Orbitcast: December 2007 Archives

December 2007 Archives

Top 20 Orbitcast posts of 2007


Holiday sales for MP3 players went flat, and music is down (is there an opportunity here?)


MP3 Player SalesEarly reports of holiday sales this year indicate that sales of MP3 players went flat, while overall music sales were down at a dramatic rate. I wonder if this spells an opportunity for satellite radio.

Dollar sales of MP3 players between November 18th to December 9th were down 16% from the same period last year, while unit sales declined 9%, according to NPD. These numbers, sadly, do not include the iPod - which likely contributed to the decline in other MP3 player sales.

The sales plateau is likely the result of a saturated market. "The market is in a position where most of the people who want an MP3 player have one," NPD analyst Stephen Baker told InformationWeek.

"The iPod is not exactly a blistering growth segment," Baker said. "It's a good segment, and you'll still make money on it, but it's not growing 75% a year."

Shoppers were choosing cheaper - and smaller capacity - flash versions of MP3 players, rather than the more expensive hard-disk-drive versions. Most people don't have enough music and video files to justify paying more for a device with 80-plus gigabytes of storage, Baker said.

Meanwhile, overall music sales during the Christmas shopping season were down an incredible 21% from last year, reports Variety.

From the week of Thanksgiving up through the day before Christmas Eve, 83.9 million albums were sold. That's a whopping decrease of 21.38 million units from 105.28 million in 2006.

All this could mean good news for satellite radio. A sharp decline in overall music sales, plus flattening sales of digital music players (with smaller capacities), means that many people will have less to listen to - especially during an arduous commute.

Marketing the message "hey, you with the teeny MP3 player and no CDs in your car, subscribe to satellite radio!" may be a bit more difficult to get across... but the opportunity is still there. Just need to find a way to seize it.

Garmin Nuvi 350
And speaking of opportunities, at the same time that MP3 and overall music sales are down, dollar sales of GPS devices were up more than 214% and unit sales soared 488%. Kind of makes you think there was a missed opportunity there.

[InformationWeek, Variety]


Best Buy selling $50 gift card... for $55


Best Buy Gift Card
Here's a quickie for a little pre-New Year levity: Best Buy has a $50 Sirius gift card up for sale on their website for... $55.

The boys over at Consumerist talked to a Best Buy rep, who said Sirius charges the retailer an extra $5 for the $50 gift card. Yet a little research shows that other gift cards seem to match up to their given price.

So I'd say it's just a typo. But a funny one at that.

Thanks realwx!


Mobile entertainment usage soaring in U.S.



In the past year, more Americans have become used to thinking of their cellphones as entertainment devices at a soaring pace, according to a new-media survey from Deloitte & Touche.

Deloitte's first edition of the survey (which was performed just 8 months earlier) showed that 24 percent of U.S. consumers used their cellphones as entertainment devices. Since then, a follow up survey shows that entertainment usage on cellphones jumped 50 percent, bringing the total of U.S. consumers who use their cellphones as entertainment devices to 36 percent.

The findings of the survey of 2,081 Americans, conducted in late October, were provided to The Hollywood Reporter before their official release next month.

Roughly 62 percent of "millennials" (13-to-24-years-old) are using their cellphones as entertainment devices - that's up from 46 percent in the previous study conducted in late February. And among Generation X consumers (25-to-41-year-olds), the number grew to 47 percent - up drastically from 29 percent in the earlier survey.

That's a pretty rapid adoption rate. And only in eight months. Now imagine how that usage will grow in the next two years?

Note to Sirius and XM: If you want to ride this wave - stop thinking of your mobile services as a revenue generators, and start thinking of them as a lead generators. The key to adoption, is exposure.



Apple planning HD Radio push for MacWorld?


Polk I-Sonic ES2
Apple is reportedly readying a big push for HD Radio boomboxes equipped with iTunes Tagging technology at the upcoming MacWorld show.

Introduced back in September, the iTunes Tagging technology allows terrestrial radio stations broadcasting in HD Radio to encode song data in each track. Listeners are then able to "tag" the songs for later purchase on iTunes. CBS Radio, Clear Channel, Cumulus, Cox, Entercom and Greater Media all are in the process of adding iTunes Tagging.

According to iBiquity, "Apple plans to offer participating stations a revenue share for songs referred to and purchased on iTunes,” adding extra incentive for HD Radio broadcasters to adopt iTunes Tagging.

But the question remains: who does this help out more? HD Radio, or Apple?

Sure, a rev-share would be nice, but there's a lot of steps involved before that revenue becomes realized. And the benefit comes from having your own technology embedded into a myriad of devices, not from having your competition embedded into your own proprietary devices.



Wow, I guess I need an hour-long show


Orbitcast RadioOrbitcast Radio was a complete hit, and did 10-times better than I ever could have expected. Thank you all for who called in, participated in the chat room (which is still booming right now as I write this), and especially who listened in.

This will definitely be an ongoing weekly show, and obviously I'll need to make it longer. Let's try 1-hour next time and see how it goes.

If you want to download the show, click here for the streaming or MP3 version. Or if you want, subscribe to the RSS feed so you can download it as a podcast.

Or try out the player below:

Again, thanks all for the incredible debut show, and feel free to comment here on your thoughts (such as: a better day/time, topics, criticism, etc.).

UPDATE: Here's a direct link to the MP3 file.


Nominations for the 2007 Orbitcast Awards ("The Orbies") are open


2007 Orbitcast AwardsBefore I kick off Orbitcast Radio today, I also wanted to announce that nominations for the 2007 Orbitcast Awards (aka "The Orbies") are now open.

This is entirely a People's Voice award. There's no editorial influence or bias here. The channels, shows, on-air hosts, and everything else selected here is 100% powered by you.

Categories include:

  • Best Comedy Talk Show
  • Best Kept Secret on Satellite Radio
  • Best Music Show
  • Most Creative Music Channel
  • ...and much much more

I figure that since everyone else can have their own awards "show" - the satellite radio industry deserves one as well. There's some amazing talent coming from those birds, and it's about time that everyone on both Sirius and XM gets recognition for all their hard work and effort.

Nominations are open now, head on over and submit your favorites today.

[2007 Orbitcast Awards]


Introducing Orbitcast Radio: Episode 1 (the surprise debut episode)


Orbitcast RadioIntroducing Orbitcast Radio, a live internet radio show hosted by your's truly. I've been thinking about doing this for a long time (too long) and finally decided to stop thinking and start doing. So here it is.

The debut episode of Orbitcast Radio will "air" tomorrow (Friday, December 28th) at 1pm ET/10am PT. This show will run for only a 1/2 hour.

Some of the benefits of this format:

  • You can call-in and directly interact, ask questions, and participate (call in number: 646-595-3690)
  • There's a live webchat that lets everyone participate, even if you don't want to call-in
  • If you can't make it, no worries, the shows get archived so you can listen at your leisure

I'm using the opportunity of a slow work week to launch Orbitcast Radio and work out the kinks, so if you get the chance to participate, I would very much appreciate it.

Listen to Orbitcast Radio on internet talk radio


Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) takes over Sirius


Hannah MontanaMiley Cyrus, star of Disney Channel's Hannah Montana, will be taking over Sirius Hits 1 (ch 1), starting tomorrow.

The pop sensation will take time out of her sold out US tour to play her favorite songs, share stories and countdown the year's top 45 pop songs.

"Miley Radio!" premieres December 28th at 12pm ET and will run through January 1st.

Miley will also host special editions of "Hit-Bound" (the Sirius Hits 1 show that showcases artists/songs that will be the next big thing), and "Best of Live Earth Countdown" (a recount of memorable moments from Live Earth).

While Miley Cyrus is also the daughter of country star Billy Ray Cyrus, she became an overnight sensation herself as the star of the Disney Channel's series Hannah Montana. In 2007, she launched the "Best of Both Worlds" tour - performing as both herself and Hannah Montana - and tickets for the 54 city tour sold out in record time.

Forbes recently ranked Miley at #17 on their 'Top 20 earners under 25.'


XM's POTUS '08 to be televised on C-SPAN on Friday



XM's POTUS '08 channel will be televised live on C-SPAN tomorrow (Friday, December 28th) from 3pm to 6pm ET.

The C-SPAN cameras will be inside the POTUS studio live to show XM broadcasting. POTUS' Joe Mathieu will be behind the mic alongside host Adrienne Mitchell reporting the news, plus there'll likely be special guests in studio and on the phone.

Even if you're not a political buff, this will probably give you a good behind-the-scenes look at the XM studios during a typical broadcast day.


Sirius/XM blast US Electronics in FCC filing


XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.In a Consolidated Opposition filing with the FCC, Sirius and XM have blasted the "multitude" of filings submitted by U.S. Electronics, Inc. (USE), using some of the strongest language to date.

"USE never petitioned to deny the merger in accordance with the Commission’s rules and thus has no standing to raise anything but informal objections to the transaction," the companies state in the joint filing. "But since the close of the formal merger pleading cycle, USE has inundated the Commission with at least 40 petitions, motions, letters, and other filings in the merger docket."

Sirius and XM go on to argue all the arguments that US Electronics has presented (as they have done so in the past... "repeatedly"), and contend that the company is attempting to use the FCC to resolve a private contract dispute. US Electronics filed a lawsuit earlier this year against Sirius, asking for $48 Million in damages.

"In essence, USE invites the Commission to insert itself in the arbitration between Sirius and USE in order to require Sirius to license USE to manufacture and distribute Sirius equipment, in spite of the inability of Sirius and USE to work together in a contractual relationship," write Sirius-XM.

"The volume of USE’s filings expose the grudge match that it is pursuing against Sirius, and the relief it seeks exposes the self-interest underlying USE’s filings. Sirius and XM urge the Commission to resist USE’s invitation to insert the FCC into this private contractual dispute."

It's a very strongly worded filing and well worth the read if you're interested.

[FCC Filing (PDF) via SiriusBuzz]


Bing Crosby radio show to air on XM

Bing CrosbyXM will start airing weekly broadcasts of classic radio shows hosted by Bing Crosby, on XM's 1940s channel, beginning Sunday, December 30th.

"The Original Bing Crosby Radio Show" will feature episodes from the archives of the Kraft Music Hall and Philco Radio Time shows hosted by Crosby during the '40s. Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Al Jolson, Duke Ellington, The Andrews Sisters, Jack Benny, Peggy Lee, Danny Kaye, Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball and many others will be among the special guest stars featured in these classic half-hour broadcasts.

The show will air Sundays at 7:30pm ET on The 40's (ch 4), with the debut episode starting this Sunday. Encore broadcasts will air on Wednesdays at 10pm ET.

Interestingly, Sirius had a dedicated "Bing Crosby Christmas Radio" channel that ended only a couple days ago. The two are unrelated, I'm sure.

Howard Stern among Forbes' 2007 "Biggest Celebrity Paydays"


Howard SternMuch of the incredible amount of exposure surrounding Howard Stern's move to Sirius hasn't just been the fact that he's on uncensored radio - it's how much they paid him to make the move. And the media obsession hasn't ended even two year later...

Forbes recently released it's Biggest Celebrity Paydays Of 2007, and Howard Stern (who topped last year’s list) comes in at Number 3.

Stern earned the honorable position (ahead of Jay-Z and Oscar De La Hoya) thanks to a stock bonus valued at $82 million. The reason? Helping Sirius boost subscription numbers for a second year in a row.



Rep. Broun sends nasty gram about Sirius/XM merger


Paul BrounRepresentative Paul Broun (R-GA) sent a letter on Friday to US Attorney General Michael Mukasey, FTC chairman Deborah Platt Majoras and FCC chairman Kevin Martin, blasting the merger between XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.

Broun is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and the House Science & Technology Committee.

