is scheduled for Fall of 2008.

Volvo is a subsidiary of Ford Motor Company, which has interestingly been increasing the pace of adopting new technologies as part of its in-car entertainment offerings.

[FMQB]

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Video: WSJ goes inside the satellite radio merger

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Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley talks with Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin and XM Chairman Gary Parsons about their merger plans.

Check out the video below (Email/RSS folks might need to click to watch):

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Sirius re-ups with Directed Electronics

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Directed ElectronicsDirected Electronics, Inc.announced this morning that they've extended their contract with Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. - news that has sent the DEIX stock up over 50% today.

Directed said the new contract contains "certain changes" to the handling of customer returns that will enhance cost recovery, reduce uncertainty and volatility with respect to returns and meaningfully improve the predictability of their earnings.

These "certain changes" will go into effect on January 1, 2008.

[Press Release]

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Rep. Boucher's pro-merger piece

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XM Sirius MergerRepresentative Rick Boucher (D-VA) wrote a piece that ran in both the Washington Times (yesterday) and a similar piece that ran in BusinessWeek (a week or so ago).

In both, Boucher dismisses antitrust concerns by building a case as to why satellite radio is part of a greater "audio entertainment" market, and argues that the Sirius-XM merger would benefit listeners.

"At first blush, one might conclude that a combination of the only two providers of this satellite-based service would be an obvious antitrust abridgement. In fact, the 'bumper sticker-like' campaign of merger opponents stresses the harm of a 2-to-1 combination.

The reality of the relevant market, however, is both more subtle and more compelling."

I think that's the basis of this entire argument. Whether you consider satellite radio to be within its own silo, or whether you feel that satellite radio directly competes with other audio mediums.

Rep. Boucher addresses this debate in his piece, talking about his view of the competitive landscape:

"[Regulators] often ask, 'How far would a person have to drive in order to find a substitute?' In the case of XM and Sirius, consumers don't have to drive anywhere to find a competitive alternative: They just have to hit a different button on their car stereo."

It's that ease of switching between audio mediums that, in my opinion, is the biggest case for the merger. And ultimately, it's what protects the consumer from a combined company abusing "monopolistic" powers.

Aside from the argument about whether or not a merger would create a monopoly (which has been discussed here ad nauseum), I think it's great to see Sirius-XM getting this level of public political support. The NAB is quick to point out that they got X number of Congressmen to sign a document, but there's little in public support coming from those in Capitol Hill for their cause.

[BusinessWeek, Washington Times]

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Ford and Sirius extend deal; increase penetration to 70%

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Ford/Sirius
Ford said today that they'll be targeting an approximate 70% factory penetration rate of Sirius radios starting with the 2009 model year vehicles.

In addition, Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and Ford Motor Company said that they are extending their relationship. Sirius and Ford had previously extended their partnership through 2011, but the exact terms on this deal extension were not announced. We do know that all Ford brands, Lincoln, Mercury, Land Rover, Jaguar, Volvo, and Mazda, are covered by the agreement. So that's good.

Ford had also previously been reluctant to give penetration numbers. With Chrysler at 70%, Mercedes at 90%, and VW/Audio at 80%; everyone has been tapping their collective foot waiting for a commitment from Ford.

At the 3Q07 earnings call, Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin had hinted towards this by saying "there will be an announcement from Ford sometime in the future," and obviously this is it.

And let's not forget Lincoln's installations of Sirius Travel Link as well. A preemptive sign that the Sirius-Ford relationship is nice and healthy.

Over a million Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles have been shipped with Sirius factory-installed. Ford recently launched Sirius on its new Focus, bringing the number of Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicle lines offering factory-installed Sirius to 23.

Sirius equipped vehicles are packaged with a six-month prepaid subscription, and the vehicles covered under this new agreement will be available next year at dealers.

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Consumer groups ask FCC to reject merger

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XM Sirius Merger
Consumer advocacy groups today urged the Federal Communications Commission to reject the proposed merger of satellite radio providers XM and Sirius, saying the deal would eliminate competition and negatively impact consumers.

The groups - which include the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union and Free Press - filed a report Monday stating that the estimated $5 billion deal would reduce the number of channels and formats available and result in little cost savings.

"The proposed XM-Sirius merger is not in the interest of American consumers," said Dr. Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America and lead author of the report.

"Leaving one company to monopolize the satellite radio industry would result in higher prices and fewer choices -- with no foreseeable public benefit."

The report - which claims to not "restate the case against the merger" but rather "focus on new data introduced into the record" - says the Sirius-XM merger would have negative side effects for both consumers and for the satellite radio industry. They feel that the deal would reduce the number of channels and formats available, result in fewer cost-saving incentives, and cause a dramatic drop in spending on talent and retail.

The groups say the companies have not made a sufficient case that the FCC should end its explicit prohibition on mergers between satellite licensees.

[Read the FCC Filing (PDF) via The Hollywood Reporter]

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XM Boneyard gives tribute to Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot

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Kevin DuBrowFollowing the sudden passing of Quiet Riot singer Kevin DuBrow, XM Satellite Radio’s Eddie Trunk will pay tribute to the musical legacy DuBrow left behind.

A special show will be airing this evening - Monday November 26th - at 6pm ET on XM’s 80s hard rock channel Boneyard (ch 41).

Kevin DuBrow, 52, was found dead on Sunday inside the rocker's Las Vegas home. The Clark County coroner's office is examining the body to determine the cause of death, according to TMZ.

Chavis Records, the label that issued Quiet Riot's last LP, Rehab, also confirmed the news.

"DuBrow's body was found by friends on Sunday, November 25, in his Las Vegas home," reads the label's website. "As I mourn his death with a heavy heart, I will remember hearing his voice and the music for the very first time on the radio back in 1983. I will remember all the great music Kevin and Quiet Riot gave to so many of us over the years and I will say, 'Thank you, Kevin. May you rest in peace.' "

[More on CNN]

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Sirius' schedule for NASCAR Champions Week

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NASCAR

As NASCAR comes to New York City to cap another season and crown the 2007 NASCAR Series Champions, Sirius Satellite Radio is providing listeners with access to the week's events, press conferences and parties - including the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Awards Ceremony.

Starting on Wednesday, November 28th, during NASCAR's "Victory Lap" festivities in Times Square, Sirius will take listeners live inside Sirius on-air host Tony Stewart's #20 car as he and nine other drivers navigate their 850hp cars in a procession around midtown Manhattan.

The live cut-in will be part of the Sirius NASCAR Radio (ch 128) show "The Morning Drive," hosted by Marty Snider and David Poole. Snider and Poole will broadcast live from the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square from 7am - 11am ET Wednesday, where they will interview the NASCAR Chase drivers after they complete their "Victory Lap."

Then on Thursday, November 29th, Dave Moody will host "Sirius Speedway" live from the Aflac Fan Fest at the Hard Rock Cafe (3pm - 6pm ET) on Sirius NASCAR Radio.

Immediately following Sirius Speedway, Tony Stewart and Matt Yocum will announce the winners of the inaugural "Stewie Awards" during a special broadcast of "Tony Stewart Live" at Sirius' NYC studios (6pm ET).

On Friday, November 30th, Sirius will broadcast live from the Hard Rock Cafe hosted by 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Rookie of the Year Juan Pablo Montoya, Chip Ganassi, owner of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, and Sirius host and AP writer Jenna Fryer (11am ET on Sirius NASCAR Radio). Ganassi Racing driver Dario Franchitti, the 2007 IndyCar Series champion who will compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2008, will be a guest on the program.

On Friday night, Sirius' coverage will include a live broadcast of the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Awards Ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York (7pm ET), where 2007 champion Jimmie Johnson will be feted among the sport's elite drivers.

Throughout the week, Sirius NASCAR Radio's intrepid reporter, Steve Post, will provide Sirius listeners with up-to-the minute reports and interviews from the week's events, parties and press conferences.

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Did Bubba go too far with racial rant?

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Bubba the Love SpongeLast week, the day before Thanksgiving, Bubba the Love Sponge went off on a brief but vicious tirade against a caller, going so far as to use a racial slur against him (repeatedly). It's a rant that have some asking if Bubba went too far, even on "uncensored" satellite radio.

The segment (audio of which can be heard below) involves a Hispanic caller named Will who called in to complain about an issue involving two illlegal immigrants and a shooting.

It's hard to say whether or not Bubba actually went "too far" in this situation (it's obviously a matter of your own opinion). On both Sirius and XM, racially charged jokes aren't necessarily a rare occurrence - but they're almost never directed at someone with any level of virulence.

Listen to the audio below (WARNING: Explicit Language!):

(Length is roughly 2 minutes.)

It's no secret that Bubba has been in negotiations with Sirius over his contract. One Orbitcast reader suggested that this could be a sign that he's practically "daring" Sirius to suspend him, or that he's at the end of his rope and just doesn't care anymore. Whatever the motivation, it happened. The question is, did he go too far... what do you think?

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Howard Stern to extend contract with Sirius?

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Howard SternThat's what is being suggested in a recent AP article profiling The King of All Media, nearly two years into his current 5-year contract.

"He's only two years into his five-year, $500 million deal with Sirius and he's already considering a possible extension. Stern is on board with the proposed satellite merger with once-rival XM. And he's proud of his role in expanding the number of Sirius subscribers from 600,000 when he signed his deal to nearly 8 million today."

This would obviously be good news for Sirius Satellite Radio Inc, especially if we're to believe the Arbitron numbers that show that a majority of Sirius' listenership is highly skewed towards Stern's two channels.

Meanwhile, Stern's two-year anniversary at Sirius will be marked with a "gift" for his fans: an epic recounting Howard Stern's life. "The History of Howard Stern" - starting off with Stern's bar mitzvah and trips to summer camp - kicks off on December 17th on Sirius, covering the years 1954-85.

[AP]
Thanks Gary!

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Streaming radio to your iPhone - it's real.

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iPhone RadioAnd so it begins...

Introducing iRadio, an application for the iPhone that essentially brings the SHOUTcast internet radio player to your iPhone. Thousands of radio stations are now available for playing and browsing... literally at your fingertips. It works over WiFi and can work of AT&T's EDGE network as well.

A year ago, no one was talking about Apple or Google in terms of the wireless landscape. Now, these two companies are the forefront of every wireless discussion out there. And both have a vested interest in bringing every possible functionality to your pockets - including "radio."

"...barely a day passes without the introduction of a new competing device or service." (David K. Rehr, 2006 NAB Radio Show, September 21, 2006)
.

Ain't that the truth.

[Gizmodo via Hear 2.0]

18 Comments

The coolest Sirius TV Commercial yet

| 18 Comments

If you've visited Sirius.com recently, you've undoubtedly seen this TV ad spot. But just in case you haven't seen it yet, watch the Sirius "Domino" commercial below:

This is, by far, the coolest Sirius commercial to date.

18 Comments

NAB uses pop-ups to generate "comments" to the FCC

| 16 Comments

Just click here to help push forward our agenda

Yesterday, the Thanksgiving Day post lightly touched upon what the Washington Post uncovered recently: that many of the "comments" submitted to the fcc against the Sirius-XM merger were simply generated through a dubious pop-up ad campaign.

This issue goes far beyond the use of form letters. I'm no lawyer, but this appears to border on all out fraud.

Form letters can be a "useful" tool for large groups to assemble their thoughts en masse. I don't necessarily like them (I would much prefer the public submit in their own words), but at least the submitter is voicing their opinion and is aware of it.

But what the NAB has done here is not at all a case of "form letters."

The Washington Post discovered that out of the 60 people they contacted - many of the phones were actually disconnected, or went unanswered. Out of the 10 people they were actually able to talk to (which - in itself - is a ridiculous rate of failure), only 1 person - ONE PERSON - even remembered filling out something remotely related to satellite radio (and not even being merger related).

