Orbitcast: January 2008 Archives

January 2008 Archives

They Might Be Giants coming to Sirius Kids Stuff


Here Come The 123sThey Might Be Giants will be swinging by Sirius Satellite Radio to preview songs from their upcoming children’s album Here Come The 123s.

A sequel to the ridiculously successful Here Come The ABCs album back in 2005, the band will also spend some time playing kid-friendly favorites from their previous albums.

While produced and released under Walt Disney Records, They Might Be Giants was reportedly given complete creative control for Here Come The ABCs. As a result, the album went Gold (over 500,000 in sales) and became the 2nd-highest selling They Might Be Giants album of all time. The follow-up release aims to see a similar level of success.

If you have a young'un in the household, you've probably had several They Might Be Giants songs (like "Here in Higglytown" and the "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Theme") rattling around in your head all day.

Now here's your chance for you and the kids to hear the band on Sirius. Tune in on Monday, February 4th at 8am ET with encores all week long on Sirius Kids Stuff (ch 116).


700mhz Auction: Open Access becomes a reality


700mhz AuctionToday, a bidder on the nationwide C Block slice of the coveted 700mhz spectrum offered up a whopping $4.71 billion.

This bid pushed the auction over the FCC reserve price - triggering the "open access" condition - requiring that the spectrum be accessible to any device or software application.

The bidders' identities are being kept anonymous so as to prevent anti-competitive activity (or so the FCC says) until the entire auction ends. Analysts have speculated that the most likely bidders for the C Block airwaves are Verizon Wireless and Google.

Google had said publicly that they would bid up the price to at least the reserve level so as to ensure the open access condition was put into place.

The C Block is one of five different sections of the 700mhz spectrum - though it is a nationwide slice and considered the most valuable. The 700mhz signal is coveted because it can not only travel a long distance, but can also penetrate thick walls.

Combined, the 700mhz auction is up to $12.78 Billion... and counting.

[RCR News]


BlackBerry "Remote Stereo Gateway" found on FCC


Introducing the BlackBerry Remote Stereo Gateway, hot off the presses at the FCC, coming to an executive's office sometime in the future.

It uses Bluetooth to enable a wireless transmission of music from your BlackBerry device to your home or portable stereo. Simply pair your BlackBerry to the Gateway, and plug the Gateway into your stereo (via a 3.5mm line-in or RCA aux input).

Magically all your music tunes get streamed to the speakers of your choice. Think of it like a dock for your phone, only without the wires.


What was it that the NAB used to define satellite radio? Oh right, "nationwide, multi-channel, audio programming." So... what would you call streaming audio over mobile devices?

[via Gizmodo]

Amazon acquires Audible, grows digital media empire


Amazon Kindle
Amazon announced today that they will buy digital audio book provider Audible.com for $300 million.

Audible has been partnered with XM for several years now, from including Audible support in the Helix/Inno, to the XM Audible Store, to various co-sponsored events and XM's Sonic Theater (ch 163) featuring Audible content. But I'm assuming none of that will change, since there's no reason for it to.

One interesting thing to think about is Amazon's increasingly aggressive foray into digital media distribution.

Not only do they have a massive DRM-free digital music service, but now they have the leading spoken-word provider as well.

And with the Amazon Kindle (pictured above), users can access and download all of that content over a built-in high-speed wireless EVDO connection... for free.

While Kindle (which Amazon is struggling to keep up with the demand of) doesn't necessarily market itself as a music player - it's primarily an eBook reader - but the capability is currently there. And there could be more to come.

"There are a number of experimental features. We have made them accessible so customers can tell us if we should work on them and make them part of the product," said CEO Jeff Bezos on the earnings call.

It's nothing, yet, but it sure makes you go "hmm."

[ZDNet, TechCrunch]


Slacker Portable shipping today


Slacker Portable

Well, the day has finally arrived, and not a moment too soon - the long anticipated Slacker Portable is shipping today, according to LAPTOP Magazine.

Some folks already have their Slacker Portables because the company decided to send out pre-launch units to those who preordered the product. But it's finally available now for the rest of us (check out my hands-on photos from CES here).

Slacker Portable

Even more interesting is the interview that LAPTOP had with Slacker's VP of Marketing Jonathan Sasse, where he hinted that the "mobile application" of Slacker will be coming later in 2008. That "mobile application" of course will be the satellite-enable cardock.

The interview gives some very intriguing insight into how Slacker differentiates itself from other forms of "radio." I've conveniently included a snippet of interest after the jump, but you're welcome to read the entire interview for yourself.

[LAPTOP Magazine]


Nuviphone: Garmin unveils a cellphone


Garmin nuviphone

Garmin has just announced what Engadget calls an "iPhone-like" smartphone - the nuviphone.

The smartphone is a quad-band HSDPA device, equipped with WiFi, Bluetooth, full Web Browser, PIM, and - you guessed it - GPS functions. It'll run off of Garmin's own operating system with the user interface based on the current one Garmin's PNDs utilize. Oh, and that 3.5-inch LCD display? It's, of course, a full touchscreen.

Pricing and availability will reportedly be announced soon.

Now, if there's any gripe folks have had about satellite radio's retail strategy - it's been the lack of integration in PNDs and Cellphones. Well, now Garmin's gone and made those two, one and the same.



Isuzu leaves the U.S. market... who cares



Isuzu has officially decided it is abandoning the North American market, and discontinuing sales of its i-Series pickup and Ascender SUV.

Isuzu has an exclusive installation deal with XM Satellite Radio. The status of their partnership is unknown, but it's a pretty good assumption that it's a done deal.

Not that it mattered much anyway.

While Isuzu's sales topped out to 100,000 units in 1999, led largely by the popular Isuzu Trooper, sales have plummeted to dismal levels since. In 2007, the automaker sold a mere 7,906 units, and that's down from 15,751 units in 2006.

And with sales numbers like that, you surely can't blame them for bailing out.



RIAA wants you to pay $1.5 million for sharing an album


The RIAA isn't satisfied with those already bloated statutory damages in file-sharing lawsuits, now they want you to pay an incredible $1.5 million for a ten-track album.

See, the problem is those dastardly compilation CDs. Who's to say that the songs came from a compilation album, or each from a separate album? The solution: fine each song as an individual album.

Yep, the RIAA wants each copied track to count as a separate act of infringement. So instead of a mere (and, still, absolutely ridiculous) $150,000 - the RIAA wants to count each song as it's own separate album. Meaning a ten-track soundtrack/compilation CD would run you a whopping $1.5 million in damages. (Forget the fact that the same song costs $1 from iTunes...)

It all part of the "PRO-IP" Act (aka, the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property act: H.R. 4279). A bill that that Google's own top copyright lawyer, called the most "outrageously gluttonous IP bill ever introduced in the US."

And guess who's among those who are sponsoring the so-called PRO-IP Act? None other than Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) - the boys who were "dismayed" by the prospect that the DOJ would be approving the Sirius-XM merger. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) is also among the 12 co-sponsors of the PRO-IP act, the man behind the now-dead Copyright Modernization Act which would have eventually prevented you from recording satellite radio.

Thank goodness these Congressmen aren't being influenced by lobbyists or anything.

[Ars Technica via Gizmodo]

Side note: Someone sent me a link the other day with the statement: Gen-Y doesn't pay for music, so "why the hell would they pay for something they can get for free?" (Thanks Chris!) This is totally true and one inherent problem with satellite radio's subscription model. And worse yet, the RIAA's style of legislation/litigation will only help to breed resentment and indignation... only making the problem worse.