He wrote that the merger would result in an "elimination of competition" that "would hurt my constituents who are consumers of satellite radio."

Broun said the original FCC decision to issue licenses to two satellite radio providers "resulted in robust competition and expanded choice for the American consumer, all of which would be undermined by a merger of Sirius and XM."

He added that "a united Sirius/XM would be free to raise consumer prices, unchecked in the marketplace."

Broun also pointed out that the FCC "has never before allowed the only two competitors in a given market to combine. Present circumstances do not warrant the FCC's complete reversal of its conclusions in the satellite radio licensing decision, or the consumer benefits and protections that have resulted from that decision."

[Billboard via Orbitcast Forums]
Thanks N2DEEP!


The "Connected Car" to shine at CES


The Wall Street Journal has an interesting writeup on how automakers are using next month's Consumer Electronis Show as a launchpad to showcase their latest in-vehicle technologies.

And rightly so. Next year, sales for the booming in-car electronics market are expected to top $12 billion, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) - that's double the level from five years ago.

"Detroit is going to Las Vegas," said CEA president Gary Shapiro. "All the excitement in the home is moving to the car."

Demand is consumer driven, who increasingly want to bridge the gap between their digital lifestyles and the dashboard. And consumers are more likely to spend $600 for in-vehicle gizmos if they're already spending $30,000 on a car.

"Two years ago, CES wasn't even on our radar screen," said Ford Motor Co. spokesman Mark Schirmer. "Consumer electronics have become important because it is what people talk about, and it is part of what they ask about when they are buying a car."

The proof is in the pudding. Ford models equipped with SYNC are selling twice as fast as those without, according to WSJ.

Ford SYNC, which made its debut at last year's CES, will be highlighted at the upcoming show alongside the newly announced navigation system: Sirius Travel Link. Sirius will again be showing off its Sirius Backseat TV service, though no longer under the "prototype" status since it hit the market earlier this year. And while there's nothing official yet from XM, I think we can assume that the company will take the wraps off some new technologies at the show as well.

This year's CES includes a focus on the latest safety equipment, entertainment systems and the integration of digital devices (mobile phones, digital-music players and TVs) with the vehicle. WiMax and other means of internet connectivity will be shown... all spearheaded with a keynote by General Motors Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner

Can't wait.

[Wall Street Journal]
Photo credit: Wired


Radiohead free concert webcast on New Year's Eve

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Radiohead: In RainbowsRadiohead is using the momentum created by giving In Rainbows away for "any" price, and is launching a free concert on New Year's Eve which will be webcast on Current TV and Current.com.

"This is a wee celebration of the release of the physical manifestation of 'in rainbows'," said frontman Thom Yorke on the group's site.

On Tuesday, January 1st, In Rainbows will go on sale in CD format, as well as in digital format at sites like Amazon's MP3 store. Despite reports that Radiohead was "in talks" with iTunes, there are still no signs of In Rainbows (pre-orders, etc.) on Apple's music service at this time.

As for the New Year’s Eve concert, it will air on both television and the Internet, on Radiohead's website, Current TV and Current.com. The hour-long performance will begin airing starting at 12am ET on December 31st, and Current TV will rerun the program another three times throughout the day.

Here's the promotional video below:

Radiohead is paving the way for bands looking at independently promoting their music, but it's not a situation that any ol' unsigned group can pull off. Radiohead has an established fan base that doesn't require the backing of a record label to market to (anymore). But the beauty behind all this is that the Internet is the great equalizer in distribution, and Radiohead is using this to its greatest potential.

[Silicon Alley Insider via Masable]

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Sirius & XM cover Iowa and New Hampshire political events

2008-Iowa-Caucuses.jpgBoth Sirius and XM will be providing on-scene coverage of the 2008 Iowa Caucuses and the 2008 New Hampshire primary this January when locals cast the first votes to determine the next commander-in-chief.

Sirius Left (ch 146) host Alex Bennett will be in the middle of the Iowa and New Hampshire political action, delivering blow-by-blow news, reactions and analysis.

In Iowa, Bennett will deliver a firsthand account of the Caucus results and all the late breaking news from politically influential Iowa on January 3rd and January 4th. In New Hampshire on primary day, January 8th, and the morning after, January 9th, Bennett will broadcast his show live from the iconic Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, where he'll talk with "everyday Americans" about the Presidential primary.

XM's POTUS ’08 (ch 130) will be broadcasting from the Des Moines convention center on January 3rd as Iowans gather for the Democratic and Republican caucuses. Then the POTUS team will head up to Manchester, N.H., for a primary preview on January 7th, primary day on January 8th, and a post-primary wrap-up on January 9th from the Expo Center of New Hampshire.

XM will also be at multiple locations in the two states, including the C-SPAN Campaign 2008 Bus.

Fred Norris on Stern's contract: "who knows?"


Fred NorrisFred Norris of "The Howard Stern Show" recently did an interview with Suburbarazzi on a smattering of topics. Nothing earth shattering was revealed, but it's a fun read for fans.

Among the items discussed, Fred gives his view of whether or not Howard would re-sign his contract with Sirius:

"Three years from now is three years from now. You know what? I think he was thinking he was going to leave radio before he went to satellite. He could be a man of his word this time and walk away at the top, but I think he’d be sitting at home for six months and maybe wondering, ‘Hmm, maybe I could just do this show like once a week,’ and before you know it, who knows? We’ll see. The future remains to be seen."

Hey here's a thought: in three years, if in fact we'll be able to get Internet Radio in the car, what's to stop Stern from starting up his own "Howard Radio" stream?



XM gets the Party started


XM Party CityXM has already started partying it up with their New Year's Eve channel, Party City, which launched online today and on the rest of the XM Nation starting on Sunday..

Party City can be heard on XM Live (ch 120) featuring non-stop party music: from bar party hits, to dance party jams, and even classic rock party anthems. So go get your new haircut ready, pop your collar, and get ready for some action.

The channel started online today (Wednesday, December 26th) and will kick off on the satellites beginning Sunday, December 30th through New Year's Day.

(Please listen responsibly.)

Thanks Dave!


If merger approved, HD Radio wants a piece of the action


iTunes TaggingHere's a fun ongoing trend: organizations that are willing to accept the burden of responsibility - in the name of "public interest" - by asking the government to mandate that they get a piece of the Sirius-XM action.

First we had U.S. Electronics and Georgetown Partners, either of whom want "open network access" or a chunk of the bandwidth, and now iBiquity - the folks behind HD Radio - has joined the fray.

They conveniently ask the FCC requires that HD Radio be included in all satellite radio receivers, and that a merged Sirius-XM terminate all exclusive agreements with suppliers, retailers, and the OEMs. How generous of them.

Mark Ramsey sees this as a sign that HD Radio is hurting in its efforts to garner support from Detroit. It also might be a signal that the merger opposition from the NAB is coming to an end.

Satellite Radio TechWorld points out that Sirius and XM worked their respective asses of to build that OEM support, and that approving this would be unfair to the satellite radio industry. "iBiquity appears to want a free ride."

And the discussion is even more heated over in the Orbitcast Forums.

It seems to me that HD Radio/iBiquity needs to move more towards the "if we can't beat 'em, join 'em" attitude, and try working with satellite radio. If iBiquity wants to be embedded in all satrad receivers - maybe they should try a different approach.

HD Radio Coverage Map

Obviously HD Radio isn't something the public wants, but they have another asset that Sirius and XM want: bandwidth. Maybe it's time for less vinegar, and more honey.

[Satellite Radio TechWorld, Hear 2.0]
Thanks to everyone who sent this in!


One reason why people aren't willing to pay for radio


LimeWireAccording to data released by Digital Music News and media tracking firm BigChampagne, one-third of all PCs worldwide have LimeWire installed.

For those who are among the other two-thirds, LimeWire is the top P2P file sharing software - the iTunes of "stealing" music so to speak. Usage comes in at exactly 36.4% of all PCs according to the survey, and of course its the target of a multi-year RIAA lawsuit (no doubt a side effect of its popularity).

So if people aren't willing to pay for music (afterall, music will be free eventually), it's no surprise that many aren't willing to pay for radio either. For most, "radio" goes hand-in-hand with "music," even if it is far more than a simple playlist. The challenge is to convey that.

[Press Release]


Yep, I was wrong...


Chalk it up to "wishful thinking" or a somewhat less-than educated guess. Either way, my prediction was obviously wrong. Instead, the DOJ chose to announce that it won't appeal the Stolt-Nielson dismissal. Ho hum.

Who wants to take a guess as to when the DOJ decision will be reached? Because your guess is as good as mine.


XM settles with Warner Music over Inno


Pioneer InnoXM Satellite Radio and Warner Music Group have resolved the lawsuit over the Pioneer Inno.

The terms of the deal were again not disclosed, but we know it's a multi-year agreement that covers current XM radios and future devices - much like the deal that XM reached with Universal.

Warner Music Group, the world's third largest music company, as a result has pulled out of the RIAA lawsuit against XM. That leaves Sony BMG and EMI as the remaining two of the Big Four record conglomerates left in the lawsuit.


Video: Mobile TV using DVB-SH

Following yesterday's post about ICO, an Orbitcast reader sent me this video (below) about satellite-based Mobile TV in Europe.

For those looking to learn more about the potentials of DVB-SH and S-Band (which is essentially a similar architecture to what XM and Sirius are currently using, and what ICO is looking to tap into), this presentation puts it all together very nicely. If you didn't quite fully grasp what it is that ICO is planning, just watch the video and apply it to the U.S.

This was shown at a recent conference where Eutelsat was ‘unofficially’ pushing for an S-Band solution:

My prediction: DOJ decision today


Sirius XM merger

A few days ago I was asked on the Orbitcast Forums my prediction of when the DOJ would make a decision on the merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc.

The short answer? My guess is by the end of the day, today.

Keep in mind that this is not based off of any "D.C. contacts" or any level of viable insider information, although there is a fair amount of chatter on the timing (much of it is really just wishful thinking/prayers). Personally, I don't think anyone really knows when the DOJ will make their move for sure. But with all the talk that a decision will arrive by the end of the year, and the fact that no one (especially the government) is working next week... it just makes for a perfect storm.

Tom Taylor of Radio-Info puts it perfectly in this morning's newsletter:

"Journalists grimly joke about big news being released on days going into holidays, or on Fridays. Today would be both. The purpose would be for the agency (in this case, the Department of Justice) to get something off its plate, and do it with minimal attention."

If there was to be any chest-thumping opposition to the decision (that is, if all the reports that the transaction will be approved are true) coming from Congress, it would be diffused somewhat over the next week before everyone settles back in. So it just makes sense.

[via Orbitcast Forums]
Thanks MUSCLE13!


FCC's McDowell on the Sirius-XM merger status


mcdowell.jpgJust a quick bit from FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell on the merger's status at the FCC, since I know everyone is falling apart from merger-fatigue.

"I don't have a fully formed view just yet," said McDowell to B&C, but suggested that he looks at it as a market beyond just satellite radio.

"I'm a free over-the-air radio listener," he said "I'm too cheap to subscribe to XM or Sirius." Adding that, if you're under 30, you are listening to an MP3 player in your car or wherever. "So that is the audio market in general."

But it's still not cut and dry just yet... hence the lovely delay in making a decision.

"There are other public policy implications, either going from two to one in that kind of business or reversing prior commission policy."

McDowell added that he is still "asking questions" about what the audio markets is, and what is national vs. local.

[Broadcasting & Cable]


ICO to demo live Satellite Video at CES


Mobile VideoICO Global Communications and Alcatel-Lucent are putting together quite the show at CES 2008, where they'll be demoing mobile high-resolution live television programming to a moving vehicle at the show.