So how did those comments get submitted to the FCC?

According to the Washington Post article, the NAB bought pop-up ads on websites like CarMax.com, Staples.com and PriceGrabber.com in August and September. The ad ran the headline, "The XM Radio/Sirius Merger will create higher prices. Stop the Monopoly!" - and users could click either, "Yes, I'd like to help stop the monopoly" or "No, thank you."

Those who clicked "yes" were asked to type in their contact information and later received a confirmation e-mail "detailing their action and providing a copy of the letter to be sent to the FCC," according an NAB spokesperson. Respondents were given the "opportunity to opt out of the process" and cancel submission of their letter.

If I'm reading that correctly... it means that any inaction to the email was considered confirmation. So if these emails were sent to the Spam folder, or were inadvertently deleted, the submission was still considered confirmed.

And there's another question...

So far only a little over 5,000 computer generated emails have hit the FCC and, as the article points out, many with the names and addresses of people who said they never filed any comments regarding the merger. But the NAB states in the article that 8,500 comments were "inspired" by this campaign.

That means some 3,500 more "comments" with dubious provenance are waiting to appear. Where are they? When will they show up? Why have they been withheld?

I don't care if you're pro- or anti-merger. If you have an opinion on the merger - whatever it may be - you should have submitted your comments to the FCC. That is your right as a citizen, and it's the whole purpose as to why the FCC has a public comment submission process.

These phony letters corrupt this entire process and are in sharp contrast to the thousands of Americans who took time to write genuine, thoughtful letters to the FCC.

The fact that the NAB - which advocates on behalf of over 8,300 radio and television stations and networks, and has an annual NAB Radio Show which reportedly is attended by over 110,000 industry professionals - simply cannot garner enough genuine public support for their agenda is telling. Very very telling.

But just because the public isn't agreeing with a lobbyist's position doesn't mean they should resort to these tactics. It is the public who should decide how to voice their opinion, not a special interest group.

A Call To Action:

The more I think about this, the more angry I get. Again, we're not talking about form letters (which, sadly, is a standard lobbying practice) - I'm talking about people participating as part of a legal process without knowing they are. In the Washington Post article, it was pointed out that a poll of 350 congressional staffers conducted by the Congressional Management Institute in 2005 indicated that half of them did not believe that form-letter messages were sent with the knowledge or approval of constituents.

How long has this been going on? How many other comments from "the public" aren't genuine? How exactly are all these comments being extracted, especially considering WaPo's astonishing rate of failure in contacting submitters? Are these in fact even real people?

We need to ask Congress and the FCC for an inquiry. There needs to be some accountability here.

Regardless of whether you support or oppose the merger, we need to know the extent of these practices. How exactly were these comments were "inspired" by the NAB? If you feel the same way as I do, then please voice your opinion and contact Congress/FCC to demand an inquiry.

There's several ways to do this (like, contacting the FCC directly or check out the EFF's guidelines for contacting Congress). XM and Sirius also have handy-dandy pages that submit your comment to the FCC and copy your state's representatives (here's XM's version, or Sirius' version - they both do the same thing).

However you do it, just remember this issue is not about the merger itself, rather an inquiry into these deceitful and dubious tactics. Those of us who's actually spent the time to submit a unique and thoughtful comment shouldn't be undermined by a pop-up ad.

16 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving (and a little reading from WaPo)

| 26 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
...and in between naps after gorging yourself with food today - check out this Washington Post article about the form letters reportedly generated by the NAB and subsequently submitted to the FCC.

The Washington Post has contacted several of the people - who's names are now on record as supporting the NAB's political agenda - and many of them had no idea that they would be submitting comments to the FCC.

"No sir, I never sent any notes to Washington," said William Chadwick, a retired truck driver from Lebanon Junction, Ky., whose name is attached to one of the messages that reached the FCC. "This call is the first time I've heard of this."

"I never sent an e-mail," said Frank Dashields, a Salisbury, Md., building-services manager. "I don't even know about the issue."

"I don't know what the merger is about and I don't care," said Tom Biniecki, a retired steel worker from Winamac, Ind. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

Apparently the form emails (which you can read more about here) were sent to the Commission after people clicked on an ad that read, "The XM Radio/Sirius Merger will create higher prices. Stop the Monopoly!" The ad invited users to choose either, "Yes, I'd like to help stop the monopoly" or "No, thank you."

It's an incredible article, and one that speaks volumes of the NAB's tactics. Well worth the read.

[The Washington Post]
Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

26 Comments

Sirius Canada and Lexus expand partnership

2008 Lexus IS

Sirius Canada and Lexus are expanding their relationship to make Sirius Satellite Radio available in more Lexus cars sold in Canada.

The deal expands upon Sirius Canada's partnership with Toyota Canada that make Sirius available as an option at Toyota dealerships (originally on the FJ Cruiser, Camry, and Tundra).

Now Sirius Canada will be available - again, as a dealer-installed option - on all 2008 model year Lexus IS (pictured above), ES, GS, RX, and GX models.

Sirius will be available for Lexus vehicles in Canada starting in December 2007.

[via Orbitcast Forums]

Why Internet Radio in cars is coming soon than you think

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Audi Cross CabrioWhen Audi showed off the Cross Cabriolet Quattro concept car at the Los Angeles Motor Show, one of the key features was a prototype of streaming internet radio direct to the car. It's a glimpse into a future that's not too far away - a future that could come sooner than you think.

The system by Bang & Olufsen streams the internet radio channels via a mobile internet connection - the same connection that supplies the Google Maps-powered GPS navigation system.

Audi Cross Cabrio interior

Of course, this next generation of "radio" has tailored its programming to your specific musical tastes, thanks to the car's occupants accepting or rejecting the music tracks (a la Pandora, or Slacker). So it behaviorally builds a custom-made playlist that is able to adapt to your unique tastes. The "perfect" set of channels, with an endless selection of genres available.

Prototypes are one thing, but when will such a system see the light of day?

The answer is 2010, according to the Center For Automotive Research (CAR). CAR conducted supplier interviews that indicate 2010 - which is just over 2 years away - to be when customized and/or on-demand content will be streamed to vehicles.

XM ParkingLink

That content could range from personalized internet radio, to streaming video/movies, to localized alerts and updates, not to mention more robust real-time traffic data using two-way communication.

Combine this trend with the fact that vehicle-based digital storage systems, like the Ford SYNC and Chrysler MyGIG, will continue to proliferate and drop in price. And suddenly it all starts to come together.

Ford SYNC

These systems, which are essentially built-in harddrives with interfaces made specifically for on-road use, can cache large amounts of data and make up for any signal drop-outs - creating a seamless experience regardless of where you are.

Mobile wireless 3G networks aren't the only way that signal will reach your car (though currently, they could do just fine). If Google has it's way, the 700mhz spectrum that's going up for auction early next year would be "open" to all at wholesale prices. Paving the way for a wireless internet boom as innovative wireless providers, who otherwise couldn't afford to build a national infrastructure themselves, will be able to provide you (and your car) with wireless internet service.

Google Android

This is the future of "radio" (among other things)... and it could come as soon as 2010. Are you ready for it?

[What Hi Fi?, CNN]

5 Comments

XM almost makes Oprah's "Favorite Things" (gets on "The O List" instead)

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OprahIt's the 2nd holiday season since Oprah kicked off her channel on XM, and the satellite radio service has yet to get on her list of "Favorite Things."

But the Queen Of All Media has at least decided to throw XM a bone this year. The XpressRC has been included on Oprah's "The O List" in the December 2007 edition of O, The Oprah Magazine.

Oh well, so XM didn't make it as one of her favorite things. Maybe next year... y'know, before her contract runs out.

[XpressRC on The O List]
Thanks Roland!

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The Jonas Brothers hook up with XM

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The Jonas Brothers

Teen heartthrobs The Jonas Brothers will be the hosts of their own "limited edition music series" on XM Satellite Radio.

Starting on November 23rd, The Jonas Brothers will be DJs to their own weekly show, "I'm With The Band - The Jonas Brothers!" The trio will play their favorite hit songs, as well as offer up exclusive backstage access and details from their sold-out tour with none other than Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus).

Bonus: Check out The Jonas Brothers with Miley Cyrus (and dad, Billy-Ray) on Sirius!

Double-Bonus: The Jonas Brothers have taken over on Sirius for all of Thanksgiving Weekend!

Every week, listeners will also get the chance to win tickets to see The Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana as part of their "Best of Both Worlds Tour," not to mention the omigosh totally awesome chance to win VIP transportation to the show with The Jonas Brothers themselves. Other prizes include a Gibson guitar and other tour merchandise - but who cares about those.

"I'm With The Band - The Jonas Brothers!" will air every Friday at 3pm ET on XM's Top 20 on 20 (ch 20), with encores airing every Saturday and Sunday.


Apple iTunes


      

628 Comments

Orbitcast on Bearing Drift Ohio Radio (in 1 hour!)

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On AirLong-time Orbitcast reader The Squeaky Wheel is hosting his own internet radio show today and I figured I'd drop by (virtually) and hang out for a bit.

Quite honestly, I'm considering launching "Orbitcast Radio" as a regular weekly show myself, so this could be a nice test run to see how the service would work out. Would "Orbitcast Radio" be something that you folks would be interested in? I'm hardly a 'radio guy' so this would definitely be new territory ventured for me.

Anyway, here's a link to his blog post on Bearing Drift Ohio, and here's a direct link to the show. This is a live show, so you can even call in and participate if you're so inspired (part of the reason why I'm considering doing this myself). The dial-in number is (646) 716-9244 and the show starts off at 2pm ET.

Listen in if you get the chance.

[Bearing Drift Ohio]

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Prof. Jeffrey Sachs gets own show on Sirius

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Jeffrey SachsDr. Jeffrey Sachs will be launching a show on Sirius Satellite Radio starting in earlier 2008.

Sachs is a prominent economist known for his work as an economic advisor to governments in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. He is also known for his work with international agencies on solving problems of poverty reduction, debt cancellation, and disease control (particularly HIV/AIDS) for the developing world. As if that's not enough, Sachs is the author of the bestselling book The End of Poverty, oh and he's the Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General.

Now he can add "radio host" to that list.

The new weekly, one-hour call-in show, "One World," will launch in early 2008 on Sirius Stars (ch 102) as an open forum for listeners to discuss the countless issues around the world that demand attention.

"The world's citizens face some incredible challenges but also have never had a better ability to join together and overcome them," said Dr. Jeffrey Sachs. "I hope that, with the national, and even global, reach Sirius affords my show, we can empower listeners to truly make a difference."

Sounds interesting.

5 Comments

"Thanksgiving Hotline" marathon on Sirius

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TurkeyOn the day before Thanksgiving, top chefs and other food/drink experts will hop on board Martha Stewart Living Radio for a live Thanksgiving food, drink and holiday hotline marathon.

It's a Thanksgiving-themed bru-ha-ha craftily entitled the "Thanksgiving Hotline marathon" on Martha Stewart Living Radio (ch 112), which will air live from 7am – 7pm ET on November 21st.

Listeners nationwide can call 866-675-6675 and get expert tips and advice for all of their Thanksgiving food and entertaining questions and quandaries. The incredible array of participating chefs includes Lidia Bastianich, Bill Telepan, and Ed Brown; Martha's favorite baker John Barricelli; food editor of Everyday Food magazine and Martha Stewart Living Radio host Sandy Gluck... to name just a few.

From appetizers to the big meal, to desserts and even special Thanksgiving cocktails (woohoo!), the experts will tackle it all. They will also share their favorite holiday anecdotes and memories, and tips for festive entertaining.

Check out the full "Thanksgiving Hotline" lineup after the jump...

1 Comment

Hey look, Delphi is still alive

| 3 Comments

Delphi SkyFi3
A judge on Friday approved a $6.8 billion financing plan for Delphi's exit from bankruptcy, and admonished potential equity investors along the way.