Maroon 5 takes over XM


Maroon 5

Pop-rock band Maroon 5 will be taking over XM Satellite Radio’s hits countdown channel Top 20 on 20 this Friday. And to make the screaming masses happy, they'll even perform a song or two.

The group is dropping by XM's studios to play some songs of their liking, talk about their music, and will treat the XM Nation to a live performance.

Maroon 5 is getting ready to head out for concert dates in Asia and Australia in support of their current album It Won’t Be Soon Before Too Long. But you'll be able to catch them on Top 20 on 20 (ch 20) this Friday, February 1st, at 9am, 3pm, and 9pm ET.


Jack Johnson interview/performance on Sirius

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Jack JohnsonPlatinum selling singer-songwriter Jack Johnson will sit down for an intimate interview on Sirius Satellite Radio to discuss his upcoming album Sleep Through The Static.

Johnson will share with listeners his inspiration for the album, and discusses other topics like his life as a parent and his new “green” studio where the album was recorded.

Sleep Through The Static is his 5th studio album and is due for release on February 5, 2008. It was being recorded at L.A.'s Solar Powered Plastic Plant - he has recorded all of his previous albums in Hawaii.

Jack Johnson also will treat fans to an acoustic performance of the album’s title track, "Sleep Through The Static."

You'll have plenty of opportunities to hear this interview/performance. Sirius will air it on Friday, February 1st at 5pm ET; on Saturday, February 2nd at noon ET; and February 3rd at 3pm and midnight ET - all on The Spectrum (ch 18).

View a video about the making of Sleep Through The Static after the jump...

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Georgetown Partners calls A La Carte a "fairytale"


Georgetown PartnersGeorgetown Partners, the minority-owned company that wants 20% of satellite radio infrastructure handed over to them, has filed comments with the FCC calling the Sirius-XM proposed A La Carte pricing a "fairytale."

"The Sirius-XM 'A La Carte' offerings are a 'fairytale'." writes Georgetown Partners in the ex parte filing. "There are no public interest benefits in the near or even in the intermediate future."

Georgetown's claims go on to state that all satellite radio receivers would have to be replaced in order for the A La Carte packages to be made available to subscribers.

"Even assuming that sometime in the distant future these radios were actually to be produced and could be purchased, the more than 30 million present owners of installed automobile satellite radio receivers and the tens of million of future car owners of such radios would have to rip these radios out of their dash boards, junk them, and pay whatever monopoly price the post-merger company would charge for the 'next generation' radios," writes Georgetown.

(As opposed to waving a magic wand and making those receivers capable of new features?)

"Unlike the Sirius-XM 'A La Carte' offerings, [Georgetown's] proposal provides true benefits for the public including to every owner of a satellite receiver today and in the future and a competitive presence in the market that otherwise would be ruled by a monopoly," the company writes.

"Georgetown’s proposal requires the combined Sirius-XM to carry Georgetown’s advertiser-supported programming to everyone with a satellite radio receiver – subscriber or not. The result would be immediate, continuing and permanent tangible benefit to the public."

So let me get this straight, the public interest solution that Georgetown is proposing is to... introduce commercials into a free service?

Wait ...and why can't the FCC require that Sirius-XM do this themselves?

[FCC Filing (PDF) via Orbitcast Forums]


HD Radio Alliance opposes merger, cries "waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!"


Waaaaaaaaahh!!The HD Digital Radio Alliance has filed a comment with the FCC officially opposing the Sirius-XM merger... oddly enough, taking a seemingly opposite stance to the company behind HD Radio's technology, iBiquity.

The organization stated it's opposition to the merger while iBiquity chose not to take a position at all.

Both do agree on one thing though: they want to have HD Radio technology embedded into Satellite Radio receivers.

The Alliance added that HD Radio "cannot be considered a competitive alternative to satellite radio." Too bad their marketing message seems to say otherwise. Is this the vision for Radio 2020? C'mon guys, it wasn't that long ago that you said satellite radio isn't a "real business," and now you want a free ride?



Caribbean Series on XM, makes starving baseball fans less hungry


Caribbean SeriesFor those baseball fans who are starving for games during the long, cold winter months - next week you'll have something to stave off that hunger, at least for a little while. That's because XM will be broadcasting the 2008 Caribbean Series this Saturday, February 2nd, through Thursday, February 7th.

This year marks the 50th edition of the 12-game tournament, which features Major League Baseball players and prospects from the Caribbean winter leagues. Four teams will compete in this year’s tournament, representing Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic.

And yes, it's in English.

The Caribbean Series, aka Serie del Caribe, will air live from Santiago, Dominican Republic, on XM’s MLB play-by-play channels 176 and 177. Check out their channel pages for schedule details.


PlayNetwork signs first "XM for Business" customer


XM for Business
PlayNetwork, the company that is now managing XM's commercial business sales and service, just signed on their first official customer: Chateau Ste. Michelle.\

Located in Woodinville, Chateau Ste. Michelle is Washington’s oldest winery and through its daily tours, tastings, and culinary events - the winery hosts some 300,000 visitors annually. Chateau Ste. Michelle is not only recognized for pioneering vinifera grape growing in the Columbia Valley, but is also a leader in modern day viticultural research.

And so the acclaimed winery and PlayNetwork are hosting a private reception on January 30th to celebrate the move to XM for Business.

Not only will the event feature a selection of wines from Chateau Ste. Michelle, but also music by jazz musician LeRoy Bell. Sadly, although I was invited (much appreciated), I will not be attending. Have a glass of Merlot (or two even) for me.


Booker says "no" to K-Rock rumor


Booker, Opie and Anthony

Following a bit on Page Six about Chris Booker "mulling" a new radio/TV deal located in Manhattan (gee, wonder where they got that idea from) the Q102 morning man is denying the claim.

Booker told Philadelphia Inquirer pseudo-gossip-columnist Michael Klein that the New York Post's "industry sources" were most likely inspired by an anonymous posting on a blog.

He also denied the rumor-mongering claim posted right here on The O.

"All I know [about the alleged job offers] is what I read about on the Internet," Booker told Klein.

I guess that's that... for now.


(...and yes, it's a slow news day.)


Tony Bruno leaves Sporting News Radio


Tony BrunoTony Bruno, who was a mainstay on Sporting News Radio, has officially left the network.

His three-year contract expires in April 2008, but he'll remain on the payroll for the next two months.

"Unfortunately, our strategic objectives and Tony’s personal interests are not in alignment at this time, and we have each agreed to move in a new direction," said Clancy Woods, President of Sporting News Radio, in a statement. While Sporting News Radio is in search of a replacement, Bob Berger and Bob Stelton will host SNR’s morning program during Super Bowl week starting January 28th, and Arnie Spanier will host the program the week of February 4th.

Bruno was heard on XM Sports Nation (ch 144) on weekdays from 10am - 1pm ET, and on Sirius Sports Central (ch 123) on weekdays from 9am -1pm ET.

Thanks Rich!


Grammy Radio returns to XM, celebrates 50th anniversary


Grammy Radio on XM

"Grammy Radio" is returning to XM featuring a multitude of special Grammy Week events, plus highlights from the past 50 years of the coveted awards.

Grammy Radio will air on XM's exclusive programming channel (and Orbies Nominee) XMX (ch 2) from February 8th through February 10th, the evening of the 50th Annual Grammy Awards.

To kick off Grammy Radio, XM will broadcast "Fifty Years of The Grammys," a 50-hour retrospective highlighting past winners since 1958 in a range of categories in all genres of music, including "Record Of The Year," "Song Of The Year" and dozens more.