It will actually be North America’s first video broadcast based on the DVB-SH (Digital Video Broadcasting - Satellite services to Handhelds) mobile broadcasting standard.

So what exactly will they be demoing? These will be the first displays of the ICO alpha trial of "mobile interactive media" (or "mim") services.

The ICO "mim" product is a converged mobile media service that provides live and stored mobile TV in vehicles, interactive navigation, and roadside assistance. ICO mim will provide multiple channels of high-quality mobile video to portable, larger-screen (4.5 to 10 inch) devices.

ICO mim will also offer interactive IP data communication services - that's right Internet access and other data applications. Should be pretty interesting stuff to see.

Orbitcast will be live from CES 2008, starting on January 5th, with full coverage throughout the week. Are you going to CES too? Email me.

[Press Release]


College football fans go bowling on XM starting tonight


2008 BCS on XM

To cap its first season of broadcasting college football games for all six conferences in the Bowl Championship Series, XM will air 30 bowl games, starting tonight with the Poinsettia Bowl and ending with the BCS National Championship Game on January 7th.

For the first time, XM sportscasters will provide the play-by-play coverage for four of the biggest games: XM’s T.J. Rives and Don McPherson will call the Sugar Bowl. The Fiesta Bowl will be announced by Gino Torretta and Bill Rosinski, and Dave Sims and Gary Danielson will cover the Orange Bowl and the national championship.

For the Rose Bowl, XM will carry the ESPN Radio feed with "Monday Night Football” host Mike Tirico and former coach Bob Davie.

Plus, ESPN is producing a special on the BCS which will air only on XM on ESPN Radio (ch 140). The show, hosted by ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, will air on December 29th at 8am ET and replay at 2pm ET, with encores on Dec. 30th at 6am and 5pm ET, Dec. 31st at 7pm ET and Jan. 1st at 8am ET.

The full schedule of bowl games with dates, times and channels can be found here.


Sirius-XM decision looks more and more like 2008


Sirius, XM mergerWith analysts and FCC Commissioners indicating a decision won't come until next quarter, not to mention only a few government-decision days are left until the new year, it looks more and more like we'll be on the edge of our seats into 2008.

Former FCC Chairman, and current hired gun for Sirius (of the Wiley Rein namesake), referenced this during a recent teleconference with Wall Street analysts led by Bear Stearns' Victor Miller.

"DOJ always goes first in this area," Wiley told analysts on Wednesday. "It is looking more and more like a 2008 decision."

Wiley then added, "If I had anything to say, I couldn't say it, but I don't have anything to say."

[Radio & Records via Orbitcast Forums]


Adelstein: DOJ decision "coming shortly," FCC decision in Q1


Jonathan AdelsteinFCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, one of the two Democratic members of the FCC, spoke with NPR yesterday and gave some insight into the timing of the Sirius-XM merger decision.

During the interview on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," which focused primarily on the recent media consolidation ruling, Adelstein indicated that the DOJ's decision could be coming "shortly" and that the FCC's own decision would come in the first quarter.

"We’re hearing that action could be coming shortly but I don’t want to predict for sure, and then sometime after that presumably the FCC would act," said Adelstein in response to a caller. "I think probably in the first quarter of next year."

Of course the FCC Commissioner is using all the safe-words, but it's the first solid indication of timing - aside from various analysts' DC contacts - since FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said a decision would be coming in Q4. Adelsteins comments also coincide with a report from RBC's David Bank, which indicated a DOJ decision by the end of the year, and an FCC decision in February.

Listen to the audio snippet below:

(Duration - 1:27)

[Listen to the full audio, or read the transcript]


Keith Richards on Sirius tonight


Keith RichardsRock legend Keith Richards will be making an appearance tonight on Sirius Satellite Radio for na interview with Steve Jordan, Keith's friend and bandmate.

In the one-hour interview, Keith Richards shares stories on a variety of topics including his three day road trip with John Lennon through England, his first encounter with Muddy Waters at Chess studios, his infamous meeting with Peter Tosh, meeting Chuck Berry, and the life-changing experience of hearing Elvis Presley for the first time on Radio Luxembourg.

The interview will air on The Spectrum (ch 18) at 8pm ET today, with encores on December 20th at 1am and 5pm ET. Additional replays will air on The Spectrum and Classic Vinyl (ch 14) throughout the month.

Richards is a founding member of The Rolling Stones and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. In 2003, he ranked number ten in Rolling Stone magazine's top 100 guitarists of all time. Over his four decade career, Richards has worked on various solo projects as singer, songwriter, and producer with some of the greatest artists in rock history.

[via Sirius Backstage]
Thanks Todd!


WorldSpace hires Roberto Zaino... and is still probably doomed



I really wish I had good things to say about WorldSpace, but for a company with so much potential, there are just too many hurdles to overcome. The latest news from the only international satellite radio company is that they've hired radio guru Roberto Zaino.

Zaino is known in Italy as a pioneer of the radio broadcasting industry having began his career with the launch of Radio Milano International over 30 years ago. Since then he's produced for various radio, television and film endeavors. He did particularly well in RTL 102.5, where he increased daily listenership from 3.6 to over 5.5 million.

He comes on board as the content director for WorldSpace Italia - which is the prime hope focus of WorldSpace right now, as they actually have a license and an OEM deal in the country. Back in July, they struck a deal with Fiat - scheduling aftermarket receivers for late 2008, and factory-installed receivers in three models for late 2009.

But is it too little, too late?

Sure, WorldSpace has two birds covering Asia and Africa, the Middle East and Europe - which has the potential for some 5 billion people driving 300 million cars. But there's just a few hurdles in getting licenses in each of those 131 countries they cover (if you thought Sirius/XM have regulatory hurdles in one country, imagine what WorldSpace is experiencing). And to build out in Europe, WorldSpace will need more satellites.

Most of the company's subscribers - which total only about 177,000 - are mostly in India. But they don't have a terrestrial repeater license in India, and you need one of those to successfully tap into the automobile market.

So that brings the hope back to Italy, and Zaino will be influencing the content there. Let's just hope that he can create enough traction to get things moving.


Legislation proposes royalties for Big Radio



This afternoon, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) introduced legislation that would ensure terrestrial radio compensates artists when their performances are broadcast over the air.

This proposed legislation would make sure all radio platforms are treated equally, and pay a performance royalty to artists. Currently satellite radio, cable radio channels, and Internet radio all pay a royalty for the use of music... AM and FM radio receives the only exemption.

"It's just plain wrong for (terrestrial) radio to be allowed to build profitable businesses with growing revenues on the backs of artists and musicians without paying them fairly for it," said singer-songwriter Tom Waits.

"The bottom line here is that radio plays music to attract listeners and bring in advertising dollars," he said.

We all like lists when it comes to sifting through legislature, especially when it involves royalties, so here's a breakdown:

  • Small commercial stations would pay $5,000 per year
  • Non-commercial stations such as NPR and college radio stations would pay only $1,000 per year
  • Stations that make only incidental uses of music, such as “talk radio” stations, would not pay for that music
  • Religious services that are broadcast on radio would be completely exempt.

Over 75% of all commercial radio stations and over 80% of all religious stations would be covered through these accommodations.

Of course, the NAB isn't happy, and quickly issued the following statement... complete with colorful holiday references:

"After decades of Ebenezer Scrooge-like exploitation of countless artists, RIAA and the foreign-owned record labels are singing a new holiday jingle to offset their failing business model," said NAB Executive VP Dennis Wharton.

"NAB will aggressively oppose this brazen attempt to force America's hometown radio stations to subsidized companies that have profited enormously through the free promotion provided by radio airplay," he added.

[via Reuters]
Thanks MUSCLE13!


FCC eases media consolidation rules



As expected, the FCC today relaxed a 32-year-old ban preventing a newspaper from owning a radio or TV station in the same city.

The partial lifting of the ban would allow a newspaper to merge with one radio or television station in the nation's top 20 media markets, as long as the TV station is not one of the top 4 in that city. Essentially preventing a newspaper from buying a station affiliated with either of the four major television networks, ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox.

The meeting was unusually quarrelsome, with the two Democratic members of the FCC - Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps (pictured above: the first two from the left, respectively) - have been strongly opposed to the rule change.

"We generously ask big media to sit on Santa's knee, tell us what it wants for Christmas, and then push through whatever of those wishes are politically and practically feasible," said Copps.

"No test to see if anyone's been naughty or nice," Copps continued, "just a big shiny present for the favored few who already own an FCC license and a lump of coal for the rest of us. Happy holidays."

"The FCC has never attempted such a brazen act of defiance against Congress," said Adelstein. "Like the Titanic, we are steaming at full speed despite repeated warnings of danger ahead. We should have slowed down rather than put everything at risk."

The Commission voted 3-2 along party lines with the two other Republican commissioners backing FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to approve the controversial rule change.

It's hard to say whether a similar scenario would apply for the Sirius-XM merger vote, but Copps has already stated he has "very serious worries" about consolidation in general. SiriusBuzz points out that the two Democratic commissioners cited the publics comments as their motivation for their opposition. But in the Sirius-XM process, the majority of the comments submitted were in favor of the satellite radio merger (well, sans those dubious form comments generated by the NAB). So it will be curious to see what Copps and Adelstein will have to say when it comes time to vote.

[via RadioInk, Washington Post]


XM unveils new online program guide (Verdict: it rocks)


XM Online Programming Guide

XM Satellite Radio has quietly released a new online program guide on their website today, and in my opinion it is by far one of the most useful features on the site yet.

As soon as you go to the "On XM" section of the website, you can see each specific program playing right now on every XM channel. Users can scroll ahead to see what’s playing on each channel later today, or later this week.

XM Online Programming Guide
Hover your mouse over any show, and show information pops up (see above) complete with the number of minutes the show runs for.

XM Online Programming Guide
If you click on a show/channel, the guide expands to display more show information and allows you to save the show by clicking the "Add to My Favorite Shows" link (awesome). Clicking on each channel takes you to completely updated versions of each and every channel's webpage

It’s sort of like the TV Guide Channel for XM - or similar to digital cable/satellite interfaces - but with 10-times more interactivity. I'm absolutely in love with this feature.

(Note: This is definitely a freshly unveiled feature, so you may experience a wrinkle or three. Just hit the "ok" button and the content will load. I'm told the guys are working to make sure everything is running smoothly in the near future.)

...and yes, it works on the Mac.

Check it out here and report back here with your thoughts. I'd love to read what others think in the comments.


Satellite Radio Repeaters removed from today's FCC meeting


FCCThe Federal Communications Commission has removed the item involving Satellite Radio repeater towers from today's meeting Agenda.

In fact, it wasn't just removed. It was adopted.

The Open Meeting, schedule to take place at 10:30 am ET today (i.e., right now), was supposed to focus on Sirius and XM's terrestrial repeaters, and the rules governing them.

But according to an update issued this morning on the FCC's website, the item has been deleted from the Agenda, Further, the "Establishment of Rules and Policies for the Digital Audio Radio Satellite Service in the 2310-2360 MHz Frequency Band" has been adopted by the Commission.

That's an interesting last minute development.

[FCC Meeting Agenda Update (PDF)]


Don't worry, all those iPods weren't real


Sirius Dominoes Commercial

In a recent profile of the agency that did Sirius' latest "Domino" commercial, Smoke and Mirrors New York (SMNY) explains that all 9 scenes of those iPods and MP3 devices toppling over like dominoes were entirely computer generated.

Not that I would have expected anything otherwise, but the effect was so well done that some folks actually thought Sirius bought all those iPods for the spot.

Smoke and Mirrors was involved early in the process starting with the storyboard stage, pre-visuals, shoot supervision, right through to the 3D and final compositing. This spot itself was shot by Andrew Douglas of Anonymous Content and worked on by SMNY's team of VFX specialists.