The judge said these equity investors had drained away hundreds of millions of dollars as the Troy, Michigan based auto parts supplier disclosed new terms for investing in the company.

Delphi had originally wanted $8.7 billion in loans, but reduced that amount and delayed voting on its reorg plan as they struggled to secure financing.

The final total of $6.8 billion in exit financing is comprised of $5.2 billion to replace its current debtor-in-possession loans as well as a $1.6 billion revolving loan that it already has. Delphi has $4.5 billion in DIP loans currently.

[Washington Post]
Thanks Karl!

3 Comments

AT&T unveils Samsung SLM - first phone with Napster Mobile

| 7 Comments

Samsung SLM

AT&T will soon be making available Samsung's newest lightweight mobile phone with music and multimedia capabilities - the Samsung SLM.

The Samsung SLM is also the first phone to sport Napster Mobile functionality and also includes AT&T Video Share, mobile banking, stereo Bluetooth technology, a 2.0-megapixel camera with video capture, external microSD slot and advanced messaging options.

If you'll recall, AT&T and Napster announced a partnership late last month, to bring Napster's mobile service to the masses. Ironically, for a service that built its name on providing access to digital music for free, Napster Mobile is ridiculously expensive - running about $2/song or $7.50 a month for 5 songs. (Pssst, note to digital music providers: no one wants to pay a premium just to download songs over the air.)

But the flippy-phone Samsung SLM and its music capabilities aren't just about buying and downloading songs over the air (thankfully).

The SLM (which will cost roughly $150 in a special introductory offer) also supports the full AT&T Mobile Music suite of services, including XM Radio Mobile, Pandora, MusicID song-recognition service, and VIP access (a mobile "fan club" and music-discovery service).

I like the fact XM Radio Mobile is popping up more and more in various AT&T phones, but it still irks me that it's a crippled service. Adoption of both XM and Sirius' mobile services will continue to be slow as long as they keep offering a dumbed down selection of channels.

[Press Release, photo courtesy of Engadget]

7 Comments

Free XM: Get free 3-months service for the Holidays

| 6 Comments

XM XpressRC

If you've deactivated an XM radio in the past, you have the opportunity to get 3-months of free service as part of a holiday promotion. Starting on Friday, November 23rd, anyone with an inactive XM radio (purchased at retail) can get three free months of XM Satellite Radio service - regardless of when the radio was purchased or received.

The value of the three months of service is applied over the first six months of a subscription when activating between November 23rd and December 31st, 2007.

It's a neat promotion to bring back customers who have deactivated receivers just sitting around. It's also a blanket promotion for folks looking to buy satellite radio this holiday season - so if you buy a receiver for someone this year, they can use this promotion.

Very smart.

If you want to take advantage of the offer, just go to visit xmradio.com or call 1-800-XMRADIO. This offer also applies to subscriptions added to existing accounts under the XM Family Plan. (Wow)

The offer is not valid for those radios purchased under a separate promotion. All other radios are eligible for this promotion only when they are activated (or reactivated) between November 23rd and December 31, 2007.

Terms: The value of three (3) months free service will be applied over the first six (6) months of service. Offer applies when you activate service on any eligible XM radio between 11/23/07 and 12/31/07 and maintain uninterrupted service for at least six (6) months. Subject to penalty fee if six (6) months of continuous service is not maintained. Offer valid for purchases made in continental US only. Offer subject to additional terms, fees, and eligibility restrictions available at xmradio.com.

I'm really impressed with this promotion. That's one heck of a deal and really great idea. The fact that it applies not only to new radios, but it applies to older inactive radios as well. Really, really impressed.

6 Comments

Google has big plans for 700Mhz spectrum

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Google's wireless plansGoogle is going to go after the coveted 700Mhz wireless spectrum in a bid that could run up to $4.6 Billion or higher, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The FCC will be putting the chunk of the airwaves that can be used for wireless internet services up for auction in January. WSJ is reporting that Google could go at the valuable spectrum alone, as opposed to as part of an alliance as was previously speculated.

Meanwhile, Google is already running a test version of an advanced wireless network at its Mountain View, CA headquarters. All the while gaining valuable experience that could put to use if the internet giant wins the spectrum and decides to run a full-scale national mobile carrier, according to Wall Street Journal sources.

Google has said they want to make mobile networks more open, so that consumers can use any internet service and application and move handsets between carriers without restrictions.

Combined with last week's announcement of Android, Google's common/open software platform for mobile devices, and the implications could be huge. This wouldn't just change the wireless landscape. It would change the internet landscape. And for radio listening, everything would change, especially how a new generation of consumers experiences streaming audio (and ultimately, what will be known as "radio" to these consumers).

The FCC's deadline for declaring an intent to bid is December 3rd.

[Wall Street Journal]

1 Comment

ABC to regularly air video from XM's "Artist Confidential"

| 7 Comments

Mandy Moore on XM

XM Satellite Radio and ABC are teaming up to air a regular music segment highlighting XM’s "Artist Confidential" series on the weekend edition of ABC's “Good Morning America.”

The monthly segment, called the “XM Artist Confidential® Series,” features video highlights from XM’s original performance/interview show “Artist Confidential.” The GMA Weekend broadcasts mark the first time music fans are able to see as well as listen to their favorite artists from the popular XM series.

Apparently this is following the success of October’s GMA Weekend broadcast from the “Artist Confidential with Faith Hill” episode. I never actually realized that ABC aired the Faith Hill episode - though there was a web version made available for free. Looks like that was a test run of sorts, because now it's become a regular segment.

The weekend morning news broadcast will begin airing “XM Artist Confidential® Series” as a regular monthly feature starting this Sunday, November 18th with the Mandy Moore episode (pictured above).

More artists will be announced soon, and video from XM's original series will also be available for all to watch on ABC's website.

7 Comments

FCC will continue to protect Sirius-XM secrets

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Sirius XM MergerThe FCC has issued a second Protective Order to ensure that prying eyes do not see "highly confidential and competitively sensitive documents" coming from Sirius and XM.

In the beginning of this month, the Commission asked for additional information in regards to the merger. Later that week, Sirius and XM stated that there are certain documents and information related to the request which constitute some of their most sensitive business data, releasing them would place the companies at a significant competitive disadvantage.

As a result, the FCC has issued a Second Protective Order. Anyone who wants to gain access to these sensitive documents must sign an Acknowledgement of Confidentiality.

Today is the due date that Sirius-XM needed to have all of their documents submitted to the FCC.

[FCC Protective Order (PDF)]

9 Comments

Satellite Radio in Europe suffers setback

| 5 Comments

European Satellite RadioOndas Media, a company that hopes to bring satellite radio to Europe, has suffered a bit of a setback when it comes to getting access to necessary spectrum.

The Madrid-based company has been lobbying at Geneva, looking for spectrum to be allocated in the 1467-1492 MHz Broadcast Satellite Services band. Specifically Ondas was seeking an amendment to the current rule where Geostationary satellites no longer get priority in terms of access to such spectrum.

Ondas wants priority for their Highly Elliptical Orbit scheme instead. But now it's being reported that the World Telecommunications Conference (WRC) in Geneva is postponing any decision on the request until the next WRC.

The next WRC takes place... in 2011.

Ondas has said it is scheduled to begin programming and web-enabled services in 2008 and full subscription-based, advertising-free commercial services in late 2009.

[Rapid TV News via KimAndrewElliot]

5 Comments

Anton Corbijn to take over Sirius Left Of Center

| 2 Comments

Anton Corbijn

Legendary rock photographer and director of the critically acclaimed film "Control," Anton Corbijn, will take over Sirius' Left Of Center channel on November 21st.

Corbijn will discuss his film and play some songs, including all the songs featured on the "Control" soundtrack.

"Control" is Anton Corbijn's debut feature film, and is based on the troubled life of the late Ian Curtis - front man for the influential British post-punk band Joy Division.

Starring Sam Riley, the film opened to much critical praise earlier this year at the Cannes film festival. Check out a trailer of the film below...

The show will premiere on November 21st starting at 10pm ET on Left Of Center (ch 26).

2 Comments

Slacker Premium Radio launches; Portable confirmed

| 19 Comments

Slacker

Slacker Premium Radio today has officially launched. The Slacker Premium Radio service lets you skip an unlimited number of songs, as well as build a music library by saving songs that can be played anytime.

These saved songs can be played individually or as a part of a custom playlist. Saved radio songs are tied to your Premium Radio account and automatically sent to your Slacker Portable or Slacker Software libraries, where they can be played whenever they want.

"Slacker Premium Radio is for those who want even more control over their radio listening experience," said Dennis Mudd, CEO of Slacker (pictured above). "We're particularly excited by the save song feature in Premium Radio, which lets people build a library of their favorite music without having to work at it."

Of course, the Slacker Basic Radio is still free, but the Slacker Premium Radio is launching today for $7.50 per month with an annual subscription.

Here's the breakdown of features for Slacker Premium Radio:

  • Ad-free personalized music
  • Unlimited song skipping
  • Save favorite songs to play whenever you choose or create custom playlists
  • Log in from any PC or Mac to hear personalized stations in high quality
  • Available on Slacker Web Player, Software Player and Slacker Portable Player
  • Quickly rate favorites or ban songs/artists from any station
  • Easily share stations with friends
  • View artist profiles, album reviews, large cover art and visualizations
  • Embed custom stations in personal blogs or favorite social networking sites

You can check out the details and sign up to the Premium Radio service here. One nice thing is that if you truly don't like the Premium service, you can cancel within 7 days and not be billed (so it's almost like a fully functioning free trial).

Slacker Portable

In addition to all this, there's now confirmation for what we heard about yesterday: the Slacker Portable is indeed available for pre-order now, with the product shipping out on or before December 13th. All the details you need about it are in this post.

Conceptually, I really like what the Slacker Portable is doing in terms of getting the content to you. Instead of depending on a constant signal (like we do with satellite radio), you pre-load all the content onto the Slacker Portable device and listen on-the-go. If you have the Basic Radio, you're limited to 6-skips per channel/per hour. But if you have the Slacker Premium Radio service, you have unlimited skips.

Think about it: in a time-shifted world of TiVo's and DVR's, is there really a difference between hearing an "encore" broadcast and hearing a "cached" version?

The only thing that "live" radio provides as an experience differentiator is lack of control - you can't skip ahead.

Now of course that doesn't apply to live sports, news, talk, etc - which is still what terrestrial radio and satellite radio bring to the table. But many satellite radio listeners catch rebroadcasts of their favorite talk shows, so they might as well be "cached replays" anyway (and in turn without the reception issues). And for folks who mostly listen to music, "time" isn't the issue... it's discovery.

See, one of my big problems with iPods is that no matter how big the storage space is, you still need to hear the song at least once. There's no discovery. There's no mystery. Yes, you have absolute control, but there's nothing new. Plus, there's a massive segment of the population who has absolutely no desire (or time) to pre-program all their playlists.

Slacker has solved that problem. You download a playlist of songs from your own custom-built stations, each matched to your personal tastes, and then listen to them at your leisure.

And since Slacker has worked out individual deals with all the major music labels (not to mention the indie labels), you're now "allowed to" save songs to the device without worry of the RIAA-cops coming after you. That's some pretty cool stuff.

...now if they could only find a way to get it into the car easily.

19 Comments

Black Friday Watch: Free XM Sportscaster from CompUSA

| 1 Comment

Free XM RadioLooks like CompUSA is clearing out some old stock. This Black Friday deal is for a free XM Sportscaster receiver after the $30 eRebate.

No word on the activation or any pre-paid subscription details. I'm sure you'll need to pay something for the XM subscription, but you'd want to do that anyway if you're giving it as a gift to someone.