Grammy Radio will also, once again, offer the only live broadcast of this year's pre-telecast Grammy Awards, as well as red-carpet interviews from the Grammy Awards and broadcasts of unforgettable performances by superstar artists during Grammy Week.

In addition, XM recently launched the "XM Radio Mobile Grammy Sweepstakes" with mobile partner AT&T Wireless.

Through January 31st, AT&T Wireless customers can automatically enter to win a trip for two to the 50th Annual Grammy Awards (including airfare, hotel and $500 cash) by downloading the XM Radio Mobile application to their phone. Get more information about this here.

Grammy Radio's dedicated content is part of XM's multi-year programming and marketing partnership with The Recording Academy.

[XM Grammy Radio]


Sirius hosting Gay Presidential Caucus


Clinton, ObamaSirius will hold its first ever Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender presidential caucus, featuring representatives and supporters for Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards.

The Gay Caucus, which takes place on The Michelangelo Signorile Show on Sirius OutQ, will feature these reps/supporters sharing their candidates' platforms and views, taking questions, and engaging in an open dialogue.

Hilary Rosen, President of OurChart.com and regular on-air political/business commentator on national television, will support Senator Clinton. She is also the former Chairman and CEO of the RIAA.

Stampp Corbin, National LGBT Liaison for the Obama campaign and Co-Chair of the National LGBT Leadership Team of Obama for America '08, will represent Senator Obama. Corbin served on The Board of Directors of the Human Rights Campaign from 1996-2003, and served as HRC Finance Committee Co-Chair from 1998 to 2003.

Eric Stern, Political Advisor to the John Edwards, will represent Senator Edwards. Stern is an attorney, educator, and social activist who worked for more than a decade on numerous Democratic campaigns and in the movement for social justice and equality. In the 2004 election cycle, Stern served as the Director of LGBT Outreach at the Democratic National Committee where he developed a voter mobilization plan that helped to turnout more than 3.5 million LGBT votes for Democratic candidates nationally.

Sirius' Gay Caucus will air Thursday, January 31st from 3 - 5pm ET on Sirius OutQ (ch 109).


XM drops Wal-Mart National Sales Support staff


XMFollowing the shutting down of its kiosk program, XM Satellite Radio has discontinued its contract managing store level retail field support staff with Wal-Mart, Orbitcast has learned.

The national team, which was employed by National In-Store (NIS), was comprised of over 30 field personnel and 4 regional managers. Their duties were primarily to manage the training and merchandising compliance of the Wal-Mart associates at the store level.

It's important to note that this does not affect XM's retail partnership with Wal-Mart which is XM's largest retail partner. This team supported over 2,000 Wal-Mart stores nationwide, according to a person familiar with the matter.

XM made the announcement internally on Friday, but the program will continue "business as usual" until the end of February. The company cited budgetary constraints and lack of company revenue to justify keeping the program going forward, according to the source.

As a result, XM will manage their relationship with Wal-Mart directly (much like what Sirius already does). This is yet another sign that the company is reducing retail-related expenditures, especially following weak holiday shopping sales.


Jonathan Jacoby leaves Bank of America


Jonathan JacobyI was going to keep this one quiet initially, but the cat is out of the bag now, so I'll go ahead and post it: Bank of America analyst Jonathan Jacoby, as of today, is leaving the company after four and a half years.

Citing "the nature of the Street," Jacoby sent out an announcement to clients this morning. As a result, we will probably not see any more of his coverage on satellite radio (in the near future at least).

It's no secret that Jonathan has been a long-time critic of Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., having had sent 'open letters' to management criticizing the company of its lack of transparency (among other things). He's also been a longtime critic of the merger between Sirius and XM. As a result many Sirius investors despise his opinions - though it has to be said that he has been correct on many occasions, even if his view is not the popular one. Even in the analyst's circles, it's also been whispered about that Sirius has a strong dislike for Jacoby, and has shown this by not inviting him (or his colleagues) to analyst events, and if you've notice that Jacoby hasn't participated in the earnings calls... well, you can figure out why.

Still, at least for me, his opposing views will be missed.

Check out a portion of Jacoby's farewell letter after the jump...


ESPN and XM launch 'ESPN Xtra' channel


ESPN RadioXM is adding a whole new slate of ESPN programs to its line up, and is rebranding XM channel 141 as a new ESPN Radio-dedicated channel, starting next Monday, February 4th.

XM's ESPNEWS (ch 141) will be getting a name change to "ESPN Xtra." The channel will grow its current schedule of ESPNEWS programming with new shows and specials, including three ESPN Radio talk programs from its stations in New York and Dallas.

Interestingly enough, it looks like ESPN is expanding its reach with satellite radio. In December, ESPN and Sirius announced that they would be adding SportsCenter and other ESPN programming to Sirius' lineup.

The ESPN Xtra channel will also air content produced by ESPN exclusively for XM throughout the year, live coverage of events ranging from the X Games to the ESPY Awards, and ESPN columnist Bill Simmons' popular podcast from ESPN.com.

Don't worry, XM will continue to offer ESPN Radio (ch 140).

Click the jump to see a rundown of the new shows making their way to ESPN Xtra...


Drudge Report: "Drama" building on Sirius-XM merger


The Drudge Report is, er, reporting that "drama" is building around the Sirius-XM merger.

There's no link or anything specific... just this:


Curious as to exactly what kind of "drama" they're talking about. Stay tuned...

[Drudge Report via Orbitcast Forums]

UPDATE: Drudge has removed the posting from his page now. Yay, rumor mongering.


Still Waiting: Comparing the Sirius-XM merger to others


Sirius, XM merger length

When Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. announced their plans to merge, no one expected the process to be easy. But what I don't think anyone expected, was for the process to take so long.

Oh sure we knew there was trouble when the preliminary review process dragged on to the point that it earned the dubious distinction of the longest application-to-clock delay in FCC history. But that simply meant that the Commission was dragging its feet in starting its unofficial shot-clock - a timeline that made no difference anyway, since the FCC blew past the deadline regardless.

But the Department of Justice had already begun its process long before. XM and Sirius even certified their compliance with the DOJ's Second Request back in early September, causing industry experts to predict a decision as early as October (the Second Request compliance usually triggers a 30-day clock).

So here we are, 342 days later, and still no decision in sight.

Take a look at the graph above, mergers with far bigger valuations and/or far more monopolistic concerns, were decided upon earlier than the XM-Sirius merger. That graph illustrates the length of time from when a merger was announced, to when a government body actually made a decision.

And remember, Sirius-XM haven't had a decision yet, so that red bar will continue to grow.

It's sad, because in the case of Whirlpool-Maytag, the washer/dryer market was consolidated to a 70% share and it was ultimately approved by the FTC. In the case of Whole Foods-Wild Oats, the FTC charged that prices could go higher, while quality and service could get reduced - but that deal ultimately went through - in almost half the amount of time that Sirius-XM have been in limbo.

Need more examples? The FCC approved the AT&T-Bellsouth merger (valued at a whopping $85 billion - Sirius/XM is estimated to be 10% of that), which controls 22 states, and includes local phone service to 70 million residents - in some states, it made AT&T the only choice for business access services. Google's purchase of DoubleClick combined the two largest online advertising distributors - which was criticized for hurting competition by two companies that are no stranger to antitrust concerns: Microsoft and AT&T - and it was ultimately approved as well.

Even EchoStar-DirecTV, arguably the most similar to the Sirius-XM merger - and was ultimately denied by the FCC - took less time to come to a decision than the satellite radio merger.