Oh, and Stiletto 2 is also in 3D in case you were wondering.

[The Briefing Room]


Bob Dylan does Christmas on XM


Bob Dylan Xmas episode

This week, Bob Dylan's “Theme Time Radio Hour” show on XM is all about decking the halls and bringing joy to the world. That's right kids, Christmas.

Tune in and listen to Bob’s hand-picked holiday favorites, ranging from the obscure to the sublime to the simply classic.

The show airs all day on Wednesday, December 19th, on XMX (ch 2) and on various days and times on Deep Tracks (ch 40) and The Village (ch 15).

And since that was a pretty vague description of showtimes, go check out xmradio.com/Dylan for a useful schedule and additional info.


Automakers voice support for Sirius-XM merger


Automakers support the merger
General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Kia have come out in full force and publicly supported a combined Sirius-XM. Chrysler even sent a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and Assistant Attorney General Thomas Barnett expressing no opposition to the merger.

GM cited the enhanced program offerings and lower prices, Ford point to a positive impact that the merger would have on the competitive landscape, and Hyundai noted the pricing benefits and the "best of both" option.

Here's some select statements released by Sirius-XM:

"General Motors believes the proposed merger is and will be in the public interest because the merged company will be able to offer consumers expanded programming choices and a broad range of service packages, including packages at lower prices." - (Richard M. Lee, Executive Director - Satellite Radio Services, General Motors North American Operations)

"We believe that a company that combines the capabilities of Sirius and XM could serve the interests of consumers by offering a more dynamic and potentially cost-effective product, spurring additional competition with audio entertainment providers such as terrestrial radio, and that this may result in greater innovation."
- (Paul Mascarenas, Vice President Engineering, Product Development - The Americas, Ford Motor Company)

" ... It has become evident that satellite radio and digital satellite services must compete mightily in the U.S. with a wide array of burgeoning entertainment forms and an ever-widening list of technology participants who are delivering services in this space."
- (Charles Koch, Manager, American Honda Product Planning)

"This expanded choice and lower price is exactly the value our consumers want and deserve."
- (Len Hunt, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Kia Motors America)

"Rather than being forced to choose between content that currently is exclusive to one satellite radio provider, our customers will gain access to packages offering the 'best of both' services for significantly less than the current combined price, as well as packages of fewer channels at much lower prices."
- (Wayne Killen, Director of Product Planning, Hyundai Motor America)

Last year, these auto manufacturers sold over 85% of the light vehicles sold in the United States.


UMG and XM reach pact over Pioneer Inno


Pioneer InnoUniversal Music Group and XM Satellite Radio have resolved the lawsuit brought by UMG against XM over its Pioneer Inno.

As part of the agreement, UMG will be the first music company to reach a multi-year deal covering all XM radios with "advanced recording functionality," including both those currently available as well as future product releases. The question remains: with this new agreement will XM be able to provide Inno-like recording capabilities in other products? It seems that other products have been crippled to only 10-hours worth of recording - hopefully this will mean that recording capacity can be raised.

In addition, UMG will withdraw as a party to the complaint filed by the RIAA against XM back in May, 2006. In that complaint, the RIAA is seeking $150,000 for each song saved by the Inno. Thankfully, UMG is no longer part of that ridiculous lawsuit.

"Our agreement is a win for everyone involved, especially for consumers," said Nate Davis, President and CEO, XM Satellite Radio. "We commend UMG for being the first music company to take this step forward with us and look forward to continuing our discussions with our other partners in the music industry."

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

UMG is the largest of the Big Four record labels with roughly 25.5% market share.


Opie and Anthony #1 podcast on iTunes


Opie and Anthony podcastNot even a week has gone by since XM first started podcasting, and the Opie & Anthony show has hit the #1 podcast on Apple's iTunes service.

The "Opie and Anthony Shorts" which features animated shorts of select snippets from the show, is currently today's top podcast. Currently there are only two episodes available, but word has it that not only new episodes - but also additional animators - might be brought into the mix.

Also in the Top 10 on iTunes is "XM's Weekly Music" podcast. And not too far behind at #11 is "XM Unmasked," featuring Ron Bennington from the Ron & Fez show.

It's nice to see XM podcasts gaining so much popularity in such a short amount of time. The key, of course, is maintaining that momentum.


Mary J. Blige to perform live at Sirius

Mary J. BligeMary J. Blige is celebrating her new album Growing Pains with a special pre-Christmas live performance, entitled "Mary Xmas and Mary New Year," at Sirius' Rockefeller Center studios in NYC.

Blige will spend an hour performing songs from her new album including her Grammy nominated single "Just Fine." Mary will also discuss the process of making the album with the audience.

Mary J. Blige has sold over 40 million albums and received six Grammy wins over her 15 year career. Growing Pains, set to go on sale tomorrow, features guest appearances by Ludacris and Usher.

"Mary Xmas and Mary New Year" will air live on Hot Jamz (ch 50), December 21st at 6pm ET.

Report: DOJ decision by year end, FCC in February


XM and Sirius Merger

The merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. will likely get the DOJ's seal of approval by the end of this year, with the FCC predicted to follow suit in early February, according to RBC Capital analyst David Bank.

In a recent research note, RBC wrote that their sources in D.C. indicated that the DOJ is likely to approve the merger before the end of the year. While reports of an imminent decision were obviously incorrect, RBC still finds that Assistant Attorney General Thomas Barnett - who ultimately rules on the merger - will be leaning towards an approval.

At this point, the FCC's 180-day timeclock has become "immaterial" (obviously) and Bank estimates that the FCC won't make a final decision on the Sirius-XM merger until "early February at best." RBC sources indicate that the FCC is predicted to be 1-2 months away from fleshing out all the conditions to the merger (such as pricing, interoperability, unused bandwidth, indecency, etc.).

The FCC also recently began publishing a list of "Items on Circulation" - a weekly list used to provide better transparency into what the Commission is currently reviewing - and the Sirius-XM merger is not on the list. So a decision by the year-end is unlikely.

Remember that the DOJ looks at competition as far out as two years from now when analyzing the marketplace.

A year ago, Apple and Google were not players in mobile devices, and Microsoft was not behind a disruptive force for in-vehicle entertainment. Bank, citing the iPhone specifically, feels that mobile audio entertainment on cellphones "will likely be ubiquitous" using this perspective.

Thanks Sam!


Just a reminder: The History of Howard Stern debuts tomorrow


Just a quick reminder that Act I of "The History of Howard Stern" kicks off tomorrow, December 17th at 6am on both Howard 100 and Howard 101.

The History of Howard Stern

Above is a poster Sirius created for the special. They also launched an interactive website featuring rare audio from Howard’s vault and a timeline of Act I.


Updates on Ford SYNC, and their presence at CES


2009 Lincoln MKS

Ford Motor Co. is going all out at the upcoming 2008 International CES show (don't worry, Orbitcast will be there in full force with live daily coverage as well), and the auto manufacturer will be flexing its technological muscle with several new products on display.

Ford will be having its largest presence ever at CES, showing off both the Ford SYNC and Sirius Travel Link among other technologies (like THX, Dolby, Gracenote, and Sony-branded audio systems).

Sirius Travel Link is set to appear first on the 2009 Lincoln MKS (pictured), and then will roll it out on other vehicles throughout the second half of 2008. The system will be standard on Ford's next-gen navigation system and will be offered with six-months of service on multiple Ford, Lincoln and Mercury.
[Press Release]

As for Ford SYNC, the folks at Ford sent me some interesting updates on how the well system is being received by consumers. A few of their findings include…

  • Nearly 80 percent of owners admit SYNC has “exceeded or greatly exceeded” expectations
  • Over 90 percent of owners would recommend SYNC to a friend
  • Over 50 percent of owners rated SYNC as “very easy” to use; over 80 percent rated the system “easy or very easy”
  • Dealership personnel are doing the job as well: over 80 percent of owners noted sales people showed adequate knowledge of SYNC.

Very interesting. I suspect that satellite radio would have a similar response though, anecdotally, I wouldn't say dealership personnel are very knowledgeable about either Sirius or XM. The "cool factor" seems to have diminished over the years.

(And, you know what would be a big injection of "cool factor" for satellite radio? The voice-recognition interface by VoiceBox we saw over two-years ago. XM must be pretty annoyed over the delays in implementing that feature... I know I would be.)


XM removed from NASDAQ-100


XM on the NASDAQ 100Nasdaq announced late Friday the annual re-ranking of the Nasdaq-100 Index, and XM Satellite Radio is one of five to get cut from the list.

Aside from XM Satellite Radio Holdings INc. (XMSR), LM Ericsson Telephone Company ("ERIC"), Patterson-UTI Energy, Inc. ("PTEN"), Ross Stores Inc. ("ROST") and Sepracor Inc. ("SEPR") were also snubbed from the Nasdaq-100.

The Nasdaq-100 Index is comprised of the 100 largest non-financial stocks on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Replace those in the index are Hologic, Inc. (HOLX), a diagnostic and medical product company; Focus Media Holding Ltd. (FMCN), a digital-media company based in China; Hansen Natural Corp. (HANS), a beverage maker; Steel Dynamics, Inc. (STLD), a steel maker; and Stericycle, Inc. (SRCL), a medical waste disposer.

The index is re-ranked each year in December. XM joined the Nasdaq-100 back in December of 2004.



Howard Stern is pro-gay


Howard SternThere's an interesting article on Gay.com that's been getting some exposure about Howard Stern's impact on the gay community.

It might strike many as a surprise, but the viewpoint isn't that Howard is exploitive or demeaning to gays, but rather has had many positive effects on the gay community at large. The 4,500+ word tome by Jenny Stewart, entertainment editor at Gay.com, talks about how he managed to change the perceptions of lesbians, as well as for gay men.

"Many lesbians can't stand Howard, who in the early '90s focused much of his air time to 'Lesbian Dial a Date' and other questionable antics, and thus began his obsession with gay women. Some were enraged that they were being sexualized by Howard Stern, but I for one liked the idea that Howard was making lesbianism appear glamorous -- I could identify much more with that than the mainstream American image of lesbians as being man-haters who loathed sex and lumbered around in bad haircuts. Did he exploit the idea of the sexy lesbian? Sure -- but like it or not, he was also changing perceptions."

She goes on to talk about how Howard not only has had an effect on the lesbian community, but also on the gay male community as well. Of the several examples, she talks about the hiring of openly gay actor George Takei (who's one of my favorite personalities on the show).

"The result? A cultural demystification of gay life that's having a measurable, meaningful effect on a national audience otherwise completely isolated from gay America."

Oh sure, the writeup is a little gushing (the author admittedly is a Stern fan for 20 years). But it's an interesting take on a show that traditionally has been viewed as bigoted and obscene, all the while being "one of the most pro-gay media personalities in the country."

[Gay.com, via Jossip]


Politics as usual: Anti-merger letter likely just posturing


Sirius and XMRemember that letter earlier this week from Reps. Conyers and Chabot? Sure you do, many folks almost had a coronary when the stocks dipped because of it.

Well, it turns out that it all likely was just political posturing, and had little to do with merger afterall. Hidden in an article yesterday, the New York Post's own sources say exactly that:

One Washington, DC, source said the letter probably had less to do with the Sirius-XM merger itself and was more an attempt to put Mukasey, who replaced Alberto Gonzalez as attorney general, on notice that the Democrats were prepared to fight a Republican-controlled attorney general's office on issues such as big business deals.

Great, politics as usual. So that letter was really just a shot across the bow. And the further this drags on, the more and more politics will come into play as we go full steam into election season.

Janco Partners analyst April Horace gave CNN Money some thoughts about what could be going on over at the Justice Department:

“I would assume the DOJ is going back and making sure that the review process has crossed all their Ts and dotted all their Is. So a decision may get delayed."