[via BFAds]

1 Comment

New President/CEO named at XM Canada

There's a bit of a shakeup up-north. Michael Moskowitz is being appointed as XM Canada's new CEO and President, effective January 1, 2008.

Chairman (and former CEO) John Bitove will continue his leadership role, but under the new title of Executive Chairman of Canadian Satellite Radio Holdings Inc.

“After an extensive search, we felt Michael was the best fit due to his outstanding leadership in the Canadian communications technology industry. He has a strong background in management, particularly operations, marketing, sales, distribution and finance. Michael is perfect for XM Canada today,” said Bitove in a statement.

Michael Moskowitz is former President, Americas International of Palm, Inc., which encompasses Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. Prior to Palm, he worked at several leading global consumer electronics product companies. Michael was a Top 40 Under 40 award recipient in 2004 and holds an honours degree from York University and an MBA from Dalhousie University.

Donald McKenzie, who was serving as acting President and COO since June, will return to his position as XM Canada's Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing.

Black Friday Watch: Sirius Sportster Replay at CompUSA

| 4 Comments

Sirius Sportster Replay at CompUSAContinuing with the Black Friday watch, here's one from CompUSA. They're offering up a Sportster Replay for $49.99 - that's after a $40 savings and an addition $40 eRebate.

BFAds isn't sure, but you may need to activate the receiver at the store during purchase.

But... it's the old-school Sportster Replay. What gives? There's better deals than this for the newer generation Sportster 4. Oh right, it's CompUSA.

[via BFAds]

4 Comments

Sirius subscribers: Are you having service interruptions?

| 44 Comments

SiriusI've received several reports from folks who are having service interruptions with Sirius.

There's actually an entire thread dedicated to it on Sirius Backstage with reports of issues for various receivers - including some plug-and-play radios and OEM radios - though most seem to be affecting the Sirius S50.

I personally haven't noticed any problems with my own Sirius radios, but I'm curious if anyone else has. According to the SBS thread, the Sirius customer service rep said there are system updates being applied from November 14th to November 16th.

So how has your signal been? Any issues?

[Sirius Backstage]
Thanks Frank!

44 Comments

XM/XM NavTraffic now factory-installed in 2009 Nissan Muran

2009 Nissan Murano

More stuff coming out of the Los Angeles Auto Show. XM Satellite Radio and it's real-time traffic service, XM NavTraffic, will now be available as a factory-installed option on the 2nd-generation (that's the 2009 model year) Nissan Murano.

On top of the 2009 Nissan Murano, XM NavTraffic is also available on the 2008 Nissan Altima Sedan, Altima Coupe, Altima Hybrid, Armada and Pathfinder as part of their navigation packages.

Every 2008 Nissan equipped with XM Radio and XM NavTraffic also comes standard with a 3-month free subscription to XM's services.

According to Popular Mechanics, Nissan is also starting to enter the infotainment arena (a la the Ford Sync) with iPod connectivity, a Bose premium sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, touch-screen navigation, a 9.3GB "music box" hard drive and voice control for the sound system.

The future of the "connected car" is upon us.

Slacker taking pre-orders for Slacker Portable... uhh, sorta

| 7 Comments

Slacker PortableGearlog is reporting that personalized music service Slacker is now taking pre-orders for the much-desired Slacker Portable.

Unfortunately, at this time, I can't seem to find evidence of this anywhere on Slacker's website. Their products page is still showing the Slacker Portable as "coming soon."

UPDATE: The pre-order page is now live. Check it out here.

My guess is that Gearlog got a press release pre-pitched and posted ahead of time, because they're providing more details than I've seen to date and they mention a press release as the source (with no such press release shown on Slacker's website). So with that in mind, here's a rundown of some of the details:

  • The Slacker Portable will come in in 15, 25 and 40 station capacities - which correspond with the 2gb, 4gb and 8gb versions we all learned about back when Slacker was first announced (no 120gb version, which seemed like a stretch anyway)
  • Will enjoy 10 hours of playtime
  • Features a removable battery
  • Pre-order in the U.S. with a scheduled to ship date of December 13th, 2007 (or earlier)
  • MSRP Price is $199.99 (15 stations, 2GB), $249.99 (25 stations, 4GB ) and $299.99 (40 stations, 8GB)

No word on the Slacker Satellite Car Kit...

[Gearlog]
Thanks Jim!

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Sirius Travel Link unveiled on 2009 Lincoln MKS

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2009 Lincoln MKS
Ford will be the first auto manufacturer to offer Sirius' new data services product, which is officially called Sirius Travel Link.

Sirius' technology is being showcased at the annual Los Angeles auto show.on the 2009 Lincoln MKS (pictured above).

I had the chance to play with the retail version of Travel Link, which streams information like weather, local fuel prices and movie time information direct to your vehicle. This is essentially the OEM version of the technology.

Sirius Travel Link

Features include:

  • Traffic Data - Real-time traffic speed and flow data with accident and incident information
  • Weather - Displays current conditions plus 5-day forecasts, as well as storm cell info, hurricane/tropical storm tracking, local wind speeds, and event ski resort conditions.
  • Fuel Prices - Sirius Travel Link sorts fuel options by price, distance, or alphabetically from over 120,000 gas stations
  • Sports - Stream scores and schedules personalized to your favorite teams
  • Movies - Movie times, theater addresses, ratings, and run lengths from over 4,500 movie theaters

Travel Link is impressive because it's really a jump in technology for Sirius, and it takes the data services a step further than most anything we see currently on the market.

It's also nice to see that Ford has solidified its dedication to their partnership with Sirius. With the Ford SYNC and HD Radio partnerships, there was an air of skepticism that Ford is really devoted to satellite radio. The introduction of Sirius Travel Link through Ford is a good sign that the partnership between the two is healthy.

Thanks Rich!

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XM bags CES Innovations awards as well

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XpressRC

Ok, I think this is the last in the requisite CES Innovations announcements. XM too has walked away with four Innovations honoree awards. Two of which come from Audiovox.

In addition to the XpressR and XpressEZ, the XpressRC and the Bushnell ONIX400 all grabbed the moniker of being known as "honorees" for the 2008 Innovations Design and Engineering Awards.

The Bushnell ONIX400 actually had this distinction last year, and it was the first we had seen of the GPS/XM device. Since then, I've been writing up the most ridiculously in-depth review of the ONIX400 since unboxing it (gasp) a month and half ago. I swear, it's coming soon.

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Sirius grabs some CES Innovations awards

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Sirius Backseat TV

Audiovox isn't the only one clicking their heels over the CES Innovations awards that were presented last light - Sirius too has walked away with three honoree recognitions.

Sirius Backseat TV was given the top honors as the "Best of Innovations" in theIn-Vehicle Video Product category. Which is darn tootin' cool and much better than simply being selected as an honoree.

The Stiletto 2 and Sportster 5 were also selected as honorees for the 2008 International CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards.

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New XM talk channel coming

| 20 Comments

America's TalkXM is adding in a new talk channel onto its lineup and is migrating several shows from another channel to it.

America's Talk (ch 158), which will debut on November 19th, is another talk channel programmed by Clear Channel Communications. Many shows from Extreme Talk (ch 152) and Talk Radio (ch 165), both of which are also Clear Channel channels, are making their way over there as well.

Featured shows on America's Talk include Sally Jessy Raphael, Bruce Williams, Handel on the Law and - one of my personal favorites - Leo Laporte.

[America's Talk]
Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

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Audiovox walks away with 12 CEA Innovations awards

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CES Innovations awardsThe folks over at Audiovox are stoked about having won a record 12 12 CEA Innovation Awards. The awards are being presented tonight at the CES Unveiled press event in NYC (I'm not attending, aside from the openbar, it's usually pretty boring).

The CEA Innovations Awards are usually handed out like candy. But hey, it's still a nice thing because we get to see some sneak peeks at gizmos coming out, and the companies who win them get a nice showcase at CES (there's a whole "Innovations" section where they get some special display-time). With the millions of products on display at the show, anything that sets you apart is always a good thing.

Anyway, here's the 12 awards Audiovox bagged. I've bolded the satellite radio related products:

Electronics:
- Acoustic Research Wireless Home Décor Powered 10" Subwoofer
- Acoustic Research Flat Powered Subwoofer with Two-Way Remote
- Acoustic Research Digital Wireless Transmitter/Receiver System
- Acoustic Research Wireless Sub Module Kit
- Audiovox XpressR XM Satellite Radio
- Audiovox Xpress EZ Satellite Radio

- Audiovox Digital Message Board
- Jensen Multimedia Receiver with built-in Navigation, HD Radio (booo!) and Bluetooth

Accessories:
- Terk HDSA1 Omni-Directional Indoor Smart Antenna

- Acoustic Research Flexible Right Angle HDMI Adapter
- Acoustic Research Stereo Audio Wireless Headset
- Acoustic Research LCD Surge Protector

I'm trying to get more details on the Terk Indoor "Smart Antenna" - it's uber-new and so there isn't much info out on it yet. As soon as I do, I'll relay it to the masses.

[Press Release]

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XM shareholders approve merger

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XM, Sirius merger approvedXM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. stockholders have voted to approve the merger with Sirius Satellite Radio Inc, at its special meeting of stockholders today.

The preliminary tabulation indicates that 99.8 percent of the shares voted were cast in favor of the merger with Sirius.

So there's the stamp of approval from the shareholders, next up is the DOJ and FCC.

UPDATE: You may have seen this post earlier today with some slightly different numbers. They were incorrect and the post was temporarily pulled until the real numbers came in. Sorry for the confusion.

45 Comments

XM title sponsor of the NHL All-Star fan ballot

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NHLXM, who yesterday announced the signing of the NHL Commissioner for his own XM talk show, will be the title sponsor of the NHL All-Star fan ballot (which starts today).

The NHL lets the fans cast votes to decide who plays in the starting line-up for the Eastern and Western Conference All-Star starters for the annual NHL All-Star Game. You can cast votes online at nhl.com, and U.S. fans can also cast votes on Verizon wireless phones.

Voting takes place starting today, November 13th through January 2nd. The 2008 NHL All-Star Game itself is on January 27th in Atlanta.

Being the title sponsor of the XM/NHL All-Star Fan Balloting gives XM a ton of visibility in front of devote NHL fans. And here's a good move: everyone who registers to vote gets a 14-day trial to XM Radio Online.

XM is also throwing in daily prizes like XpressRC radios with 3-months of service included. Select NHL arenas and the new NHL Powered by Reebok store in NYC will have NHL.com voting kiosks. And the balloting is heavily promoted in the NHL's "Vote Now, Vote Often" print, broadcast, online and wireless advertising campaigns.

More deets in the NHL press release.

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Sirius stockholders approved merger

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Sirius, XMUnsurprisingly, Sirius stockholders voted to approve the merger with XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc.

The approval by Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. stockholders includes the amendment to the certificate of incorporation and the issuance of 4.6 shares of Sirius common stock for each share of XM.

Mel Karmazin, Chairman and CEO of Sirius issued the following statement:

"The approval by Sirius stockholders of our merger with XM represents a significant step in the approval process, and on behalf of the Board and management team, I want to thank our stockholders for their continued support. We look forward to completing the merger by the end of the year and, together with XM, becoming an even stronger competitor in the ever expanding audio entertainment marketplace offering consumers more choices at lower prices."

The preliminary count indicates that over 96% of the shares voted were cast in favor of the transaction.

Just curious, did anyone actually think that Sirius shareholders wouldn't approve the merger?

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Huge: Former FCC Chairman Hundt supports XM/Sirius merger

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XM/Sirius merger

This is pretty big news. Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt - who was essentially the "architect" of satellite radio - has voiced support for the merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc.

Hundt served as Chairman of the FCC from 1993 through 1997. During his tenure, the Commission created the rules for satellite radio and granted Sirius and XM their licenses, a process that Hundt was integrally involved in.