Echoing the sentiment of others: it's time for the government to come to a decision. Whether it be to approve or deny the merger, the DOJ and the FCC need to stop stalling, and start acting. Not only investors, but also consumers and especially employees, of both Sirius and XM are suffering at the expense of the government's indecision. And this constant state of speculation needs to end.

Make the decision, and let's move on.


Jim Cramer talks merger, criticizes Feds


Jim Cramer

I'll admit it, I have a love/hate opinion of Jim Cramer. And this is one of the rare instances when I love what he says.

Cramer yesterday took the opportunity to criticize the government for their protracted delays in coming to a decision on the Sirius-XM merger. In his opinion, the reason why the process is being held up is because lawmakers are all in the back pocket of terrestrial radio.

All I could think about while watching was, "Finally, someone is actually saying this."

If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend checking it out.

[CNBC Video via Orbitcast Forums]


Tom Hanks auctions radios for rural Africa


Freeplay RadioTom Hanks and the Freeplay Foundation joined forces with eBay, and launched a charity auction to raise funds benefitting rural poor areas of Africa.

Hanks has autographed the wind-up and solar-powered radios, and is auctioning them up on eBay - the winning bidders will also get a personal letter and a signed photo from Tom.

One-hundred percent of the auction proceeds will be used to help Freeplay's work in Africa.

Check out the video below...

My first thought, other than the fact that this is a pretty cool cause (somewhat similar to One Laptop Per Child), is that this feels like a missed opportunity for WorldSpace.

Yes, I know all about WorldSpace's involvement with First Voice International (formally the WorldSpace Foundation) which uses 5% of WorldSpace's bandwidth to broadcast free and unencrypted service to underserved communities in Africa. But WorldSpace can't guarantee that service anymore, and they're lacking that whole celebrity-ism that folks like Tom Hanks can provide.

That aside, it's a cool idea, and it'd be even cooler if Sirius and/or XM set aside a stable of emergency satellite radios for disastrous events here in the States. Hey, whatever happened to that crank-powered satellite radio anyway?

[eBay Auction]


The Orbitcast Awards: Voting is now OPEN


The Orbies

The first-annual Orbitcast Awards (aka, the "Orbies") is now open for voting. Your nominations have been submitted and now it's time to put them to the vote.

By far the categories with the most individual nominees are The Best Kept Secret on Satellite Radio and The Best Music DJ.

Best Music Show, Best "Go To" Channel, and of course Best Comedy Talk Show (complete with everyone's favorite smattering of shock-jocks) also received their own fair share of attention during the nomination phase. So make sure to cast your votes soon before they close.

Voting closes on Saturday, February 9th.

Remember, this is a 100% "People's Voice" award, which is completely driven by your nominations and your votes. Satellite radio deserves its own award to give the talent behind Sirius' and XM's mics the recognition they deserve.

So cast your vote today!

[The Orbitcast Awards]


National Council of Negro Women oppose merger (and Howard, O&A and Bubba are the reason)


Howard Stern, Opie and Anthony, Bubba the Love Sponge

The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) submitted a letter to the FCC yesterday, voicing their general opposition to the Sirius-XM merger.

And one of the main reasons as to why they don't approve of the transaction is... Howard Stern, Opie & Anthony and Bubba the Love Sponge.

"One only has to evaluate the current programming now offered by Sirius and XM to recognize that our concerns and fears are well founded," the NCNW wrote in their letter to the FCC Chairman. "Programming such as Howard Stern, Opie and Anthony, and Bubba the Love Sponge - which help to perpetuate racist and sexist stereotypes in our culture - drive the business of both companies." (emphasis added)

The African-American women's organization goes on to say: "A Sirius - XM satellite radio monopoly will focus it (sic) resources on only its most profitable audiences, with more of the same lowest-common-denominator programming of the Howard Stern variety."

That's quite the assumption for a post-merger scenario.

And if that's the case, why wait? Both companies already seek profitability right now. Why would XM hire Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Maya Angelou, and the Reverend Al Sharpton - after hiring Opie & Anthony mind you - if selling out to the "lowest-common-denominator" was such a priority?

Howard Stern, Opie & Anthony and Bubba the Love Sponge constitute only 3 channels out of over 300 combined - that's 1% of all programming offered by Sirius and XM together - let's not forget that.

The National Council of Negro Women goes on to voice their support for Georgetown Partners. Georgetown, which also has the support of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, is asking that Sirius and XM be required to hand over 20% of their channel capacity so as to "create competition and diversity" in satellite radio.


[Read the full letter (PDF)]


Ringo Starr live on Sirius Satellite Radio


Ringo Starr

Sirius Satellite Radio today will broadcast an interview and performance live with legendary singer, songwriter and drummer of the Beatles, Ringo Starr.

During the interview, Starr discusses with Sirius host Meg Griffin his early musical influences, favorite drummers and the making of his latest album Liverpool 8.

Immediately following the interview, Sirius will broadcast live from the Liverpool 8 album release party at LA’s House of Blues. The event will included a performance by Ringo Starr and Dave Stewart, the albums co-producer and half of the British music duo, Eurythmics.

Listen in today, January 25th, on Sirius Disorder (ch 70) and The Spectrum (ch 18). The interview starts at 3:15pm ET and the album release party and performance starts at 4pm ET.


XM honors Black History Month


Black History Month

XM Satellite Radio is once again celebrating Black History Month with a wide range of special programming and features.

From Gamble & Huff, to Aaron Neville, to Natalie Cole and more, XM will offer listeners a range of shows that highlight the lasting contributions of African-Americans all February.

Check out more deets on XM's website, or read some highlights after the jump...


For real this time: FCC approves Clear Channel deal


Clear ChannelWe heard this news a couple weeks ago, but now it's official: the FCC has approved the sale of Clear Channel Communications, Inc. to Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners.

As expected, the vote was unanimous in favor of the deal. But Copps and Adelstein still had some parting shots before approving:

"I concur in part to highlight my concern regarding alleged anticompetitive practices
with respect to advertising in the radio industry," said Commissioner Adelstein in his statement (PDF).

"This case is a close call and one that I approach with decidedly mixed feelings," said Michael Copps in his statement (PDF). "[W]hile the new company will remain a media giant—now refocused on the largest markets—there are some potential public interest benefits to this deal."

For XM-Sirius merger watchers, there's one interesting takeaway here, and that's the Clear Channel deal is currently no where to be found on the FCC's Items on Circulation list. Of course, the list is updated weekly, so it could appear soon... but remember the FCC's decision on Clear Channel was heard about exactly two weeks ago.



OneRepublic taking over XM's Top 20 on 20



OneRepublic, the Colorado-born pop band that rose from MySpace stardom to breaking international radio records, will be taking over XM's hits channel Top 20 on 20 tomorrow.

The band, which was formed in 2002, grew in popularity on MySpace until OneRepublic soon became the most popular band on the social networking site. Producer Timbaland took notice and remixed one of their tracks, "Apologize," including it in his 2007 album Shock Value.

According to Billboard, the song quickly became a platinum-selling single in many countries. "Apologize," went on to be crowned the most popular song in radio history in the U.K., and in the U.S. it received more airplay than any other song in Top 40 history.

Tomorrow, January 25th, OneRepublic will count down their top songs on XM's Top 20 on 20 (ch 20), starting at 9am to 12pm ET. What's more, OneRepublic will perform the songs "Apologize" and "Stop and Stare" live in the XM Satellite Radio studios.