[New York Post, CNN Money]


Sirius applies for 15 new Repeaters


Sirius Repeater Location

Sirius has applied for 15 new Repeater Towers in various locations across Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California among others.

Each repeaters has an average power of 2,000 Watts, which XM and Sirius pretty much have a blanket authority to operate at. The WCS Coalition (which mostly consists of AT&T, the largest WCS license holder) generally has a bee in their bonnet over satellite radio repeater towers, and raises a stink over any repeaters operating over 2,000 Watts.

Click the jump to see the exact locations of each of the proposed repeaters...

[FCC Application (PDF) via Satellite Radio TechWorld]


Sony PSP gets Internet Radio


PSP Radio

The Sony PSP will soon be getting a firmware update (v3.80) turning the portable game console into a walking streaming Internet Radio player.

Dave Zatz points out that interestingly enough, the screenshot says “Powered by SHOUTcast” - which is produced by an AOL subsidiary. Odd since Sony just loves to play only within its own ecosystem (and tends to fail as a result). The update will currently only be available in Japan, but it's a safe bet to say it's coming stateside sometime in the near future.

Not a threat? Consider the fact that there's nearly 10 million PSPs in the hands of U.S. consumers. And Sony could be waking up to the fact that there's a lot more potential to the PSP than just games.

Mark Ramsey
puts it perfectly:

"What we're witnessing is alchemy in action: The slow and steady transformation of non-radios into radios via integration with the Internet. This will be limited only by the availability of devices which are Internet-connected, and there is no limit to those devices, from cars to refrigerators to game systems to clocks."

The next three years are going to be very interesting.

[Zatz Not Funny via Hear 2.0]


Bing Crosby Christmas Radio coming to Sirius


Bing CrosbySirius isn't done with their holiday channels just yet. They've just announced a new channel devoted to the music of Bing Crosby, aptly named Bing Crosby Christmas Radio.

The channel, set to air from December 21st - 25th on Channel 119 (before it takes taken over by Doctor Radio), will broadcast classic Bing Crosby radio broadcasts from Bing's own personal vault.

Sirius worked with the Crosby family to tap into Bing's personal archives and assembled 5 consecutive days of Crosby's incredible holiday radio shows from 1938-1962.

Bing's wife Kathryn Crosby and daughter Mary Crosby will host the channel, sharing personal anecdotes and memories about the programs.

These shows include his most popular recording ever, "White Christmas," as well as multiple Christmas Day and Christmas Eve radio specials hosted by Bing over the years.

Bing Crosby Christmas Radio (ch 119) will feature a wide variety of Crosby's music, storytelling and special guests like Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, The Andrews Sisters, Jimmy Stewart, Phil Silvers, Jimmy Durante, and Edgar Bergen and his daughter, a young Candice Bergen.

Classic radio programs on Bing Crosby Christmas Radio include "Christmas Sing with Bing," "The Bing Crosby Show," and "Philco Radio Time."

Throughout his career, Bing Crosby appeared on roughly 4,000 radio broadcasts, with nearly 3,400 of them his own programs.


Barack Obama interviewed on Sirius

Barack ObamaPresidential candidate Senator Barack Obama will be making an appearance on Sirius Satellite Radio for an in-depth interview conducted by Sirius host Senator Bill Bradley on Monday.

Obama discusses a wide range of topics, including his relationship with his mother and father; his upbringing; his strong sense of patriotism, and his priorities if elected.

Here's some select Obama quotes from the Sirius interview:

"We have to send a clear signal that we are not going to be an occupying force, that we are not going to be maintaining permanent bases in Iraq, that we are going to initiate diplomatic efforts including with our enemies- countries like Iran."

"I would convene a conference within my first year just gathering together Muslim leaders from all around the world, to describe for them what our values and our interests are, to insist that they need to help us to defeat the terrorist threats that are there, but to also recognize that they are bound up with us and that we have an interest in making sure that their societies can prosper and that we're moving forward with them as partners with dignity and respect."

"I think we're in a defining moment right now in our history ... and people are starting to understand both because of Iraq but also because of Katrina, and some of the other things that have happened that ... we are really in this together. ... we are not simply a collection of individuals. And that if we're going to solve big problems ... then we're going to have to have a government that expresses those values [because] ... we can't have a government that is simply a protector of the wealthy and the powerful."

Senator Bradley's interview with Barack Obama will air on Monday, December 17th on Sirius Stars (ch 102) at 5am, 7am, 12pm, 2pm, and 11pm (all times ET).

Sirius, XM highlight key merger support


XM and Sirius

Sirius and XM have just issued a press release highlighting key support for their pending merger, citing a "diverse group of advocates" with "economic and consumer benefits."

Three additional Members of Congress joined GM, the Club for Growth, Harpo Productions, the Rural Coalition, and celebrities like Andres Cantor, Bill Mack, Wynton Marsalis, Cal Ripken Jr. and Barry Switzer as the latest supporters.

Reps. Joe Baca (D-CA), Bob Filner (D-CA) and Connie Mack (R-FL) are among the latest bi-partisan Congressional supporters.

"I find that the merger will not only maintain an advanced technological innovation, it will bolster the industry thereby strengthening our economy. More families and individuals will have an opportunity to access satellite radio." --Rep. Joe Baca

"The proposed merger will enable satellite radio to become a stronger competitor and will drive all other players in the market, including terrestrial radio, to focus on making their services even more appealing to consumers."
--Rep. Connie Mack

GM added its support and urged the FCC to avoid conditions that would compromise the performance or programming content available for vehicles with single mode receivers (no doubt a response to Georgetown Partners and U.S. Electronics wanting a piece of the bandwidth):

"GM believes the merger clearly will increase entertainment choices in the automotive environment particularly as "best of both" and as a la carte pricing becomes available for satellite radio services." --Richard M. Lee, Executive Director - Satellite Radio Services, GM

Several others like the Rural Coalition, Wynton Marsalis, Harpo Productions and Cal Ripken Jr. are also quoted in the press release.

It's clear that even though we're well past the FCC's 180-day timeclock, this is still very much a game of politics, public relations and lobbying. And it's just going to continue until we see a decision from regulators.

[Press Release]


Report: Despite the politicians, merger is still a go


XM Sirius merger
Despite yesterday's hoopla over a letter written by Reps. Conyers and Chabot to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the Sirius-XM merger is still on track an analyst said today.

Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. analyst Blair Levin said that while the DOJ has struggled with the decision and the final outcome is a close call, he believes the department will green light the merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc.

Investors right now are on a hair trigger, waiting for the slightest indication of where the merger decision will go. After the news broke yesterday, shares of both XMSR and SIRI fell sharply - XM shares dropped nearly 10% Wednesday.

Still, despite the legislators' skepticism, Levin said the deal is still moving forward.

"It's possible the Department of Justice will still try to block the deal and that there's been some sort of leak, but we don't believe the reported letter ... means there is a greater chance of DOJ opposition," Levin said in a client note, noting a decision could come any day.



Report: Second-gen Apple iPhone in final phase

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In a recent research note, Goldman Sachs analyst David Bailey said that he believes Apple will introduce not one, but two iPhones in 2008.

Bailey's contacts have lead him to believe that "Apple has several important new products lined up for 2008," though they aren't expected to have the same impact as the launch of Apple's inaugural iPhone device.

The first revision of the iPhone is expected to come in the form of simply a storage upgrade. The next is a second-generation iPhone currently in its "final design phase." The device is expected to "have a similar form factor as the current version although it could have a different look and will probably include 3G capability."

AT&T's CEO leaked that a 3G iPhone would be made available next year, so that's little surprise. 3G capability will of course enable the iPhone to stream data, like audio (and iTunes Radio), at faster speeds.

The analyst estimates that the next-gen iPhone will launch sometime during the second half of the year.

Bailey also said that the iPod Touch and Nano are seeing strength in demand. Separate reports have said that the iPod Touch was selling "far better than expected," causing one of the Apple's manufacturing partners to increase production to 5.1 million units for the current quarter. In this week's report, Bailey added that his supply chain contacts are expecting yet another year of double-digit iPod growth in 2008.

(Audi's iPhone integration pictured)

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Mitchell Report to be aired in its entirety on XM


Mitchell Report

Former federal prosecutor and U.S. senator, George Mitchell, tomorrow will announce the results of his 20-month long investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. And you'll be able to listen to the full report on XM.

According to New York Times sources, under the condition of anonymity (of course), the report will contain the names of over 50 active and former major league players linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Many of the names in the report are believed to be directly tied to info provided by Kirk Radomski, a former Mets bat boy and clubhouse attendant who pleaded guilty to steroid distribution in April.

In Radomski's plea agreement, he admitted that he supplied dozens of players with steroids, human growth hormone (HGH) and stimulants from 1995 through 2005. As part of the plea, he agreed to cooperate with Mitchell's investigation, giving a big break for Mitchell who was unable to get current MLB players to cooperate with his investigation.

The contents of the long-awaited report are believed to have been revealed only to MLB officials, but the details will be officially released to the public tomorrow when Mitchell holds a news conference in Manhattan at 2pm.

XM Satellite Radio sportscasters will read the complete Mitchell Report in its entirety on XM channel 176. The reading will then be replayed throughout the day.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig will be holding his own separate news conference across town at 4:30pm to discuss the report's findings.

MLB Home Plate (ch 175) will also be airing any news and reactions to the report around the clock.

Until now, only high-profile players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, José Canseco, Rafael Palmiero and Jason Giambi were directly linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Others have been the subject of continuing speculation. With the Mitchel Report's release, there will be no more speculation. Just a list.

[via New York Times]


"XM for Business" service now managed by PlayNetwork


XM for Business

PlayNetwork, a Redmond-based B2B media services company, will now manage all of XM Satellite Radio's commercial business sales and service.

The new “XM for Business” service will let business clients benefit from PlayNetwork’s infrastructure that is specialized specifically for these types of commercial services. Previously, XM's business sales structure largely consisted of just a website, with little else in terms of B2B support. And understandably so, XM is primarily a consumer-focused company, so that's where resources are focused.

Now with this partnership, XM can provide access to PlayNetwork’s nationwide network of dealers, equipment distributors and customer service reps. Companies like Dynamic Media (which provides commercial services for both Sirius and XM) stand to hold a fairly significant positive effect from this deal because systems like price discounting, installation support and commercial activations are now in place.

PlayNetwork will also report and pay all commercial licensing and royalty obligations to the artists, songwriters, publishers and recording labels through their previous relationships with licensing agencies. Not a bad deal.

Check out xm4biz.com for details on the service.

[Press Release]
Thanks to everyone who sent this in!


Lawmakers cast doubt over Sirius-XM review process


XM and Sirius MergerWondering why the stock took a nosedive earlier today? This might be it. Members of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee expressed concern about the DOJ's review of the proposed merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc.

In a letter dated December 11th to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Reps. John Conyers and Steve Chabot wrote:

"We were dismayed to learn of recent press reports suggesting that Justice Department staff may be trying to rush through the merger before you have an opportunity to fully participate, and that Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Thomas O. Barnett may intend to grant the merger over the objections of department staff."

The longer this process drags on, the more and more opportunity it gives for those on Capitol Hill to make a stink about it.

Thanks Mark!
UPDATE: Interestingly enough, Conyers and Chabot were the two Congressmen who the NAB apologized about, stating that they misrepresented the members' position on the merger.


HD Radio wins award: 2007 Digital Media Loser


HD RadioPeter Ferrera and Bob Struble are probably high-fiving each other and pumping their fists in celebration right now, because HD Radio has finally received the recognition it deserves.

The ground breaking technology has received the accolade of being the #1 Digital Media Loser in 2007. Wow, that's simply amazing. Congrats guys!