In an interview - of which an unedited transcript was filed with the FCC today - Chairman Hundt discussed the proposed merger, the creation of the satellite radio rules, the rationale behind the establishment of two satellite radio licenses and developments in the audio entertainment market since 1997.

Read excerpts from the interview after the jump...

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Microsoft wants to buy Musiwave

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Zune 2

Microsoft said yesterday that it's entered into talks to buy mobile music service company Musiwave.

The acquisition by Microsoft would bring Musiwave's relationships with music labels, device makers and mobile operators together with Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform, the Zune and of course MSN. It's all part of what Microsoft music chief J Allard calls a "Connected Entertainment" vision.

Over 1 billion mobile phones with music capabilities are expected to be shipped by the beginning of next decade, according to BetaNews. This provides a significant user base for companies like Microsoft to tap into.

Musiwave's software is already found on many mobile devices sold in Europe, and its likely that with this acquision we would see the mobile technology brought here to the States.

In addition, Microsoft said today that it'll begin sales of the new Zune starting tomorrow. Microsoft unveiled the three new versions of its digital media player last month. The new Zunes can wirelessly and automatically update their music, photos and videos when placed near the user's computer. Read a round-up of the new Zune reviews on Gizmodo here.

Microsoft has sold 1.2 million Zunes since introducing their single 30-gig unit last year.

[via Reuters]

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Arizona D-Backs' Eric Byrnes to host XM show during off-season

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Eric ByrnesArizona Diamondbacks outfielder Eric Byrnes will host his own weekly, three-hour show on XM Satellite Radio during the baseball off-season.

The "Eric Byrnes Show" debuts this Saturday, November 17th, at 12-noon ET on XM's MLB Home Plate (ch 175) and will air on Saturdays all the way until spring training.

Not only is Byrnes devling deep into the world of satellite radio (a weekly 3-hour show is better than most), but he's the first active MLB player to host his own satellite radio show. He's no amateur though, having had been an in-demand sports analyst for FOX Sports and ESPN, as well as having hosted an off-season radio show at KNBR-AM in San Francisco last year.

Byrnes signed a three-year contract extension with the Diamondbacks in August 2007. He made his major league debut with the Oakland A's in 2000. After stints in Colorado and Baltimore, Byrnes joined Arizona in 2006.

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Black Friday Watch: Sirius Sportster 4 at RadioShack

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Sirius deals for Black FridayThe Sportster 4 is going to be a popular one this holiday season, and Sirius is doing a package deal through RadioShack for those Black Friday savings.

If you purchase a Sportster 4 plus a $49.99 prepaid Sirius programming card, the Sportster 4 drops down to $39.99 (so yeah, the total cost is around $90). Not bad considering that's an instant savings of $110 off the original price.

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WaPo article speaks out against Sirius-XM merger

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Mel Karmazin and Gary Parsons

The Washington Post's Marc Fisher has spoken out in opposition to the Sirius-XM merger in a recent article in the "Style" section of the publication.

It's actually a very well formulated argument, and while this may surprise some folks, I'm not going to pick it apart simply because I'm in favor of the merger. I actually would like everyone to take the time to read it - regardless of what side of the fence you're on - because he has some decent points in there. If you're pro-merger, or anti-merger, truly thinking about all sides of the issue can prove to be beneficial.

First, Fisher points to media consolidation as an example as to why the merger wouldn't be in the public interest.

The past decade has provided convincing evidence that corporate consolidation in radio and other media leads to dramatic cost-cutting, which results in less local programming and lower quality.

Why wouldn't the same happen in satellite radio?

This is probably the biggest and best argument against the merger. If media consolidation has proven to be "bad" in the past, then why should we think it wouldn't continue this trend? Now, I'm promising not to pick this apart, but it's my opinion that free radio and subscription radio are two entirely different beasts, and so there really isn't any precedence to settle upon. And I'll leave it at that.

Another issue that Fisher raises is that the A La Carte pricing would actually end up being a bad thing for satellite radio. He points to the cable industry's own argument that the less popular channels are being subsidized by the subscription fee. As such, all the less popular channels would disappear.

But the example is again flawed because the A La Carte packages still are from a selection of 50 or 100 channels, not on a channel-by-channel basis. So it's not the popular channels that are paying off, it's the $6.99 or $14.99 subscription packages that subsidize all the channels. And the increased choices will undoubtedly lead to an increase in subscribers.

So as a result... oh wait, I wasn't going to argue against this article. Sorry, couldn't resist. Do you agree or disagree with Marc Fisher's points? Give a holler in the comments.

[Washington Post via Bearing Drift Ohio]

UPDATE: I incorrectly labeled Fisher's article as being an "editorial" which was incorrect. It's part of Marc Fisher’s column which runs in the Washington Post's "Style" section. Just want to make sure that's clear.

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Black Friday Watch: Free Sirius radio from RadioShack

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Black Friday deals at RadioShack"Bargain" doesn't really describe this deal. Anything better and they have to pay you to walk home with one.

This Black Friday promo from RadioShack includes a free Sirius Stratus receiver with carkit, but only if you purchase a $49.99 Sirius card. Which is fine, since you need to pay for the service anyway. Without the card, the receiver is $29.99.

For most people (read: not satrad maniacs like you and I), a Stratus would do just fine. And as a gift, this one's a winner in my book.

Thanks Jeffrey!

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NHL Commissioner (and friends) host a new show on XM

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Gary BettmanNHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, as well as a smattering of other League executives, will be getting their very own weekly live talk show on XM Satellite Radio.

Entitled "NHL Hour," a rotation of League executives will be hosting the show, including Commissioner Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, and Senior Executive VP of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. The execs will co-host the interactive talk show with XM sports host and former NHL player Bill Clement.

"NHL Hour" will broadcast live from the NHL/XM studio in the NHL Powered By Reebok store in Manhattan.

Set to debut on Tuesday, November 27th, at 4pm ET on NHL Home Ice (ch 204), encore broadcasts will air at various times on XM and will also be available for download on NHL.com as a podcast.

Then on December 6th, "NHL Hour" will begin airing on its regular slot every Thursday at 4pm ET.

To submit questions to "NHL Hour," call 1-877-NHL-ON-XM or email HOMEICE@xmradio.ca.

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Sirius and NYU to launch medical channel

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Sirius Doctor RadioSirius and the NYU Medical Center are partnering up to create a medical and health information channel.

Ingeniusly entitled "Doctor Radio Powered by NYU Medical Center," the channel will be on Sirius channel 119. The 24/7 channel will air both live and taped programming, and will feature a listener call in format as well.

Earlier this year, XM launched ReachMD, a Clear Channel-produced channel dedicated to the medical community. While it seems that ReachMD is mainly targeting the medical professional, Sirius' Doctor Radio will instead bridge the gap between the medical professional and the everyday person.

Initially, Sirius' Doctor Radio will include over two dozen NYU doctors participating in shows on a weekly basis, Sirius spokesman Patrick Reilly told Business Week. The broadcast studio will be built in the NYU Medical Center's lobby, allowing for doctors to finish working with a patient and step behind the microphone without skipping a beat.

No channels will be dropped due to Doctor Radio, Reilly said, because it will run on a channel that's currently earmarked for occasional sports programming.

Doctor Radio will launch in early 2008.

[Business Week]

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Sirius pushes for shareholder vote

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SiriusSirius Satellite Radio Inc is turning up the volume in their call for shareholders to vote for the Sirius-XM merger. They've been broadcasting promotions on the air and I recently received this email blast that I'm sure most of you found in your inbox as well.

With one day left before the shareholder votes, the anticipation is building for the final verdict of this merger.

Check out the email after the jump...

26 Comments

Black Friday Watch: Sirius Starmate 4 (and card pack) at Circuit City

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Black Friday dealsHere you go bargain hunters, Circuit City will be offering up the Sirius Starmate 4 for $49.99. That's a whopping $70 off the original price.

Add to that, they're promoting the Sirius "card pack" which includes 3-months of Sirius service, activation, and a 30-day guarantee for $49.99. Not necessarily the best deal in town, but it does make including a Sirius subscription with your holiday gift pretty easy.

[via BfAds]

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Black Friday Watch: Sirius InV at Circuit City

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Sirius discounts at Circuit CityUber-cheap receivers are always appreciated, and Sirius is putting their InV on the block for a mere $19.99 at Circuit City on the blackest of all Fridays.

That's a $20 savings off the regular price, and $10 cheaper than what Sirius is currently selling it for themselves. At that price, it could be a stocking stuffer.

5 Comments

Black Friday Watch: XpressEZ at Circuit City

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Black Friday at Circuit CityCircuit City brings us the Black Friday goodness with the XpressEZ XM radio (read my XpressEZ review in case you're curious) for a mere $19.99.

That's with a $20 instant rebate and a $30 mail-in rebate.

While there's no pre-paid subscription card included, twenty bucks is a pretty good bargin.

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Black Friday Watch: Sirius Sportster 4 at Best Buy

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Black Friday deal on Sirius at Best BuyContinuing the Black Friday Watch, here's a deal on the Sirius Sportster 4 for $74.99 after instant savings at Best Buy.

Even further, you can save an additional $30 when you buy a $49.99 Sirius subscription card. Smart idea.

[via BfAds]

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Black Friday Watch: "Complete" XM package at Best Buy

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The holiday shopping season is quickly nearing. And thanks to the collective goodness of the internets, we're able to see many of the deals reserved for Black Friday way ahead of time. Of course there's several websites dedicated to all things Black Friday but I won't bore you with the lameness of other products - it's all satellite radio, all the time.

So let's begin.

Best Buy Black Friday DealsStarting with Best Buy, we have XM's "Complete Satellite Radio Package."

It's a Roady XT tuner, with a Boombox, a Car Kit and a free $30 XM Service Card all rolled up into a $99.99 package. Normal price is $228.83. Not a bad deal.

[via BfAds]

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WiMax suffers massive setback, Sprint and Clearwire break up

| 180 Comments

WiMaxSprint and Clearwire have "mutually agreed" that they're scrapping the $5-billion project to build out a nationwide broadband WiMax network.

Sprint and Clearwire had signed a letter of intent back in July, but weren't able to "resolve complexities" according the press release.

But regardless of what the press release says, as soon as Sprint Nextel CEO Gary Forsee stepped down as chairman and CEO, the partnership was doomed for failure. Forsee had been one of the champions of the WiMax initiative, and his departure had been called upon by many investors who were upset over the company's poor performance. Wall Street felt that Sprint needs to get back to basics of being a wireless company, especially since the company continues to struggle two years after the $36 billion Nextel merger.

WiMax, in essence, is an unproven technology and the risk was too high.

The breakup between Sprint and Clearwire has many people doubting the future of the technology, and questioning the viability of any type of closed-spectrum rollout:

"Closed spectrum will never give you the growth of open spectrum. Auctioned spectrum gives companies a monopoly for use of that spectrum, hence a high rent is needed, and this eventually frustrates most attempts to put the spectrum to use."

An interesting thought.

Sprint still insists they intend to "provide services" under the Xohm brand but is reviewing its WiMAX business plans. Xohm would still be supported by the "ecosystem" of device, chip and other partners (including Intel, Motorola, Nokia and Samsung), but it's unclear as to what extent.

[Wall Street Journal, Press Release]

180 Comments

Holiday channel lineup on Sirius

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Holiday music on SiriusSirius is decking the halls with some holiday cheer this season by bringing back their fan-favorite holiday channels.

Starting on November 19th, Sirius Holiday, Christmas Country and Classical Christmas are all returning to Sirius.