Everything you ever wanted to know about the 700mhz Auction (but never wanted to ask)


Google's wireless plansIf there's one thing I know about spectrum, it's that it's terribly boring to talk about. So when news hits the wires about the coveted 700mhz spectrum auction starting today, most folks' eyes glaze over and their brains switch to hold-music.

Thankfully, the good folks over at Engadget Mobile have put together a handy list of need-to-know items about today's auction and have translated the FCC-speak into Normal-speak. GigaOm has a nice breakdown as well.

There's some 214 bidders in this auction. Some of the big-boys to keep an eye on are AT&T, Verizon and Google, not to mention Cox, EchoStar, and Paul Allen (the deep pocketed co-founder of Microsoft) - check out USA Today for a nice chart breaking down the interests of some of the key players.

What does this mean to satellite radio? Nothing right now. Ultimately I think Block C, which is the nationwide block with the most bandwidth, will lead to the much fabled Wireless Internet (one of the FCC's requirements is to make Block C an "open-access" network), but that's all just pipe-dreams right now. There needs to be a winner first.


iBiquity met with the FCC... again


Polk I-Sonic ES2
Adding to the list of merger-related activity at the FCC recently, iBiquity Digital Corporation held yet another meeting with members of the Commission earlier this week, according to a recent FCC filing.

iBiquity CEO Robert Struble and counsel met with Commission Jonathan Adelstein and Rudy Brioché of Commissioner Adelstein’s office. Their discussion was similar to previous meetings in that iBiquity expressed "concern" over competitive implications should the merger be approved.

Speaking of implications. iBiquity implies quite a bit at these meetings. From the filing:

"iBiquity raised concerns about exclusive arrangements between XM and Sirius and automobile manufacturers that could serve as a barrier to iBiquity’s ability to sell HD Radio receivers to end users. iBiquity also expressed concern that satellite radio companies may have used subsidies and incentives to discourage proliferation of HD Radio products. iBiquity discussed its concern that the merger has the potential to exacerbate these problems."

Interesting, so now that sluggish growth we're hearing about is XM and Sirius' fault? Seriously? Remember, some studies predicted that 1.5 million HD Radio units would be sold in 2007 (and that was reduced from 2.1 million), while other research firms, like Barrington Research, had hoped for a more conservative 1 million units.

"Our impression is that the actual unit sell-through was only about half that total," said Barrington Research analyst Jim Goss. That's roughly 500,000 units for the entire year if your math is rusty.

So the burden of that failure is now being placed on satellite radio's mystical "incentives" that somehow "discouraged" the sale of HD Radios. That is, despite HD Radio being all over CES this year, and being included in new tabletop radios that forgo XM in favor of iTunes Tagging support. Yeah, I can definitely see proof of iBiquity's accusations there.

iBiquity's solution to these "concerns" of course hasn't changed since last month - they just want the government to require that HD Radio technology be included in every satellite radio sold.

Oh, and Goss also added that iBiquity is getting $5-$6 for every HD Radio receiver sold. So, you know, requiring that HD Radio technology be included in every Sirius and XM unit sold has absolutely nothing to do with the interests of iBiquity. Nah... it's all "to insure a level competitive playing field," right?

[FCC Filing (PDF), Radio Ink]

UPDATE: Looks like iBiquity met with Commissioner Michael Copps and Rich Chessen of Commissioner Copps’ office as well. [FCC Filing (PDF)]


XM Kiosks getting phased out


XM KiosksXM Satellite Radio is in the process of shutting down all of their kiosk sites nationwide and phasing the entire program, Orbitcast has learned.

The company cited budgetary reasons according to an XM spokesperson, stating that while sales were strong from the kiosk sites, the combination of general overhead fees and rental costs did not justify continuing further.

According to a person familiar with the matter, all employees involved with the kiosk program, including the national manager and district managers, were let go as a result. XM pointed out that many of their kiosk employees are hired on a seasonal basis.

Kiosk locations included Boca Raton, Citrus Park, Paramus, Danbury, Bethesda, Little Rock, Annapolis, Fair Oaks, Tysons, Pentagon City and Boston among others. According to the source, the Florida kiosks were shut down in early December, while others in New York, Washington DC, and Colorado were shut down shortly after Christmas. XM says that they are in the process of phasing out the remaining sites.

The XM Kiosk program started in 2004 and proved to be a successful initiative in its infancy. XM benefited not only from the brand exposure, but also from the additional distribution channel in areas like malls (where they didn't have much of a presence at the time).

Unfortunately, as the market matured and shifted more toward the OEM side (as evidenced by the recent retail numbers), XM says they chose not to move forward with the 3rd party agreements.


Report: Merger could receive approval tonight


Sirius, XM mergerBriefing.com is citing an unnamed report this morning stating: “XMSR-SIRI merger could receive approval from DoJ and FCC tonight,” according to CNN.

Now we've been through this up-and-down rollercoaster too many times to count, but this is apparently enough to send both stocks into positive territory in a market while everyone else is trading lower.

Spokespersons for both Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. declined to comment on the latest speculation - as did spokespersons at the FCC and DOJ.

Paul R. La Monica at CNN Money gives the best advice on this last round of speculative news:

"There is nothing to suggest that a ruling is going to be announced today, this week, or even this month. So my words of advice to anxious Sirius and XM shareholders would be 'Patience, grasshopper. Patience.' Stop buying and selling on unsubstantiated rumors and just sit back and wait for the inevitable, although not necessarily imminent, announcement."

[CNN Money]

UPDATE: TheStreet.com adds some to this little rumor, sourcing Briefing.com once again. They include the ever-conservative (albeit, correct) view from David Trout of M&A Researcher, who is quoted as saying, "we do not anticipate a decision tonight or in the immediate future."


Last.fm now plays full length tracks and entire albums (for free)


Last.fmLast.fm has just undergone an incredible update that awards it the "World's Best Jukebox" moniker (self-awarded, of course).

As of today, you can play full-length tracks and entire albums for free on the Last.fm website.

The service also is boasting "the most complete, licensed music catalog" in the world with support from The Big Four music labels as well as over 150,000 indie labels. It's all immediately available on demand without logging in.

Gizmodo calls the updated version "internet radio on 'roids, basically."

The free (banner ad-supported) service has the limitation of only allowing the same track to be played 3-times. But Last.fm will soon be announcing a subscription service that will allow for unlimited plays as well as "some other useful things."

"We’re also working on bringing full-length tracks to the desktop client and beyond," said the company. It's that "beyond" part that I think folks should keep an eye on, as Last.fm could very well do what Slacker is doing.

Last.fm was acquired by CBS for $280 million in cash in May 2007.


[Last.fm Blog via Gizmodo]


Oprah signs Rabbi Shmuley Boteach for XM show


Rabbi Shmuley BoteachOprah Winfrey has signed on Rabbi Shmuley Boteach for his own show on her XM Satellite Radio channel, but apparently it's his political affiliations that some people aren't happy about.

Oprah is Barack Obama's most famous supporter, yet Rabbi Shmuley is a Rudolph Giuliani backer who held a fundraiser for Giuliani at his mansion in Englewood, N.J., last year. This shocking revelation doesn't sit right with some folks.

"I don't understand why someone like Oprah, who ostensibly supports the causes of women and people of color, would hire a host who raised money for Giuliani," said Randy Credico, director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice.

"Giuliani has a history of treating women like dirt, including the mother of his children. And he's never distanced himself from racist supporters like radio host Bob Grant, who called Martin Luther King a scumbag..."

"Oprah has a lot of explaining to do," said Credico.