Struble, of course, is president of the government sanctioned monopoly company iBiquity Digital which supplies the brains behind HD Radio. Ferrara is the president and CEO of the HD Digital Radio Alliance. And I bet they're both stoked when they read beaming recommendations like this one:

"The makers of the radio units themselves cheaped out on the tuners, which have such poor sensitivity, both a beat-up $20 Sony shower radio and a vintage 1941 Zenith kitchen radio bettered them. What good is an HD receiver when you can barely tune into either analog or HD signals? A perfect example of where $200-$600 buys you inferior quality."

Watch the video below where three HD Radios were pitted against an old 1940's Zenith kitchen radio. This is why the technology did so well:

The article does point to Ford's deal with HD Radio though, saying that "HD Radio may get a reprieve as Ford offered to put it in all 2008 vehicles." But that ignores the issue that if your Ford vehicle comes with the SYNC option installed (as it does standard on many of the top-line models), then HD Radio is not available to you.

That's right, consumers would have to remove their Ford SYNC system in order to get HD Radio installed. Pure brilliance.

It still doesn't mean that these badboys won't be flying off the shelves this holiday season though, so naysayers beware! Afterall, the much ballyhooed QVC event reportedly sold an estimated 200 units.

"HD radio risks going the way of 8-track tapes and Quadraphonic Sound records."

Hey... don't forget AM Stereo.

[MP3 Newswire]


XM the #7 most searched "gadget" on AOL


XMAOL this morning unveiled their top search terms for 2007, and XM came in as the #7 most searched "gadget" - behind iPhone, iPod but ahead of GPS and Xbox.

The top searches are determined based on the people, places and topics that received the largest volume of search queries on AOL Search.

AOL Search is "enhanced" by Google. And while The Big G has yet to release its own year-end Zeitgeist list, they did release their top 10 fastest growing terms, which the iPhone dominated. Yahoo too recently released its list of top searches for 2007, and neither XM or Sirius are anywhere to be seen.

Still, being in the top ten of gadget searches on AOL is a damn good achievement. This is perhaps a testament to XM's exposure to the AOL crowd, what with AOL Radio showing off the XM logo wherever you look (not to mention AIM). Whatever the reason, it's working.

Here's the list of other top gadget searches that XM ranked among:

  1. iPhone
  2. iPod
  3. Wii
  4. Computers
  5. Cell Phones
  6. Tracfone
  7. XM Radio
  8. GPS
  9. PSP
  10. Xbox

Congrats to the folks at XM!

[AOL 2007 Hot Searches]


FCC to address Satellite Radio Repeaters on Tuesday


FCCThe Federal Communications Commission will focus on Sirius and XM's terrestrial repeaters, and the rules governing them, at their next meeting to be held on Tuesday.

The Open Meeting, which will take place at 10:30am, will address a whole slew of other issues as well, including localism, cross-media ownership, minority ownership, and sponsorship identification rules (infomercials).

But the focus on satellite radio will be on repeaters, and the co-existence with Wireless Communications Service (WCS) licenses. Here's the snippet from the Agenda for those who enjoy reading government-speak:

TITLE: Establishment of Rules and Policies for the Digital Audio Radio Satellite Service in the 2310-2360 MHz Frequency Band; Amendment of Part 27 of the Commission’s Rules to Govern the Operation of Wireless Communications Services in the 2.3 GHz Band.

SUMMARY: The Commission will consider a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking additional comment on the appropriate rules and policies for licensing satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) terrestrial repeaters in the 2320-2345 MHz frequency band, and will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on facilitating the coexistence of SDARS and Wireless Communications Service licensees.

[Public Notice (PDF)]


ESPN expands on Sirius, adds SportsCenter


ESPN RadioSirius Satellite Radio has extended their partnership with ESPN to add new programming to Sirius' line-up, including simulcasts of some of ESPN's television shows - like SportsCenter.

Sirius will continue to broadcast ESPN Radio (ch 120), as well as ESPN Deportes Radio (ch 181), but will supplement programming on ESPNEWS (ch 121) with all the goodies.

First up is "ESPN The Magazine" hosted by Gary Hoenig, general manager and editor-in-chief of ESPN Publishing, and ESPN The Magazine Editor Gary Belsky, which debuted today. The weekly show will feature Hoenig and Belsky and a roundtable of ESPN The Magazine writers and editors examining the news stories of the week, interacting with callers, and conducting interviews with big-name guests from the world of sports.

Then of course there's SportsCenter which will be among several of ESPN's television mainstays made available to Sirius subscribers.

Other ESPN television programming to be offered includes Around the Horn (5 - 5:30pm M-F); College GameDay (10am - noon Saturdays during the football season); Outside the Lines (9am Sundays); Sports Reporters (9:30am Sundays) and NASCAR Now (6pm M-F).

ESPNEWS will also carry the acclaimed show, Pardon The Interruption (5:30 - 6pm M-F), featuring the daily sports debates of Washington Post columnists Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon.

ESPN The Magazine airs Tuesdays 12pm - 2pm ET and SportsCenter will air on 6pm, 11pm Monday through Friday All shows will air on ESPNEWS (ch 121).

UPDATE: What's up with ESPN playing both sides with the whole "exclusive" content thing? Note that XM is covering the Rose Bowl thanks to a deal with ESPN.


XM is Podcasting: Select shows now on iTunes


XM Podcasts

XM Satellite Radio is now available on iTunes. Not all of it of course (that would be silly), rather a select number of XM's original music, news and sports series are now available as free podcasts.

It's an interesting move because the traditionally the "satellite radio" moniker went hand-in-hand with "payment" - a majority of the content is meant to be hidden behind the walled garden. Of course, XM has been going against the grain with this concept, what with Bob Edwards and Opie & Anthony being made available on free terrestrial radio. Sirius has played the podcast game as well, but only by dipping the toe in with quick snippets.

But XM is leveraging what many believe to be one of its strongest assets: their original programming.

It's not just talk-radio like Opie & Anthony (though there's a bonus for O&A fans: animated video podcasts) and Bob Edwards, but James Carville, Luke Russert, Mike Krzyzewski, Barry Switzer and exclusive XM programs like "Artist Confidential" and the comedy special "Unmasked" have joined the fray.

"By making these original XM series available through xmradio.com, iTunes and other popular podcast web sites, millions more consumers have an opportunity to sample some of the best in premium music, news and sports programming that you can only get as an XM subscriber," said Eric Logan, XM executive vice president of programming.

Yes, of course podcasts can be accessed by other programs (like Odeo and iPodder), but XM has worked out a special section on Apple's iTunes just for their programming. .

XM Podcasts

XM Podcasts

Click the jump for a full rundown of what's now available for free, or check out xmradio.com/podcasts for more details.


John Dvorak: Let them merge, will you?


John DvorakNever one to avoid taking sides, John Dvorak has written a piece in MarketWatch asking for the Sirius and XM merger to be approved "immediately."

Dvorak, of course, has been a long time Apple-hater and loves to stir up the Apple fanboy bees nest by saying outrageous things (see this video for why). Does that lessen his credibility when it comes to this opinion piece? I'm not sure, but it's a nice and clear breakdown for the everyday Joe Sixpack as to why these two companies should merge.

Here's a key snippet:

At this point there are only four scenarios:

1. The two companies can continue to bleed money as separate entities and eventually go broke.

2. The two companies can continue to bleed money until one goes broke before the other -- leaving one left to create the monopoly everyone fears. The last firm standing may be so damaged by this that it, eventually, goes broke too.

3. The two companies can merge and still go broke.

4. The two companies can merge and eventually find the right financial and programming formulas to turn a profit.

Most of the outlooks are grim, and it's silly to imagine that these two companies fighting to the death are competing in such a way that benefits consumers. The public does not benefit from a situation where competition will kill one or both of the players.

It's an interesting thought, especially from the satrad-fanboy standpoint, to think that either of these companies will die without the merger, but that's exactly what Dvorak is saying. Adding, that "the monopoly argument is actually a joke."

Of course, it could just be Ol' Johnny being outrageous again hoping to bait others, but then again, he could just have a point. No matter how outrageous it may seem.



Fa la la la la, la la la la


Back by popular demand, the XM Holiday Card Generator has returned. Headless snowman and all.

XM Holiday eCard

Spread the joy.


Not just Sirius: Bubba returns to Regular Radio


Bubba the Love Sponge

Bubba isn't just renewing his contract with Sirius, he'll also be making his triumphant return to terrestrial radio in Tampa and Jacksonville, FL.

Starting on January 8th, Bubba the Love Sponge will take over the morning drive timeslot at WHPT-102.5 FM (The Bone) in Tampa and WFYV-104.5 FM in Jacksonville. He'll host the show from 6am to 10am, and then host his Sirius show from 3pm to 7pm later in the day.

A press conference will be held th Cox Radio building in St. Petersburg, FL later on this morning officially announcing the deal.

According to The Feed, both Sirius and Cox Radio deals are worth more than $3 million annually combined.

"I gotta stay away from the sex stuff, basically," said Bubba. "I don't want to get fired again. If I get fired again on regular radio, I'm a one-trick Willie...and I know I'm coming back with a huge target on my back."

Back in October of last year, Bubba was reported to have been spotted outside of the Cox building with several "suits" and the rumors of his return to terrestrial radio have been buzzing ever since.

Congrats to Bubba and his crew. For on-air personalities, it's important to talk to the biggest audience possible. If he can pull this off, then it's the best of both worlds.

[The Feed via SiriusBuzz]


Frank Sinatra's birthday celebrated on Sirius


Frank SinatraSirius is celebrating what would have been Frank Sinatra's 92nd birthday on Wednesday, December 12th, with a series of shows commemorating the life of Ol' Blue Eyes.

The special day-long tribute will feature "As I Remember It," a look at the life and music of Frank Sinatra from his son, Frank Sinatra, Jr. and the broadcast of Frank Sinatra's 1957 concert recorded in Seattle with his longtime arranger, Nelson Riddle.

Other shows will include a special edition of "The Chairman's Hour" (the show hosted by Frank himself, assembled from archival recordings) and "Playing Favorites" featuring Linda Ronstadt and Michael Feinstein, each playing their favorite Sinatra songs and sharing stories.

(And yes, I almost feel guilty writing about something that's not merger-related.)

[Sirius-ly Sinatra]


Sirius renews contract with Bubba the Love Sponge


Bubba The Love SpingeWell, the wait is over. Bubba the Love Sponge has officially renewed his contract with Sirius Satellite Radio.

"We launched the radio revolution with Howard Stern, and I am grateful he brought me to SIRIUS," Bubba stated in the press release. "We will continue to do uncensored, groundbreaking radio on Howard 101."

"We are happy Bubba has renewed with Sirius," said Scott Greenstein, Sirius' President, Entertainment and Sports. "Bubba has steadily created an enthusiastic national fan base since he launched his show on Howard 101. That fan base will continue to expand on Sirius."

Terms of the contract, including the length that he's signed on for, were not disclosed. But for the time being, at least we know that BTLS isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

UPDATE: Sirius has renewed its contract with Bubba again, this time for 2-years. Check here for the latest on Bubba re-signing with Sirius.


XM says SEC probe is complete


XMXM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. said today that the Securities and Exchange Commission had completed an investigation into their subscriber data and stock options grants.

The company said that the SEC would not recommend enforcement action. (That's a good thing.)

XM said it had been notified of the decision, which related to an investigation started back in August of last year, by the SEC's enforcement division.



Hanukkah Radio returns to Sirius' Shade 45

EminemTonight will mark the third annual broadcast of Hanukkah Radio on Sirius Satellite Radio's Eminem-produced channel, Shade 45.