  • Sirius Holiday lands on Starlite (ch 2) with the blend of holiday hits mixed with traditional favorites that we've grown to love. Expect to hear artists like Nat "King" Cole, Paul McCartney, Bing Crosby, Elton John, Frank Sinatra, Mariah Carey and more.
  • Christmas Country parks its sleigh on The Roadhouse (ch 62) with holiday favorites from country music's biggest stars.
  • And finally, Classical Christmas burns a yule log on Sirius Pops (ch 86) with traditional holiday music performed by the world's leading orchestras, choirs and opera stars.

Don't worry, just like last year, Starlight, The Roadhouse and Sirius Pops all will be returning to their regular programming after the holiday season.

Thanks Nathan!

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FTC investigation into XM is closing

XMThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has informed XM Satellite Radio that they're closing its inquiry into the company's marketing and customer service practices.

The FTC launched this inquiry back in Spring 2006. XM had received a letter on April 25th stating that the FTC was conducting an inquiry into whether XM’s activities were in compliance with various acts - including the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the Truth in Lending Act, and the CAN-SPAM Act.

The FTC has decided to close the inquiry without any action.

UPDATE: Word has it that the FTC investigation isn't just "closing" - it's closed. No action. Done deal.

If the FCC doesn't approve merger? "Sirius will sue"

| 36 Comments

Mel Karmazin
There's an interesting comment from Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. CEO Mel Karmazin in an interview with the Chicago Tribune:

Tribune: What happens if the FCC does not approve the merger?

Karmazin: Sirius will sue.

A strong response. I wonder if it means that if the XM-Sirius merger is not approved, it will be left up to the courts to decide.

[Chicago Tribune]
Thanks Tim!

36 Comments

Jensen Rock 'n Road GPS: Now with "free" XM Mini-Tuner

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Jensen Rock and Road GPS

The uber-cool Jensen Rock 'n Road GPS, and it's sister unit the Advent ADV800XM, are now available for sale at select retail outlets. And as a promotion, XM is including the optional XM Mini-Tuner for free through December 29th, 2007.

If you buy the Rock 'n Road (which I had a hands-on look at CES, check out a ton of photos here) direct from XM, the Mini-Tuner is automagically free with your purchase.

You can also find the Rock 'n Road (NVXM1000) at Best Buy and Circuit City, where the XM Mini-Tuner is included with a savings of up to $60 with GPS purchase.

The lesser known Advent ADV800XM GPS is pretty much the same thing has the Jensen Rock 'n Road (both fall under the Audiovox umbrella) but is available at XM's select auto partners' participating dealerships (GM, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai). You get similar savings of up to $60 on the XM Mini-Tuner and Car Antenna with the GPS purchase as well.

I love the fact that satellite radio is (finally) coming with on-dash GPS devices. The next step is to include a free trial with each purchase.

Check out side-by-side photos of the Advent and the Jensen after the jump...

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Martha gives us a Taste of the NFL

Taste of the NFL

Martha Stewart is kicking off an exclusive interview series on Sirius revolving around the "Taste of the NFL" charity event.

If you're not familiar with the Taste of the NFL, it's a charitable food and wine (tasting that is) event meant to battle hunger in America.

The Taste of the NFL event is held every year the night before the Super Bowl. A top chef from each NFL team city is paired with NFL players to prepare and serve a special dish. It all raises money to benefit local and national hunger organizations. So far, the event has raised over $6.8 million since its start in 1992.

So what's Martha got to do with this?

Every Monday and Friday, from now until the Super Bowl, a different chef will guest on Sirius' Martha Stewart Living Radio (ch 112) where they will discuss their signature Taste of the NFL dish, take calls from listeners, and share stories about their favorite players and hometown teams.

Martha Stewart Living Radio will also broadcast live from the 17th annual Taste of the NFL event on February 2nd, 2008.

Baseball's over? Not on XM

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Baseball's over, but XM's keeping it alive during the off-season on their 24-hour baseball talk radio channel MLB Home Plate (ch 175).

Derek Jeter

First there's the Derek Jeter "Baseball Confidential" where the all-star shortstop sat down with MLB Home Plate host Buck Martinez in July for an hour-long interview.

The Derek Jeter interview will air today (November 8th) at 6pm ET/3pm PT for the premiere episode of the second season of “Baseball Confidential.” The Yankee's captain talked candidly about life on and off the field in the interview taped in front of a live audience at Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC (a taping that I had the privilege of attending).

“Baseball Confidential” features in-depth interviews with the greats of the game every Thursday during the off-season, with encore broadcasts through the weekend. Other guests on “Baseball Confidential” this season include Tony Gwynn, Earl Weaver, Mike Schmidt, and Harry Kalas. If you miss it, don't worry, there will be a whole slew of encore broadcasts and it's worth the listen (even if you hate the Yankees).

Then there's a marathon broadcast of 2007 postseason during Thanksgiving week, where the biggest games of the 2007 postseason will air back-to-back on MLB Home Plate. XM will replay every game of the 2007 World Series and the two league championship series, plus select games from the division series. The marathon broadcast will start Wednesday, November 21st, at 6am ET/3am PT and ends Monday, November 26th, at 6am ET/3am PT.

XM will also air live coverage of the MLB Winter Meetings where general managers will gather in Nashville and XM will be there for live coverage for the full four days. The MLB Home Plate team will be in the center of the action at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel to deliver breaking news on the biggest deals. It all starts December 3rd, and ends December 6th with the Rule 5 draft.

And if that's not enough and you want to relive more of this year's greatest moments, there's “2007 Rewind.” MLB Home Plate will cover all the news of the past season, from Barry Bonds’ record-breaking homer to the Boston Red Sox’ second World Series title in four years. “Rewind” specials will also focus on each of the four teams to make it to the LCS: Boston, Colorado, Cleveland, and Arizona. When the new year arrives, the focus shifts to spring training and predictions for the upcoming season.

For more deets, dates and times check out xmradio.com/mlb.

9 Comments

David Rehr email to NAB members on performance royalties

| 14 Comments

David RehrEarlier today an anonymous reader sent me the following email from David Rehr sent out to NAB members. It's interesting to read only because it shows how the NAB seems to now have a heightened sense of importance when it comes to the battle over performance royalties.

When it comes to picking and choosing battles, it baffled me that the NAB focused so much on the XM-Sirius merger (or satellite radio in general over the past 13 years), when there's just far more pressing issues for them to devote resources towards. This email illustrates that perfectly...

Read the email after the jump....

14 Comments

Tom Brady "suspension" causes drama for Opie & Anthony

| 49 Comments

Tom BradyOh geez. XM Satellite Radio's Opie and Anthony aired a fake news story yesterday that New England Patriots superstar Tom Brady was suspended for steroid use.

Sadly, some people didn't get that it was fake.

According to the Boston Herald, "a number" of fans called the newspaper's sports department to inquire about the story. And yesterday morning apparently the phrase “Tom Brady Suspended” was the most-searched topic on Google for a while.

The New England Patriots are reportedly upset over the ordeal according to one of the Herald's sources.

“The team is not happy,” said the Herald source. “And they let that be known. But at the same time they want this to go away and not become any more than it already is.”

Patriots spokesperson Stacey James declined to comment other than to say that “we’ve notified our legal department.” Supposedly, the Pats received calls from media outlets and fans who believed the report was true.

But it was all part of Opie & Anthony's "Make Stuff Up Tuesday" where listeners call in with ideas for silly news stories, and O&A "report" on it on-air.

Perhaps this whole ridiculous thing could be explained best by XM spokesperson Nathaniel Brown:

“It was clear to anyone who listens to the show that it was a gag,” said Brown. “They actually build the story with the listeners and anyone who is familiar with the show knows the routine - it’s all made up.”

Some people just need to linger longer.

[Boston Herald]

49 Comments

Why Satellite Radio needs to go Green

| 14 Comments

go-green.jpgGreen is in right now. It's actually been hot for a while, but this year particularly "green" has taken hold in both the media and in commerce. And for good reason.

I'm not talking about the moral, ethical or even environmental benefits for going 'Green' - we should all be well aware of those by now. Instead I'm talking about from a pure business sense (y'know, the other side of "green" - the one that really sparks a social movement). Being Green is of course a marketing play for many corporations. One that positions a company as a responsible and socially conscious entity. That whole "we're people too" thing.

Green also targets a highly targeted, growing, and influential audience. They're not necessarily an affluent demographic (though those Prius sales figures might make it seem otherwise), but they are an actively engaged and passionate group. When a growing group people base their business decisions on whether a company is Green or not, it's a no-brainer which side of the fence to be on.

Plus it's newsworthy, because the media just loves to report on anything eco-friendly lately.

I know what you're thinking... "Now how the heck are Sirius and XM supposed to 'go green'? C'mon, satellites aren't somehow more environmentally friendly than terrestrial radio towers, are they?" - well, no probably not. Though, all those terrestrial radio towers might have killed hundreds of thousands of migratory birds (but that's entirely different post).

Instead, here's some ideas as to how Satellite Radio can help add to the Green movement, and maybe make a buck or two in the process:

1. Buy a radio, plant a tree. This one is easy. Do a "green week" (like say, around Black Friday?) where for every satellite radio sold, Sirius/XM will have a tree planted. At no costs to the consumer. Bonus: escalate from a "green week" to a "green all the time initiative" - those who are into the environment are pretty keen to the fact that a lot of it is marketing hooplah. So rather than a limited promotion, make it a company-wide initiative. Word will get around that you're dedicated.

2. Give free satellite radio service for every Hybrid vehicle sold. Or strike a deal with the OEMs to make satellite radio standard in all hybrids. Whatever it is, it needs to be a special "perk" for going with a more eco-friendly vehicle. Satellite radio has a symbiotic (or even parasitic) relationship with auto manufacturers. And no industry wants to ride the Green Wave moreso than the auto industry. Rather than sitting passively by, hop on board (and help them move those premium-priced vehicles).

3. Setup eco-friendly returns. This is even more niche, but that's not the point. When current subscribers are looking to upgrade their receivers, offer them a free recycling kit for their old radios. Help cut down on e-waste.

4. Green programming. Eco-conscious consumers don't just want to talk about the environment, they might want to hear about it too. Creating a green channel - or even a "green week" much like what NBC is doing this week - is something that will attract this audience and help make these influentials into hubs for your product. (For what it's worth, Live Earth was a bomb and not the right approach. It needs to be actionable, not just propaganda.)

I'm sure there's plenty more tactics that can be employed (maybe a little tongue-in-cheek messaging like "our satellites are powered by 100% renewable solar energy"?). But the bottom line is that both XM and Sirius actively are targeting the passionate consumer - and walking the fine line of broad appeal and niche segmentation.

And we're at a unique time right now where a previously niche interest like being environmentally aware is growing into a social norm. Capitalizing on that by actively participating in eco-friendly practices wouldn't just be good for the environment, it'd be good for business as well.

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XM LED: The Led Zeppelin Channel

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XM Led Zeppelin Channel

XM is following in Sirius' footsteps by creating a dedicated artist channel - this one is devoted to the iconic band Led Zeppelin. Dedicated artist channels in the past have been greeted with a lukewarm (or sometimes frigid) reception among fans, mainly because they tend to come at the expense of a current channel.

Thankfully, that's not the case with XM LED.

XM LED: The Led Zeppelin Channel, will launch tomorrow November 8th and run through May 8th, 2008. It will debut on XM channel 59, without putting any other channels on hiatus as a result.

On channel's launch date, XM will also air the U.S. premiere of "The Song Remains the Same," the re-issued two-disc soundtrack from the band's concert film of the same name. This album will feature six previously unreleased songs from Zeppelin's live concert that ran for three nights in July of 1973 at Madison Square Garden.

XM LED: The Led Zeppelin Channel will also feature the band's complete audio catalog, interviews with band members and other content that celebrates all that is Led Zeppelin.

The launch of the dedicated channel of course coincides with several "new" releases coming from Led Zeppelin. They're also: releasing "Mothership," a 24-track re-mastered career retrospective; making the entire Zeppelin musical catalog available digitally; and also kicking off a reunion performance headlining the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute concert in London on December 10th.