Apparently not, since a spokesperson for Oprah's Harpo Productions called this "a nonissue" adding that "the political affiliations of our hosts are their personal choice."

Shmuley begins on XM's Oprah and Friends (ch 155) starting on January 28th.

[NY Daily News]


Apple iPod unit sales slow


iPod nanoProving that some research firms actually know what they're talking about, Apple reported that holiday unit sales of the iPod rose marginally when compared to the same period the year prior.

Apple iPod holiday-quarter shipments came in at 22.1 million units - that's up about 5 percent from a year earlier. But that came in shy of forecasts by three analysts that Reuters tracks (which ranged from 22.4 million to 25 million). Sales of the iPhone reached 2.3 million, in line with most Wall Street estimates.

Revenue on the other hand is a different matter.

Apple said iPod revenue rose 17% from a year earlier - that's the strongest growth in a year, according to Apple execs. Much of this growth in revenue can be attributed to the debut of the $400 iPod Touch model which lifted average selling prices.

"This was the most expensive iPod we've introduced in some time," said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's CFO. Cupertino thinks the iPod Touch belongs in a separate category other than a portable music player, saying the iPod Touch has a chance to "become the first mainstream mobile Wi-Fi platform."

Of course, as Silicon Alley Insider points out, revenue is where it counts and in that case the iPhone is really what Apple wants to focus on. "With revenue coming from both phone sales and kickbacks from carriers, iPhone customers are a lot more valuable to Apple than iPod customers," writes SAI. "So while iPod growth slows, it looks like Apple's cellphone division will be able to drive gadget sales growth."

And with iPhone (and WiFi-enabled iPod Touch) leading the way for Apple, how long do you think it will take for over-the-air capabilities to become a priority?

[via Reuters]


Sheryl Crow takes over at Sirius


Sheryl CrowSheryl Crow will take over Sirius' The Spectrum channel for five days starting in two weeks.

The special will feature Sheryl playing her favorite music including a track-by-track preview and in- depth discussion of her new album Detours which arrives in stores on February 5th.

Among the many tracks on the album, Sheryl discusses how "Lullaby for Wyatt," a song about her son (who she adopted back in April and named after her father) " ... really informed this album."

"There's an urgent feeling about what's going on in the world," added Crow. "This song is really about, as a parent, you just want to protect your children from the pain that they're going to ultimately experience in their lives."

During the take-over Sheryl also will perform songs from Detours and some of her classic hits at Sirius' studios. This isn't Sheryl's first time guest DJ'ing at Sirius - she helped out her former beau Lance Armstrong by broadcasting live from Spain back in March 2005.

"Sheryl Crow's Spectrum" will kick-off on February 4th at 7am ET and run through February 8th on The Spectrum (ch 18).


It's official: Retail sales are in the toilet (December numbers are in)


Satellite Radio RetailThe ever-important Holiday Shopping Season didn't prove to do much for XM or Sirius last year, as NPD Group's December sales data shows a continued decline.

Combined data shows that satellite radio retail sales were down 37.5% for the month, when compared to December of last year. The sad part is that the comparisons were relatively easy.

The Quick Glance:

  • Sirius December 2007 Year-over-Year Retail Sales:
    Down 36%
  • XM December 2007 Year-over-Year Retail Sales:
    Down 41%


  • Sirius Dec '07 Retail Marketshare: 68.3%
  • XM Dec '07 Retail Marketshare: 31.7%

That's a steep decline, especially when you consider that last year satellite radio retail sales were already down 46%. Looking at retail marketshare at this point is nearly pointless as it's simply a piece of an ever-shrinking pie.

Something needs to change in how we approach retail, because this obviously isn't working. And it needs to change now.



NHL All-Star Game on XM this Sunday


NHLThe NHL All-Star Game will air this Sunday, January 27th on XM Satellite Radio.

The eastern and western conferences will face off at 6pm ET on the NHL play-by-play XM channel 205. Plus, the hockey talk radio channel NHL Home Ice (ch 204) will be live from the game site at Phillips Arena in Atlanta through the weekend, and XM’s Top 20 on 20 (ch 20) will provide the music for the pre-game festivities.

The starting line-up for the two teams was chosen by fan balloting sponsored by XM.

And for the fans who want to hear the best of hockey’s minor leagues, XM will have live coverage of the all-star games for the American Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League. The ECHL All-Star Game kicks iff tomorrow, January 23rd, at 10pm ET on XM channel 206, and the AHL All-Star game is Monday, January 28th, at 7pm ET on XM channel 204.


Sirius increases coverage of the Super Bowl


Super Bowl XLII

Sirius will be increasing their coverage of Super Bowl XLII, with 12 live broadcasts featuring game calls in eight languages - up from the 11 broadcasts and seven languages from last year.

Sirius will also provide live day-long news and expert analysis every day of Super Bowl Week.

On Super Bowl Sunday, February 3rd, Sirius will air an expanded lineup of play-by-play broadcasts of Super Bowl XLII live from University of Phoenix Stadium. Among the 12 different game calls in eight languages, the local radio broadcasts of both the AFC Champion New England Patriots and NFC Champion New York Giants will also air.

Here's the channel breakdown:

  • Patriots team broadcast - channel 126
  • Giants team broadcast - channel 123
  • Westwood One Radio broadcast - channel 124
  • BBC Radio broadcast - channel 125
  • Westwood One Spanish broadcast (Spanish-Latin America) - channel 181
  • CANAL+ Spain broadcast (Spanish-Spain) - channel 110
  • France 2 broadcast (French) - channel 143
  • NHK Japan broadcast (Japanese) - channel 140
  • ARD broadcast (German) - channel 130
  • Telenet broadcast (Flemish) - channel 119
  • NTV Plus broadcast (Russian) - channel 122
  • SMG broadcast (Mandarin Chinese) - channel 121

Also, starting from next Monday through Super Bowl Sunday, Sirius NFL Radio (ch 124) will broadcast live every day from Radio Row in downtown Phoenix, providing news and analysis from a panel of expert hosts including Shannon Sharpe, Randy Cross, Tim Ryan, Pat Kirwan, Jerry Rice, Solomon Wilcots, Gil Brandt, Daryl 'Moose' Johnston, Jim Miller, Bob Papa, Adam Schein and Bryan McGovern.

On Tuesday, January 29th, Sirius NFL Radio will be live on Media Day with a slew of interviews with players and coaches from the New England Patriots and New York Giants.

Then the day before The Big Game, Sirius will have live coverage as the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2008 is announced at the Phoenix Convention Center.

Check out more info and schedules here...


Sirius Faction to broadcast live from 2008 X Games


Winter X GamesSirius Satellite Radio's Faction channel will be airing live comprehensive behind-the-scenes coverage of the 12th annual Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

Faction’s coverage will be hosted by former Olympic skier Carrie Sheinberg and Faction staples Bryan Cullen and Michael Tully, with commentary coming from eight-time Winter X Game medalist, extreme skier, Jon Olsson.

Tune in to Sirius Faction (ch 28) and hear the latest results, breaking news and exclusive interviews with winter sports superstars.

The wall-to-wall coverage starts on Thursday, January 24th and runs through Monday, January 28th.


Merger related activity heating up at the FCC


XM Sirius Merger

Only three weeks into the new year, and members of the FCC have met various parties involving the merger of Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. on eight separate occurrences.