The two hour special is hosted by Eminem’s manager, Paul Rosenberg, with special guest, DJ AM along with "Jews For A Day" Lord Sear, Rude Jude and OQ. "Hanukkah Radio" will feature a special Hebrew Hip Hop Shady 5 Countdown and surprise celebrity guests. Previous guests have included Lenny Kravitz, Alchemist and JR Rotem among others.

Hanukkah Radio airs tonight at 6pm ET on Shade 45 (ch 45).

Congressman Meeks flips, supports Georgetown Partners


XM Sirius MergerRepresentative Gregory Meeks (D-NY), who in October was among 13 Congressmen who came out in support of the Sirius-XM merger, has written a letter to the FCC voicing his support for Georgetown Partners - a minority-owned firm which has recently opposed the merger.

Georgetown has recently asked that the merged Sirius/XM company lease its broadcast infrastructure and 20% of its channel capacity to a minority-controlled entity, claiming that this would alleviate anti-competitive effects of the merger and ensure diversity in programming.

Rep. Meeks apparently finds this proposal appealing, and wrote a letter to the FCC in support of their cause.

"By allowing a minority-controlled entity to be the lessee, the Commission would serve the public interest by achieving diversity of ownership in this large medium as well as enhanced minority media ownership in general-two areas that the Commission has been asked by advocacy groups from various cross sections of our society," Meeks writes.

Georgetown has increasing become louder and louder in their opposition, and now they've built up some support on Capitol Hill as well.

[Read FCC Filing (PDF)]


"The History of Howard Stern" on Sirius


Howard Stern

We learned about this last month when Howard was featured in an AP story, but now Sirius has released more details on the upcoming "History of Howard Stern" special.

Set to debut on December 17th at 6am ET on Howard 100 and 6am PT on Howard 101, the epic series will air through December 21st.

Act I, entitled "The Early Years," spans Howard's birth through his days at WNNNNBC Radio in NYC. Act I will debut in five separate original parts, with one installment airing each day that week and replaying continuously all day and night.

"The History of Howard Stern" features a vast array of rare, never- before heard audio footage from Howard's personal vault plus interviews and commentary from Howard, Stern Show staff, friends, family, and former colleagues. Celebrities will also partake in the enjoyment, including a rare interview with legendary late night host, David Letterman. Other entertainers and Howard fans who contributed interviews include Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, Jimmy Kimmel, Joe Walsh, Dee Snider, David Brenner and more.

"It's a complete retrospective of stuff you've never heard -- every piece of history of this show," said Stern. "'The History of Howard Stern' is an incredible listening experience. It's the kind of radio that competes with television and that you'd never hear on terrestrial radio."

Act II will pick up as Howard begins his legendary run at K-ROCK.

Encore broadcasts of Act I of "The History of Howard Stern" will air multiple times, including the weekends of December 22nd-23rd and December 29th-30th on Howard 100.

Check out the History of Howard Stern for more info (which includes a pretty cool interactive timeline).


The calm before the storm...


Is the storm brewing?

After the intense frenzy at the beginning of the week, today seemed like an odd day. Not much in terms of merger chatter, and in general very little from either company.

Like it's the calm before the storm.

Maybe it's my imagination, but you learn to notice patterns after covering an industry this long. Generally when there's these lulls in activity, it means there's something big coming right around the corner.

Who knows, but, didn't it seem too quiet today?


Sirius Backseat TV one of the Top 10 Best Car Features


Sirius Backseat TV

Sirius Backseat TV was selected among a handful pretty incredible technical innovations as one of Cars.com's Top 10 Best Car Features introduced in 2007.

Their reasons for picking Sirius Backseat TV is undoubtedly one of the big selling points to parents: "Any parent can tell you that one of the big drags about taking kids on long trips is all the stuff you've got to carry with you. Chrysler's new Sirius Satellite TV makes this a bit easier by removing your DVD collection from the list."

Sirius Backseat TV joins the ranks of other auto innovations like Infiniti's Lane Departure Prevention system (it actually eases you back in between the lines), Volvo's Integrated Booster Seats (a concept so simple, it's brilliant), and of course, Ford SYNC.



Walt Mossberg on the Slacker Portable (verdict: he's not not intrigued by it)


Slacker Radio

Yes, that's a double-negative in the headline. In other words Uncle Walt, the leader of all tech writers, isn't necessarily against the Slacker Portable, but he's also not in love with it... yet.

Walt Mossberg (who yelled the infamous words, "I don't give a fuck about your stock price!" at XM's former CEO Hugh Panero a few years back) overall seemed to find the Slacker service/player intriguing. His biggest problem - granted, it was a prototype he was playing with - was the bugs that need to be worked out of the player.

"The two prototype Slacker units I tried, however, were hobbled by bugs and glitches that the company must expunge by the release date, which was originally slated to be this month. For instance, the players sometimes failed to wake up after going to sleep, requiring a reboot. The touch strip was unreliable. One player failed several times to connect to my account. Battery life is well below Slacker’s goal of 12 hours between charges. The company says it is aware of these problems, and pledges all will be fixed."

Which explains why the Slacker Portable player has been delayed. Still Mossberg seems to like what he sees so far, but his hope for the service itself is that the ads aren't too annoying.

One interesting thing to note: he compared the Slacker service to Rhapsody and of course to Sirius and XM:

"And both the Sirius and XM satellite-radio networks offer portable players for listening to their stations, although the stations can’t be customized."

I think that's an important distinction. Slacker is meant for consumers who have no desire to program entire playlists of music - but it still has an easy way to customize the music you're listening to.

Satellite Radio on the other hand has absolutely no interactivity. There is a growing desire by consumers to increase control over their media experiences. Sirius and XM need to come up with solution for this, to create the feeling of interaction and control, because the influence of this trend in consumers' thinking is significant and real. I'm not sure how, I just know what, needs to be done to adapt for future trends.

But I digress.

Watch Mossberg's quickie video review below...

[All Things Digital]


XM Canada grows by 86 percent


XM CanadaXM Canada has just announced that they've hit the 350,000 subscriber mark as of November 30th, 2007 (the end of their first quarter). That's a growth rate of 86% over the same period last year.

In order to align the definition of exactly what a subscriber is "more closely with industry norms," XM Canada's subscriber numbers now include rental cars installed with XM Canada's service for which they receive compensation.

When you remove rental cars, XM's subscriber base was 338,000 this quarter and 306,300 at the end of the fourth quarter of 2007. Still not bad, especially since almost all the growth is in self-paying subs.

[Press Release]
Thanks Roland!


Slacker Portable delayed

| 1 Comment

Slacker PortableThis almost comes as a surprise, but it was so down to the wire for the folks at Slacker that I wasn't holding my breathe.

According to Engadget, people who pre-ordered the Slacker Portable just received notification that the device will be delayed from its original ship date.

The original official ship date was December 13th, but now that's been bumped up to January 31st, 2008.

Slacker's reason is "in order to deliver the best possible player," which is marketing lingo for "oopsie, we found a boo-boo and need to fix it." Either version is good enough reason to wait another few weeks in my book.

Thanks Sean!

1 Comment

Now about that FCC timeclock...


Sirius XM MergerWe're now on day 181 of the 180-day FCC timeclock, and many folks are undoubtedly scratching their heads (or biting their nails).

But a quick look at some of the other major transactions that the FCC had, or has, on its plate shows that this isn't necessarily out of the ordinary for the Commission:

  • Adelphia Communications, Time Warner, Inc., Comcast Corporation - 404 Days
  • AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corporation - 253 Days
  • Clear Channel Communications, Inc. and Lee/Bain - 350 Days
  • Tribune Company and Samuel Zell - 204 Days
  • Verizon Communications Inc. and FairPoint Communications - 266 Days
  • Liberty Media, DirecTV - 287 Days

So when Watts said that the FCC review of the Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. transaction could take longer, well, he meant it.

Of course, the DOJ still needs to reach a decision as well, and they don't have a timeclock to adhere to - no matter how arbitrary it may be.

At yesterday's UBS Global Media conference, XM Chairman Gary Parsons said that the Department of Justice will have to approve the merger within a week or 10 days for the deal to go through this year. (UPDATE: Gary's reference to ten days had to do with getting the approval in 2007. He was not claiming that the deal was over if they didn't get the approval in the next 10 days. Sorry for the confusion.) That doesn't leave much time left.

Good, because I don't know about you, but I'm getting a little sick of this.


Nokia to offer free unlimited music with cellphones


Nokie Comes With MusicNokia, the world's biggest cellphone maker, yesterday announced a deal with Universal Music Group that will give customers buying select mobile devices unlimited access to millions of tracks for a year - and lets them keep the music afterwards.

Nokia is hoping that the other Big Three music labels will soon be on board.

Starting in the second half of 2008, the program (called "Comes With Music") lets folks who buy a qualifying phone to have unlimited access to Universal's entire artist catalog for a year. Once the year is over, you can keep all that music without it disappearing when the subscription is over.

The one downside (and it's a big one) is that the tracks are protected with Microsoft's PlaysForSure DRM, according to Ars Technica. If you want to burn the music to a CD, you need to pay. Hopefully Nokia and/or Universal will learn the err of their ways and remove the DRM caveat, because that would be the largest stumbling stone preventing this from taking off.

Of course, Nokia isn't disclosing which phones/devices need apply, and they didn't say what the terms of the deal were. But Universal's digital operations chief, Rob Wells, told Reuters in an interview: "Unless there was enough money for the world's biggest record company we would not have agreed to the deal."

DRM or not, it's still a big deal. And one that has the potential to turn both the mobile audio, as well as the unlimited music subscription services, on their collective heads. Nokia moves a lot of phones, and if they make the "Comes With Music" service available on a large number of handsets, that means there's now instant access to millions of songs in a lot of people's pockets.

Why should Satellite Radio care? Because Nokia obviously is seeing a value in providing music on mobile devices, and is pushing their leadership position hard to make sure they have a foothold.

Nokia Internet RadioJust a couple days ago, Nokia unveiled Nokia Internet Radio (pictured at right), a free downloadable application that will also be embedded in upcoming Nokia S60 3rd edition devices. It's essentially a directory, and an interface, of internet radio stations accessible on your Nokia phone.

Browse by station name, genre, country or language. Nokia Internet Radio also updates the top ten most popular internet radio stations hourly in its own special directory. The service also lets you save a list of "Favorites" - essentially presets of your top station - so they're accessible right away. And it's free.

The NAB says that there is no other "Nationwide Multichannel Mobile Audio Service" out there to compete with Sirius or XM.

I beg to differ.


Aqua Teen Hunger Force takes over XM



The Aqua Teen Hunger Force, the ridiculous show from Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, will be taking over a channel on XM Satellite Radio this Friday.

Carl, Master Shake and Meatwad from ATHF will be try their hand (well, whatever they have of them) as DJs on XM’s classic heavy metal channel Boneyard (ch 41) this Friday at 8pm ET.

The playlist won't disappoint: Ozzy, Scorpions, Ratt, Kiss, Judas Priest and several others are all in the mix.

In support of the XM broadcast the ATHF team created a TV spot with the show’s characters, which began airing recently on Adult Swim. Watch it below:

[ATHF on The Boneyard]
Thanks Bob!


Opie & Anthony sued by TV reporter


Opie and AnthonyOpie and Anthony are being sued by a WABC-TV news reporter for an "Assault on the Media" stunt performed over two years ago.

The reporter, Anthony Johnson, filed the suit on behalf of him and his wife, WNBC-TV reporter Pat Battle (yes, the Pat Battle) against O&A, John D. Walton (the person who actually performed the prank) and XM Satellite Radio; in seek of compensatory and punitive damages.