Listen to an extended audio promo below to get a good sense of the sound and creative direction for the channel:


(Length is roughly 1:30)

[XM LED]

117 Comments

Bubbapalooza (starring Ned) coming to Phoenix

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Bubba the Love SpongeBubba the Love Sponge and his cast of cohorts are taking the whole McGillucutty out of the studio and bringing it to Phoenix for a night of adult comedy and entertainment.

On December 14th, Bubbapalooza is coming to Arizona.

This will be the first time that the Tampa, Florida-based show and crew has taken their live in-studio mayhem out of the studio and the state of Florida.

Bubbapalooza will be presented at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona on Friday, December 14th starting at 9pm. The show will feature Bubba himself alongside regulars Ned, Manson, Brent Hatley, Spice, 25 Cent, Grover, Miller and others.

"Our show has an enormous number of fans in the Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale area," said Bubba.

"After we performed a comedy night recently in Florida, our fans in the Phoenix area demanded that we serve them, too - so we're bringing them the whole 'McGillucutty'," Bubba added.

Check out The Celebrity Theatre for ticket information.

30 Comments

Pandora gets more social and interactive

Pandora Extras
Internet radio service Pandora, which is eons more interactive than most broadcasting services, has stepped it up even further by adding four new "extras" to boost the social experience of its listeners.

The new features are:

  1. Pandora now tells you more details on what you're listening to (a la Slacker) and recommends similar songs instead of just playing them sight-unseen, and shows other members who have similar interests
  2. In addition, Pandora now allows you to keep follow friends and interact with them via the service
  3. Pandora has also added 100 genre presets so you don't need to search to begin listening
  4. Finally, Pandora has also added original programming to its repertoire in a new featured called "Pandora Presents"

Earlier this year Pandora on the Go was announced in partnership with Sprint to include the internet radio service on over a dozen mobile phones. They also hooked up with Sonos as well as Slim Devices' Squeezebox and Transporter to bring Pandora into homes without the need for a computer.

And Pandora is only two years old.

Aside from a pointing finger at Pandora and screaming about "competition" (which it is), Sirius and XM need to really look at what they're doing in terms of interactivity with their listeners. Now I agree with Mike Arrington in that the service should maintain focus on its core offering... you know, playing good music. But while ago I also talked about a Digg for Radio concept, which is really nothing more than an online voting system to replace (or supplement) calling in via phone. And I still feel that in this environment, interactivity is important. There's so much more that satellite radio could be done with connecting and interacting with listeners - and in turn allowing listeners to connect with each other.

Maybe it's just me, but doesn't it just seem counter-intuitive that channels and shows need to promote their online presence on... MySpace?

[Pandora Blog]

Flat royalties for small radio stations proposed

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Performance royalties for radio
MusicFIRST has proposed a flat performance royalty rate for small terrestrial radio stations, non-commercial stations, and college stations, according to Radio Ink.

The radio trade publication obtained a document supposedly being circulated on Capitol Hill by musicFIRST. According to the document, small commercial AM/FM stations would pay a flat royalty rate of $5,000 per year, while non-commercial stations and college stations would pay $1,000 a year.

Formed by SoundExchange to lobby for performance royalties, musicFIRST has been fighting to change terrestrial radio's 80-year old exemption from having to pay royalties to performance artists. Meanwhile, Internet Radio and Satellite Radio have been paying performance royalties to these artists all along.

Reportedly the proposal states that stations that "make only incidental uses of music" (i.e., Talk radio) would not pay at all for music. Stations that use some music but are not primarily music formats would be offered a "per program license option so that they pay only for the music they use."

Religious services that are broadcast on radio would be completely exempt.

MusicFIRST spokesman Tod Donhauser told Radio Ink, "We are advocating for a long-overdue performance royalty that would be fair to both performers and broadcasters, therefore we are recommending an accommodation be made for small broadcasters, college stations, nonprofits, and religious programming."

"AM and FM radio should compensate artists for their hard work, talent, and dedication, and not least of all, for the content that drives their listeners and advertising revenue," he concluded.

[Radio Ink]

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CRB hinting at Satellite Radio royalty rates?

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Satellite Radio royaltiesCopyright Royalty Board judges have made their proposal for the royalty rates for "preexisting subscriptions services" which may give a glimpse into the CRB's line of thinking for similar proceedings involving Sirius and XM.

The proposed royalty rates for "pre-existing subscription services" would be set at 7.25% of gross revenues. The proposal is now in the public comment period.

Now remember that this does not apply to satellite radio. As Satellite Radio TechWorld points out, there are two parts to the recent trial: one for pre-existing subscription services (like Music Choice) and the other is for satellite radio. Music Choice and SoundExchange reached an agreement shortly before the trial ended.

Richard Ades, one of SoundExchange’s communications consultants, further validated this for me: "Correct, this does not apply to satellite radio. Basically this is the rate that cable TV stations that also have music channels will pay."

"The rate proceedings before the CRB on the satellite rate were completed a few weeks ago and the CRB said a decision is expected no later than December 17th.”

[CRB (PDF) via Satellite Radio TechWorld]

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XM getting smarter: XMU listeners refer friends for SXSW tickets

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XMU SXSWA little while ago I suggested that XM and Sirius need to step up their referral programs to be more targeted (ok, I actually suggested it twice).

Instead of the broad offer of "refer a friend and get $20," I wanted to see something more vertical like "I'm a huge Stern fan, and I know you are, so sign up and I'll make $20." (You get the idea.) Additionally, I thought it would be great to have an embeddable link/widget for people to use on social networks or blogs.

And lo and behold it looks like XM was already working on such a program.

XM’s indie-rock channel XMU (ch 43) is giving listeners the chance to invite their friends to sign up for XM and get deals on XM radios. For every friend that becomes an XM subscriber before year’s end, you get an entry into the sweepstakes to win four VIP all-access passes to the South by Southwest Festival (SWSX), plus transportation and accommodations.

You can copy and paste your personalized invite link on your MySpace or Facebook page, personal web site, or a blog (if you happen to have such a ridiculous thing).

Check out xmu.experiencexm.com for the promo.

I'd still like to see a richer user experience - like a widget that gives a sampling of what XMU sounds like - but this is a step in the right direction.

2 Comments

Decyphering the FCC's info request

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Sirius XM Merger[Updated to include joint statement from Sirius-XM]

It's difficult to interpret exactly how the FCC's request for additional info weighs in on the Sirius-XM merger prospects.

From one side, it's a request that comes fairly late in the game - which could be an indication that the Commission isn't as far into the process as originally hoped. As Bank of America analyst Jonathan Jacoby puts it, the timing of the request "indicates to our contacts that the FCC isn’t as 'in the bag' as many on the Street believe."

Perhaps the late request means that FCC isn't as near to reaching a decision as previously assumed?

On the other side, it could mean that the FCC is anticipating a decision by the DOJ, and is finalizing their own information collection procedures. The move could also be meant to appease those who've asked for the clock to be stopped (NAB, U.S. Electronics, etc.) based on the need of more information.

The quick two-week turnaround required - while not stopping the clock - might be perceived as a positive, since there's definitely a degree of urgency there. The requests are also very specific, which could be that the FCC is dotting i's and crossing t's as we near the end of this ordeal.

Superstar analyst Robert Peck of Bear Stearns brings another thought that should be even more encouraging to merger-hopefuls. His thought is that the DOJ could be nearing approval, which means the FCC needs to finalize their own process.

"If the DOJ were close to denying the deal, the need for such detailed information would not have arisen in the first place," writes Peck in a recent note.

So the FCC asking for more information could be an indication that the DOJ will be approving the merger, as has been widely rumored, otherwise the Commission would simply deny the merger on the basis of Rule 25.118.

Very interesting.

UPDATE: I asked Sirius-XM about the FCC's request, below is their joint response:

"This is a next step in the regulatory process. It is not a surprise. This is information that has already been collected for the DoJ and is easy to share with the FCC. We continue to work with regulators and expect the merger to close by the end of the year."

43 Comments

musicFIRST's "gift" to the NAB

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David RehrThe National Association of Broadcasters and musicFIRST continue to battle over performance fees for terrestrial radio broadcasts. In the latest volley, musicFIRST has sent a "gift" to NAB president David Rehr.

See, the NAB has been consistently calling the performance right a "tax" - a designation that has been called into question by even lawmakers.

So musicFIRST sent the Rehr a copy of the American Heritage College Dictionary, “to help the NAB more accurately understand the meaning of a tax.”

Even Senator John Sununu (R-NH), at the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the Future of Radio, asked NAB Radio Board member W. Russell Withers why he referred to performance fees as a "tax" when the word implies that the government would be collecting the money.

Perhaps the dictionary will help answer that.

"A performance right is not a tax," said Martha Reeves, a founding member of musicFIRST. "It is fair compensation for artists and musicians who, through their voices, their inspiration, and their hearts and souls, bring music to life on the radio. It is compensation earned by artists and musicians that is long overdue."

"It seems that the NAB will do anything to avoid paying artists," added John Simson, Executive Director of SoundExchange and also a member of musicFIRST. "They tried calling royalties a 'tax' years ago when they moved heaven and earth to avoid paying songwriters, but they lost that one."

NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton fired back by completely avoiding the issue and instead said that the recording industry is trying to "bail out a failing business model."

"It is undeniable that free airplay of music on America's hometown radio stations generates millions of dollars in annual revenue for both artists and the foreign-owned record labels," Wharton added.

Undeniable? Tell that to Bruce Springsteen, who's album "Magic" debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and sold about 335,000 copies in its first week - despite very little radio airplay. According to Fox News, Springsteen's album was snubbed by radio giant and NAB member Clear Channel, which reportedly sent out an edict to its classic rock stations not to play tracks from "Magic."

Undeniable indeed. Maybe we need to send another dictionary to Mr. Wharton.

[FMQB]

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FCC requests more info from Sirius-XM

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FCCThe Federal Communications Commission has asked Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. for additional information in regards to their pending merger.

"In order for the Commission to review the consolidated application and make the required public interest findings ... we require additional information and clarification of certain matters discussed in the consolidated application," wrote the FCC in their request to the companies.

The FCC is asking for a wide array of documents ranging from agreements with content partners, to research reports and other analysis, and even technical broadcast information (much of which I would assume they already have?) among other things.

It's a fairly sizable request, and it's all due by November 16th.

Interestingly enough, a lot of the information requested is stuff that the FCC should already have, or had received already. But considering the size of the request, there's little chance the FCC will reach their final decision shortly after the Nov. 16th due-date.

With rumors of the DOJ reaching a decision sometime this week, I don't know if this is an indication that the process has been delayed at all. But traditionally the DOJ would make its decision first and then followed by the FCC. Much of the info requested by the FCC also seems to have covered what U.S. Electronics was requesting (and U.S.E. was asking for the clock to stop), so the news could be seen as a positive thing.

[FCC Requests: XM, Sirius (PDF)]
Thanks Tim!

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Google launching open platform for mobile devices

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Google Android

Google has joined forces with T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm, Motorola and 30 other major technology and mobile leaders to announce the development of Android and the Open Handset Alliance.

There's a press call at noon, but the basic gist can be summed up here from their press release:

With nearly 3 billion users worldwide, the mobile phone has become the most personal and ubiquitous communications device. However, the lack of a collaborative effort has made it a challenge for developers, wireless operators and handset manufacturers to respond as quickly as possible to the ever-changing needs of savvy mobile consumers. Through Android, developers, wireless operators and handset manufacturers will be better positioned to bring to market innovative new products faster and at a much lower cost. The end result will be an unprecedented mobile platform that will enable wireless operators and manufacturers to give their customers better, more personal and more flexible mobile experiences.