Could this (finally) be a sign that we'll have a decision on the merger soon? Here's a listing of some of the reported activity coming from the Commission:

  • January 3, 2008: The CEO of US Electronics (along with counsel) met with Comissioner Copps and his advisor, Rick Chessen. [Link (PDF)]
  • January 4, 2008: Georgetown Partners, TSG Capital Group, and King & Spalding LLP met with Michelle Carey, senior legal advisor to Chairman Martin. [Link (PDF)]
  • January 7, 2008: Chester C. Davenport, Managing Director of Georgetown Partners met with Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein [Link (PDF)]
  • January 7, 2008: Georgetown Partners on the same day also met with Commissioner Michael Copps. [Link (PDF)]
  • January 9, 2008: Georgetown Partners and the Reverend Jesse Jackson met with Chairman Kevin Martin [Link (PDF)]
  • January 11, 2008: XM and Sirius, along with CRA International, met with representatives from the FCC to discuss the findings of the CRA study which determined that Satellite Radio and Terrestrial Radio are demand substitutes. [Link (PDF)]
  • January 14, 2008: Once again Chester Davenport of Georgetown Partners, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Kimberly Marcus (also of the Rainbow PUSH coalition) met with Chairman Kevin Martin, Daniel Gonzalez and Catherine Bohigian. On the same day in a separate meeting: Davenport, Rev. Jackson and Ms. Marcus met with Commissioner Michael Copps, Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, Rick Chessen and Rudy Brioché. And in yet another meeting Davenport, Jackson, and Marcus met with Commissioner Robert McDowell. [Link (PDF)]
  • January 15, 2008: iBiquity CEO Robert Struble met with Commissioner Robert McDowell as well as Angela Giancarlo and Cristina Chou Pauze of Commissioner McDowell's office. [Link (PDF)]

Last month, RBC Capital analyst David Bank predicted that the FCC's decision would likely stretch to February of this year.

"We believe XMSR/SIRI management served up the necessary sacrificial lamb(s) by offering ala carte pricing and openness to variety of other conduct/behavioral conditions," wrote Bank. "However, our sources indicate FCC is likely 1-2 months away from fully fleshing out conditionality such as ala carte pricing, interoperability of radios, unused channel availability to 3rd parties, indecency standards and local content restrictions."

From the looks of these recent meetings, it appears that the FCC is working through those conditionalities right now.


From the Rumor Mill: K-Rock mornings to change?


Booker / Opie and Anthony

Hot on the heals of Opie & Anthony being dropped from the WJFK lineup, comes word that changes could be coming to the morning slot for K-Rock.

According to a reliable source, Chris Booker has been telling people that he is taking over mornings at K-Rock when Opie & Anthony's contract expires. The source only gave this information under the condition of anonymity.

Booker is currently the host of the Q102 Philadelphia morning drive show, though is probably best known for his work at K-Rock New York where he met Howard Stern and appeared numerous times on Stern's show.

Opie & Anthony announced they would simulcast on both terrestrial and XM Satellite Radio in April, 2006.


Tom Chiusano steps down; O&A lose WJFK (what's next?)


Opie and Anthony
K-Rock General Manager and VP Tom Chiusano, arguably the most famous GM in the biz thanks to his many appearances on Stern's show as well as on O&A, is stepping down from his role at the station. This month marks exactly 23 years that Chiusano has led the day to day operations of the station, but he'll still remain on as a consultant until "at least June."

Meanwhile, starting today Opie & Anthony will no longer be heard on Washington DC's WJFK, adding to the list of major market stations that have dropped the dynamic duo.

The twist?

Rumors are swirling that Michael Hughes, the CBS Radio exec who runs WJFK - and the guy who just dumped O&A - could be on the list of candidates to replace Tom Chiusano.


Profile: TurnKey Media Solutions

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TurnKey Media Solutions
It seems as though the space for satellite radio -based solutions for commercial services (e.g., on-hold music, background music, etc) is continuing to grow at a decent pace. Companies like AMTC and Dynamic Media are acting as further competition to services like DMX and Muzak, which have had a stronghold on the business for a long time.

Enter TurnKey Media Solutions - a newly renamed business media services company. Previously known as Satellite Radio Commercial Services, the company has been in business since 2005, offering national sales, installation and support to businesses in the US. Its roots stem from even further back though, as its founder Matthew Moffett actually started off in the satellite radio business back in 2001, selling both retail and commercial satellite radio (before there was even a commercial program from XM Radio). Later, Moffett and his wife started Satellite Radio Superstore in 2003 (Note: Satellite Radio Superstore is an Orbitcast sponsor).

Earlier this year Satellite Radio Commercial Services decided to change its name to TurnKey Media Solutions and started offering additional services including XM, Sirius, Dish Network, DirecTV, on-hold/overhead messaging, installation and support.

TurnKey currently manages XM commercial partner accounts like GM, Honda, Acura and Burger King - offering sales, service and installation of audio systems and XM commercial equipment. Pretty impressive.

And as resellers for both XM and Sirius, they now offer direct billing for commercial establishments of any size or industry. This allows them to be a full service operation for digital media solutions (that's a fancy term for audio, video, and messaging). All of their services include the necessary fees for paying royalties to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.

So what's the big news?

Matt explained to me, "With the launch of our new web site we will be the first online retailer to offer the online sale of commercial satellite radio equipment with real time activation and account setup." This essentially means businesses will be able to order equipment and service without having to pick up the phone. It also allows them to access their account in real time and make adjustments accordingly. This has been in testing and is ready to go live very soon.

TurnKey has also spent the last couple of years building their network of installers throughout the country including Satellite TV installers, data techs, and custom audio/video installers. These installers are contracted directly and not through 3rd party companies (though they do use a 3rd party to fill in the blanks in areas they don't cover). TurnKey also manages their installer network online, so national rollouts for franchises and chain store accounts can be managed internally, while still providing the flexibility to manage localized installs for smaller accounts.

Another interesting differentiator is that TurnKey has created industry specific solutions for industries such as coffee shops, fitness facilities, hospitals, casinos, hotels and others. Here's an example of a marketing site for those specific industries (for a coffee shop).

The thin-slicing of the music packages to appeal to specific industries is a brilliant, and ridiculously simple, approach to the business.

Combine that with the upcoming online management capabilities (apparently they can manage on-hold messaging content online as well - so you can adjust everything remotely via the internet), and the in-house installers, and you've got a winner.

TurnKey Media Website

[TurnKey Media Solutions]

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Interesting merger comments from Puerto Rico reps


Sirius, XMCongressman Luis G. Fortuno, the sole representative of Puerto Rico in Congress, submitted an interesting comment to the FCC today regarding the merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc.

He urged the Commission to not approve the Sirius-XM merger, unless the companies include Puerto Rico and other noncontiguous areas of the U.S. as part of their service.

"It is time to change the 1997 policies," asserted Fortuno in reference to the SDARS license and it's 48 state requirement.

Fortuno is also the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Conference and the Ranking Member of the newly-created House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs.

"My official position is to oppose the merger until such time that the exclusion of Puerto Rico and other noncontiguous United States jurisdictions from coverage area of satellite radio service ceases," wrote Fortuno. "My interest and concern include providing equal access to this technology to all U.S. citizens and encouraging industries doing businesss in the mainland to extend their services to the Puero Rican market."

His sentiment echoes a similar filing (PDF) submitted earlier this year by the Senate of Puerto Rico. The Senate contends that "[s]ince the FCC represents the public interest of all United States citizens... its deliberations should also watch for the interests of the millions of consumers residing in the outlying States and Territories under the United States flag."

As such, they oppose the merger until Sirius and XM provide coverage to Puerto Rico.

Somehow, I can't see allowing Puerto Rico's nearly 4 million residents to sign up to Sirius-XM as being much of a problem.