Johnson was doing a live, early morning broadcast when Walton reportedly allegedly blew an air horn near the reporter. According to the complaint, Walton pulled up behind Johnson while he was at a Hess gas station, waved an Opie & Anthony bumper sticker, blew a hand-held air horn and screamed "Opie & Anthony XM Radio!"

Johnson says he missed two weeks of work and suffered permanent ear damage.

If in fact he suffered permanent ear damage, I can understand suing the person who did the prank, but Opie and Anthony were very clear to instruct listeners not to harm anyone. I'm no lawyer, but I don't see why the duo and XM are involved. Well, except for the seemingly larger potential payout.

[AP, North Jersey Media Group]


Bentley signs with Sirius Canada



Bentley, which already had an exclusive agreement with Sirius here in the States, has signed with Sirius Canada to make the service available in select vehicles for our neighbors up north.

Sirius Canada will be available as a standard feature in all Bentley Continental GT, Continental GT Speed (pictured), Continental GTC and Continental Flying Spur vehicles starting with the 2008 model year.

The Bentley vehicles with Sirius Canada built-in will also come with a complimentary lifetime subscription. Because, you know, people buying Bentleys are strapped for cash.

[Press Release]


On the 11th hour, NAB meets with the FCC


NAB vs Satellite Radio

Last Friday, representatives of the NAB met with the FCC to chit-chat about none other than the Sirius-XM merger.

Those in attendance from the FCC were Helen Domenici (Chief of the FCC's International Bureau), Roderick Porter (Debuty Bureau Chief of the International Bureau), Gardner Foster (Legal Advisor) and Robert Nelson (Chief of the FCC's Satellite Bureau).

The NAB reps left behind a memorandum, which was subsequently filed with the FCC, which focuses completely on the spectrum usage. They argue that if Sirius and XM were allowed to merge, it would give them complete control of that piece of the spectrum (which historically the FCC has shied away from). This isn't much of a breakout from the NAB's prior arguments, but they are thin-slicing the subject.

Obviously, the NAB hasn't given up just yet. We are at Day 180 of the unofficial 180-day timeclock. Sure, the FCC could take longer, but this can't last forever... I hope.

[Read FCC filing (PDF)]


Gary Parsons at UBS Media conference today


Gary ParsonsXM Chairman Gary Parsons is speaking today at the UBS Global Media conference (yes, the same one that Frear spoke at yesterday). I'm trying not to get my hopes up about any "special" announcements, but you know we'll all be listening in with the utmost attention regardless.

You'll be able to tune in to the online webcast here.

(Side note, did anyone else notice David Frear "auditioning" for a management position yesterday?)


Radio Hanukkah launches today (at 5pm ET)


Radio Hanukkah

Lost amid the merger madness, XM's 2nd annual celebration of The Festival Of Lights - Radio Hanukkah - launches today at 5pm ET (east coast sundown).

Radio Hanukkah (ch 108) will also be available for a special 8-day free trial. Just use the XM promo code "DREIDEL" to listen online.

If you miss something, you'll be able to catch a replay of the biggest Radio Hanukkah Shows on the "Radio Hanukkah Relight" - all weekend long on December 15th and 16th.

[Radio Hanukkah]
Thanks Matt!


CRB sets new royalty rates for Satellite Radio


satellite radio royaltiesThe Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) has made a decision on the royalty rates for Satellite Radio.

(Note: The press release was just issued by XM and is worded for XM only - but I assume that these apply to Sirius as well. UPDATE: David Frear is talking about it at the UBS conference, so yes, this includes Sirius as well) The terms are for six-years (starting January 1, 2007) ending December 31, 2012.

XM, and Sirius, will pay a performance license rate of 6.0% of those gross revenues subject to the fees for 2007 and 2008, 6.5% for 2009, 7.0% for 2010, 7.5% for 2011 and 8.0% for 2012. This is much less than what SoundExchange wanted, which was a scale from 8% to 23% of total revenue.

In addition, the revenue that is subject to royalty fees includes subscription revenue only from subscribers and advertising revenues from channels other than those that use only incidental performances of music. The revenue percentages are not from equipment sales or data services.

"Today's ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board brings to an end a year- long proceeding with the record labels and provides our company certainty regarding music performance royalties to be paid through 2012," said Gary Parsons, Chairman, XM Satellite Radio. "Moreover, the music performance fees set by the CRB are in the range projected by many financial analysts who cover this industry."

UPDATE: At the UBS Media conference, David Frear CFO at Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. has said that the company has not had the chance to look at the entire agreement and have not made a decision on whether they will dispute the CRB's decision. They have 15 days from the Dec 3 decision to move for a rehearing.

UPDATE 2: Sirius has an SEC filing on all this as well.


Mitsubishi signs with Sirius Canada

2008 Mitsubishi Evo

Mitsubishi and Sirius Canada have struck a deal to make the satellite radio provider available factory-installed in their 2008 model year vehicles, several as standard equipment.

Sirius will be available as standard equipment on the 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander XLS, Eclipse Spyder GS & GTP, Eclipse GTP and Endeavor SE & Limited.

The 2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS, Lancer GTS and the incredible EVO (pictured); as well as the Outlander ES & LS; all get Sirius Canada as a factory installed option. Sirius Canada will also be made available on the new 2009 Galant.

Mitsubishi will offer a free 6-month subscription with their factory-installed Sirius receivers.

Good news from the CRB expected soon?


Satellite radio music royaltiesThis is a busy day for the investment analysts. This morning, Bear Stearns analyst Bob Peck issued a client note stating that a positive ruling from the CRB over music royalties is expected shortly.

"Our contacts in DC suggest that a positive ruling from the Copyright Royalty Board," wrote Peck.

Last month, the Copyright Royalty Board made a proposal for "preexisting subscriptions services" which I thought might give a glimpse into their line of thinking for the proceedings with Sirius and XM.

Bear Stearns is projecting the total aggregate amount for music royalties to be around 10%. That's about 7% of total revenues, and then an additional 3% in royalties for the other four industry associations, RIAA, ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.

In August, it was disclosed in an SEC filing that Sirius and XM proposed a flat-fee rate of $1.20 for each performance made of a copyrighted sound recording. SoundExchange countered with their own per-performance rate, which conveniently works out to roughly the 8% to 23% over the rate period that they originally wanted.

The whole issue that, understandably, XM and Sirius have a problem with is that SoundExchange wants a piece of all the action. They want a percentage of total revenue, when music is only part of the entire satellite radio offering.

Peck suggests that "it is possible that music royalty rates may be calculated on a subset of subscriber revenues attributable to music, rather than total revenues." If that's the case and Sirius-XM are able to pull this off, then both Bear Stearns' - and the consensus - could have an overly conservative model.

Let's hope.


Deal or no deal, Goldman says "sell XM"


XMSRWhether or not the merger with Sirius goes through, Goldman Sachs analyst Mark Wienkes still doesn't like XM, and downgraded shares of XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. from Neutral to Sell this morning.

"We could be wrong in the near-term, if the DOJ approves the proposed merger," says Wienkes. “That said, our downgrade is valuation based and contemplates possible short-term price swings whether the DOJ approves or rejects."

"Deal or no deal, we think the current valuation incorporates a view too close to optimal, e.g. DOJ and FCC approvals with few conditions and subsequently, near-certain realization of all potential synergies,” added Wienkes.

Bottom line: “With the majority of the upside baked in, we recommend investors sell XMSR.”

And what about Sirius? Pretty much just like XM, only worse, says Winkes: "In our view, SIRI (Sell) shares are subject to the same merger issues as XMSR shares coupled with a less favorable business model and trends."

[Barrons, Silicon Alley Insider]


"The FCC review could take longer"


XM and SiriusThe merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. may not be approved by the FCC's deadline, according to Cowen & Co analyst Tom Watts.

"In fact, the FCC review could take longer," Watts wrote in a client note. "We point out that deadlines can, and may, slip past the FCC's 180-clock."

Watts also points out that the DOJ doesn't necessarily need to adhere to the FCC's unofficial timeline.

He still feels that the deal will be approved by regulators, but warns that two stocks would tumble if the deal doesn't go through (uhm, yeah, I think we knew that). Watts estimates that XMSR would fall between 20%-30% and SIRI would fall 20%.



David Frear at the UBS Global Media Conference


SiriusDavid Frear, CFO and EVP at Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., will speak at the 35th Annual UBS Global Media & Communications Conference in New York, NY - tomorrow, December 4th, 2007 at approximately 2:30pm ET.

It's hard not to read into every tiny piece of info coming from these companies at this point in the game. As a result, I'm sure everyone right now is guessing that an announcement from the DOJ is scheduled for before Frear's presentation. Can't say the thought hasn't crossed my mind either.

We are on Day 178 of the FCC's informal 180-day timeclock, and if the DOJ traditionally gives their decision before the FCC... well then, there's not much time left.

You'll be able to tune into a webcast of the presentation here.


The Catholic Channel goes to Rome


The Catholic ChannelWhile we're all sitting on the edges of our collective seats waiting for merger news, Sirius announced that The Catholic Channel (ch 159) will be celebrating a full year on the air and will kickoff of some special Advent programming.

The channel will also be doing its first-ever trip to lovely Rome to broadcast from the Vatican during the first week of Advent. The weeklong special starts today at 4pm.

The Catholic Guy, the daily radio show hosted by Lino Rulli, begins the week long Advent and Anniversary special from Vatican Radio with broadcasts every weekday from 4pm - 7pm ET (his regular broadcast times). The 36-year-old Rulli will take his listeners to St. Peter's Basilica, the Colosseum, and other sites for an insightful look at the Eternal City that only the Catholic Guy can provide.

It continues all week in Rome with tours of some of the world's most famous Catholic sites, including the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum, and the prison of St. Peter and St. Paul.

Rulli will talk with Monsignor Roger Roensch, Director of the Bishops' Office for U.S. Visitors to the Vatican, about the importance of Catholics visiting the Holy See not as tourists, but as pilgrims. Later in the week, Rulli will speak with newly appointed Cardinal John P. Foley in the Vatican Radio studios about the significance of being a Prince of the Church.

Good stuff. Now get back to biting those fingernails as we await the DOJ's decision.


XM to air 2008 BCS games


2008 BCS on XM

XM Satellite Radio will air all five Bowl Championship Series (BCS) football games in January 2008.

The Allstate BCS National Championship, FedEx Orange Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, and AllState Sugar Bowl are all broadcast by XM thanks to a multi-year agreement with FOX Sports. These will air on XM Sports Nation. And XM will air the Rose Bowl as part of their partnership with ESPN, so it will air on... wait for it... ESPN Radio.

According to Eric (E-Lo) Logan, EVP of programming at XM, over 1.3 million listeners are tuning in to XM every Saturday to hear the games. That's a pretty big turn out.

"XM is now the satellite radio home for all five BCS games, which bolsters our standing as the ultimate destination for college sports fans." added Logan.

College Football Hall of Famer Barry Switzer noted, "I can listen to all the BCS games on my radio wherever I am, anywhere across the country. That's what makes college football on XM so powerful. You can listen to hundreds of games from all over the place, wherever you are."

Check out see the full BCS games schedule after the jump...


Is today the day?


XM Sirius MergerIs today the day that we'll finally get a decision on the merger? Last week The Eck and the 1221 (not to mention the internets) were abuzz with rumors that approval from the Justice Department was imminent. Bob Peck's report, as well as a lack of opposing information, further fueled the excitement.

XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. (XMSR) advanced 1.86, or 13.54%, to 15.60; and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. (SIRI) gained 31 cents, or 8.81%, to 3.83, on Friday trading.

Many believe that the DOJ will issue its announcement before the bell on Monday, mostly based on Bear Stearns' word that the deal will be approved as soon as last Friday or today. Of course, no one knows for sure except for the DOJ itself... but what do you think? Is today the day?