This open, common platform will essentially reduce the barrier of entry for developers to create applications for mobile phones.

The significance of this for the satellite radio industry - at least from my initial take - is that the mobile audio industry is going to see far more rapid growth in terms of applications, and in turn services. So if we thought mobile audio was a growing threat before, wait until this takes hold.

Removing the need to do individual deals with wireless carriers in order to get onto a phone breaks down a HUGE barrier to entry. Not only that, but this move by Google will ignite carriers who are not participating in the Open Handset Alliance to make similar moves in "openness" (albeit, each with their own twist for profit).

In a few years, mobile phones won't be "phones" - they'll be mini-computers (they pretty much are already). And just like there's a whole generation who thinks of "radio" as streaming audio coming out of their computer speakers, look for the next generation to consider "radio" as streaming audio coming out of their pockets.

[Google via Engadget]

UPDATE: If you're looking for a good overview of this, check out the write in The Grey Lady.

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More support for the merger coming in...

| 3 Comments

SatelliteXM and Sirius have just issued a press release highlighting additional support for their pending merger.

Among those cited in the release are NASCAR and Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and Jim DeMint (R-SC), as well as some on-air talent like Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, Tony Hawk and progressive talk radio/television personality Bill Press.

We already saw the Senators' support last week, though it would be nice to see some additional support from others on The Hill.

Then there's NASCAR Digital Entertainment, which filed some comments with the FCC on behalf of NASCAR fans who subscribe to satellite radio:

"We hope that the proposed merger will lead to more flexible programming options for consumers, which will lead to an increase in the number of people that receive NASCAR-related satellite radio programming. Also, I understand that, post-merger, NASCAR fans that are satellite radio subscribers will be able to enjoy the best of both SIRIUS and XM without having to purchase two radios or pay for two separate subscriptions."

As well as other comments:

"Merger synergies will decrease duplicative programming and result in expanded variety and more unique content unavailable anywhere else," wrote Bill Bradley

"...the merger will allow the new company to offer a variety of exciting new programming packages, some of which will enable subscribers to chose specific channels at lower monthly prices than are available today," wrote Tony Hawk.

"I support the merger because it will best serve the listening public by providing a strong, national platform for the great diversity of voices and opinions that are the fabric of America -- especially progressive voices, which are seldom heard on terrestrial radio," said Bill Press.

I guess it's always a good thing to flex some PR muscle and highlight support. And I understand the underlying message: government, content partners, and hosts/employees all support the merger - but is it me, or does this seems somewhat... uninspired?

3 Comments

Jay-Z takes over Sirius Hip-Hop Nation

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Jay-Z American GangsterJay-Z is "taking over" Sirius Satellite Radio's hip-hop channel for a week starting today.

Hip-Hop Nation (ch 40) is transforming into Jay-Z Nation, starting today at 5pm ET, coinciding with the release Jay-Z's new album American Gangster (which hits the streets tomorrow). The album, which is Jay-Z's 10th studio album, is inspired by the new movie co-starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe about Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas. After screening the film, the 37-year-old rap mogul was inspired to create, American Gangster, his first 'conceptual album' depicting the birth, rise and fall of a hustler.

Jay-Z Nation will feature music from American Gangster as well as other Jay-Z songs, plus songs from some of his other favorite artists. The channel will also air a special live concert playback from Jay-Z forthcoming performance at the House of Blues in Chicago as well as special editions of Street Certified, DJ Green Lantern: The Invasion, and The Nation's Top 20 Hip Hop Countdown hosted by Jay-Z.

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College hoops "tips off" on XM

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College Basketball on XMStarting tomorrow November 6th, XM Satellite Radio will tip off the 2007-2008 college basketball season with over 1,000 games from all six power conferences.

With the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC under its belt, XM will host their college basketball games on about 17 sports play-by-play channels.

XM is also home to "Basketball and Beyond with Coach K," the weekly radio show hosted by Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. His show airs Wednesdays at 9am ET on XM Sports Nation (ch 144), with encores at various times through the week. Coach K and sportscaster Dave Sims talk college basketball and discuss the coach's personal perspective on principles for life on and off the court.

XM covers 16 of the top 25 teams in the pre-season ESPN/USA Today college basketball poll which includes the top-ranked North Carolina. In March, XM will be the exclusive satellite radio network for the conference basketball tournaments for each of the six power conferences.

Tomorrow, Kentucky will host Central Arkansas at Rupp Arena in Lexington. The game will serve as XM's debut college basketball broadcast and will air on XM channel 199 at 7pm ET/4pm PT.

A weekly schedule of college basketball games on XM will be available at xmradio.com/collegesports.

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"iTunes radio" on route?

| 5 Comments

Apple iPhone
AT&T may have just inadvertently let the cat out of the bag regarding a possible upcoming "iTunes radio" service coming to the iPhone.

Here's the story -- apparently some iPhone folks were going nuts with their data plans while overseas, and were returning home to phone bills ranging into the thousands of dollars. So AT&T has decided to appease the international-surfing-masses by creating an "iPhone International Data" package.

Now here's where it gets interesting.

On AT&T's site, it explains a bit about the new data plan:

While using data on iPhone is free within the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, International data roaming can get expensive quickly. Consider that just 20 minutes of iTunes® radio takes 20MB of data. That's why AT&T has created two iPhone International packages with more reasonable rates in 29 countries*. (emphasis added)

Hmmm... iTunes radio?

Engadget super-sleuth Ryan Block is quick to point out that this can't be the iTunes WiFi store, because that's, well, over WiFi.

Smells like something is cookin' over there in Cupertino.

[Engadget]
Thanks Luke!

5 Comments

Report: DoJ Antitrust Chief to approve merger

| 32 Comments

Sirius and XM merger approved?

Reports have come in today claiming that Thomas Barnett, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice Antitrust Division will approve the Sirius-XM merger, according to a Cowen & Company note issued today.

While no official announcement has been made, the reports have sent Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. (SIRI) and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. (XMSR) stock soaring up nearly 6% today, despite a relatively weaker market. According to Cowen & Company analyst Tom Watts, the Antitrust Chief's approval would come "despite a staff recommendation against the deal."

In addition, it's reported that the announcement of a decision also might arrive as early as next week.

Watts notes that the pattern of the Antitrust Chief acting contrary to his staff's recommendations would be similar to the approval of the Whirlpool-Maytag merger of 2006. The Antitrust Chief ultimately approved the Whirlpool-Maytag merger, despite that DoJ staff was reported to be positioning to block the deal.

Cowen & Company continue to expect the Sirius-XM merger to be approved, and "take encouragement" from word that a decision come as soon as next week.

32 Comments

Another proxy advisory service recommends the merger

| 1 Comment

XM/Sirius mergerYet another independent proxy advisory service - ISS - has lent its recommendation that Sirius and XM stockholders vote "FOR" the merger.

Earlier this week, Glass Lewis also recommended that Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. shareholders vote in favor of the merger.

The ISS analysis said, “From a strategic viewpoint, it appears that combination would allow shareholders of both companies to participate in the expected benefits of a larger entity. Our review of Wall Street research reports suggest that operational and cost savings would yield estimated synergies of approximately $6 billion.”

If regulatory approval is obtained, the combined company would be able to compete against a broader media market that includes high-definition radio, Internet-based radio, free radio and digital media devices such as Apple Inc. iPods," added ISS.

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3 big developments in the Sirius-XM merger

| 9 Comments

XM and Sirius MergerThe often negative-sounding M&A Researcher has written an article today that highlights three developments that they call "matters of relative significance."

M&A Researcher does its best at providing the facts in as much of a neutral position as possible. They observe and report, and in many cases bring us back down to earth. As a result though, many industry watchers tend to view M&A's notes as overly negative.

But you have respect what they're trying to do.

Anyway, this article points to three recent developments as having some level of significance: the letter of support from Congress; Sirius-XM rebuttal to the click-stopping requests by the NAB and US Electronics; and the Carmel Group's newly updated ping-pong chart.

Interestingly, by M&A's own admission, the last two don't really hold that much significance.

M&A noted that Sirius-XM's rebuttal was "obligatory" and "standard actions" - but they did add that stoppage requests from "more influential sources" would hold more water. Duh. I guess the same could be said if "more influential sources" urged for the merger to go through. Double-duh.

Then there's The Carmel Group's ping-pong chart, which was also referred to as a "de facto response" by the NAB, and "basically repeats earlier opposition" by the NAB (which, in itself, has been the de facto standard during this merger process, hasn't it?). So it too isn't really that significant. M&A even goes so far as to say that The Carmel Group's report "impact on the federal reviews at this point is negligible."

I couldn't agree more.

If I might digress for a minute here... I don't like how The Carmel Group states that "many will lose their jobs in a merger" between Sirius and XM. That's an assumption, and one that Gary Parsons addressed directly, actually stating that both companies are growing (and need to continue to grow) so they'll likely need to grow headcount outward - not reduce it. It just irritates me that NAB-funded "research" is coming to these conclusions without any real backing.

Anyway, I guess if we're to derive anything from M&A's assessment of the these three developments: it would be that the Congressional support holds the most weight and significance than anything else. If XM and Sirius are able to garner more Congressional support in the weeks ahead, then they could combat the political influence that the NAB has.

More and more there's the painful realization that high-profile mergers like this one are really all about politics, then they are about merits alone. (And that's pretty sad.)

[Seeking Alpha]

9 Comments

Imus returns to the air

| 18 Comments

Imus

Citadel Broadcasting Corp. has confirmed one of the worst kept secrets in radio: Imus is returning to the air.

On December 3rd, Don Imus will make his triumphant return to the airwaves on New York's WABC-AM, only nine months after being booted for the "nappy headed hos" comment that got him fired.

Imus will return with longtime newsman Charles McCord, and other members of his morning team. It's still unknown whether Bernard McGuirk, the producer who was fired along with Imus, will return though.

The prospect of Imus' return, which has been rumored about for months now, had outraged groups like the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Organization for Women - who said the return of Imus is nearly as insulting as the comments that originally drove him off the air.

[AP]

18 Comments

Faith Hill Artist Confidential on XM's website

Faith Hill

Starting today, XM has given fans the ability to both hear and see clips from Faith Hill's Artist Confidential appearance.

The Faith Hill episode of the popular original series was recorded last month at the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s gorgeous Allen Room performance stage in NYC, in front of an audience of 250. On top of discussing her life and career, Faith treats the audience to show-stopping renditions of songs from her latest release “The Hits,” including “Red Umbrella,” “Stronger” and “Cry.”

And it's "Red Umbrella" that XM has now made available as a video online - along with a snippet from the interview where she talks about her musical influences.

The special video highlights from “Artist Confidential: Faith Hill” will be available for free on XM’s website through November 30th. The full episode (audio-only) will also be available on XM channel 3 throughout the month on XM Radio Online.

Jerry Seinfeld interview on Sirius

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Jerry SeinfeldAn interview with Jerry Seinfeld will be airing - again - on Sirius Satellite Radio later this week and throughout the weekend.

The conversation between Seinfeld and comedian Jim Breuer originally aired on Raw Dog Comedy (ch 104) yesterday at 5pm ET and again at 10pm ET. Unfortunately, Sirius gave a mere 1-hour window for the media to alert the masses by issuing their press release at 4pm yesterday. (This has been an ongoing, and annoying, trend as of late.)

Thankfully, an encore broadcast of the interview will air on Friday, November 2nd at 11am ET and again at 6pm ET - as well as throughout the weekend. Check out sirius.com/rawdog for the complete broadcast schedule.

Coincidentally, November 2nd also marks the date that Seinfeld's Bee Movie is being released by Paramount. Seinfeld co-wrote and co-produced the film, and also provided the voice of main character, Barry B. Benson. Seinfield and Bruer chit-chatted about the movie, as well the New York Mets and more.

4 Comments