[FCC Filing (PDF)]


Spotted: XM's Phlash and Kurt in a textbook (mixed with a bit of nostalgia)


XM's Phlash and Kurt in a textbook

Back in the good ol' days (we're talking way, way back... in 2003) XM on-air hosts Phlash Phelps (from 60’s on 6) and Kurt Gilchrist (from 70’s on 7) set out on a grand and glorious roadtrip. The duo climbed aboard a customized Cadillac Escalade ESV equipped with an XM radio and a satellite phone. They drove to 48 states in 14 days - starting in New York City and ending 10,000 miles later in Detroit, Michigan - broadcasting on XM every day.

Each time Phlash and Kurt entered a new state, they planted an XM flag in the ground. All along the way, they met with townspeople and the local media, preaching the gospel of XM.

At the time, XM was just about to sign up its 1 millionth subscriber, it broadcast 101 channels and charged $9.99 a month.

And now:
A just-published college textbook uses Phlash and Kurt’s fabled roadtrip for an algebra problem. The author, as it turns out, is an XM subscriber and a member of the "Phan Clan," who are the devoted listeners of Phlash’s show.

Good times, good times.


iBiquity "borrows" XM's slogan


HD Radio iTunes Tagging slogan

I was going through the pile of dead trees from CES and came across this “iTunes Tagging” brochure from iBiquity.

When XM introduced the Inno, the slogan was: Hear it. Click it. Save it.
The HD Radio slogan? Hear it. Tag it. Download it. Never forget it.

Ah, imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery.

Side note, the elephant-minded folks at Radio-Info.com pointed out that there was a clear omission from the recent MacWorld: those rumored HD Radio products. Aw shucks, guess Steve Jobs isn't all the excited to do that "big push" for HD Radio afterall.


No more wires! (for cellphone music)


Venturi MiniI've been complaining recently that one of the issues surrounding satellite radio retail products is the amount of wires necessary to get it up and running in your car. For first-time buyers, it's all a bit too daunting (especially with the FM transmitter regulations the FCC has slapped on the industry).

So along comes the Venturi Mini, which uses (gasp!) an FM transmitter to connect your cellphone to your car stereo, now being offered by Verizon Wireless.

With this handy-dandy device, music get streamed via stereo Bluetooth and relayed to your car's headunit. Completely wire-free. It will even pause you music and act as a handsfree kit when you receive a call.

Here's a thought, how long do you think it'll take for someone to come out with a "car dock" that does the same thing?

Thanks Sean!


The most badass Sirius equipped car at CES


Badass Sirius Racecar
I'm still plowing through all the stuff from CES, and I definitely don't want this one to slip through the cracks.

This was, by far, the most badass car equipped with Sirius at the show.

See the rest of the photos after the jump...


Sirius Canada goes standard on many Mercedes vehicles

2008 Mercedes C300

Mercedes-Benz will offer Sirius Canada as standard equipment on many of its vehicles available in Canada.

Sirius Satellite Radio will be offered as standard equipment on all Mercedes-Benz E-Class, S-Class, CL-Class, CLS-Class, SL-Class, ML-Class, R-Class and GL-Class vehicles along with the all new 2008 C350 and C350 4MATIC models. All Mercedes-Benz AMG vehicles will feature Sirius as factory standard equipment as well.

In addition, Sirius will be available as a factory installed option on all Mercedes-Benz B-Class, C-Class, CLK-Class and SLK-Class models.

Sirius-equipped Mercedes-Benz vehicles will include a complimentary 6-month Sirius subscription.

Sirius Canada will also be standard equipment on all Maybach vehicles and will feature a lifetime Sirius subscription.

Sirius celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. DaySirius will celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with special talk and music programming, starting this Friday and continuing on Monday, in observance of the holiday that commemorates his life.

Mark Thompson, host of "Make it Plain" on Sirius Left (ch 146), will welcome Martin Luther King III, Chairman and CEO of Realizing the Dream, Inc. as his special guest on Friday, January 18th at 5pm ET. Thompson worked closely with the King family in organizing the 30th, 37th and 40th Anniversaries of the March on Washington and emceed all three.

Starting at 5pm ET on January 21st, Thompson will play Dr. King's August 16, 1967 speech, "Where Do We Go From Here?" This speech is one of King's last addresses and is considered to be one of his most radical.

Heart & Soul (ch 51) will air excerpts from Dr. King's historic speeches throughout the day on January 21. The special remembrance will feature speeches from Dr. King's life, including "I Have A Dream" - his 1963 speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and "The Promised Land" ("I've Been To The Mountain Top"), Dr. King's last sermon delivered at the Mason Temple in Memphis, TN on April 3, 1968 - the day before he was assassinated.

In addition, Soul Town (ch 53) will spotlight music that was inspired by Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. The special musical tribute will include songs by artists such as Sam Cooke, Edwin Starr, and The Impressions.

Sirius' Grateful Dead channel debuts new show

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Grateful Dead Channel

Sirius will debut a monthly live roundtable show hosted by Grateful Dead experts David Gans and Gary Lambert on the Grateful Dead Channel (ch 32).

The two-hour monthly show, entitled "Tales from the Golden Road," will premiere this Sunday, January 20th at 4pm ET. An encore broadcast will air January 21st at 10am ET.

In the premiere episode, Gans and Lambert will be joined by Grateful Dead and Ratdog guitarist Bob Weir, longtime Grateful Dead publicist and historian Dennis McNally, and the producer of The Trips Festival film, Eric Christensen.

The roundtable discussion will focus on the early era of the Grateful Dead and the Trips Festival, a three-day event in 1966 that involved some of the earliest Dead performances chronicled in Christensen’s film.

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Up close with ICO mim: The new face of Satellite Multimedia (Part 2)


ICO mim

This is the second part of my experience with ICO mim at CES 2008. Read Part 1 here.

As part of my meeting with ICO Global Communications at CES I had the distinct opportunity to ride in a vehicle outfitted with their Mobile Interactive Media ("mim") service. The vehicle had LCD screens everywhere you looked, all streaming live video direct from ICO mim. The accompanying photos are all taken from within that vehicle.

Since the satellite is scheduled to launch in March, the service was being provided through a terrestrial signal coming from a temporary tower called a COW ("Cellsite On Wheels"). We'll cover more on the COW later.

But first, I know what you're thinking. Is broadcast video really something that the public would want in their cars? Afterall, drivers should be spending their time watching the road, not watching TV. But, it looks like ICO has factored all that in.

For instance, with the advent of polarized screens, drivers can view the GPS navigation interface (provided by ICO mim) while passengers can view the live video content (also provided by ICO mim). In addition, the driver can listen to the video content as if it's a radio (much like how Sirius and XM broadcast the TV feed of CNN, CNBC, Fox, etc). But once the vehicle in is park, the driver can choose to watch sections of the broadcast after the fact - all because the feed is cached much like a DVR/TiVo.

ICO mim

Also ICO mim doesn't just provide mobile video content, it also will offer vehicle assistance similar OnStar. In fact, they pointed out that there is no "star" in OnStar because the service is cellular based - if you have no signal, you have no assistance. ICO mim will provide true nationwide roadside assistance, regardless of whether there's a cell signal.

ICO mim

Navigation capabilities are very similar to what XM and Sirius are rolling out with NavTraffic/NavWeather and Traffic Link. ICO mim will provide real-time traffic and weather alerts, and re-route you based on the conditions ahead.

But there's also an added layer of interactivity.

Using you're regular internet connection at home or work, ICO mim will let you pre-program tasks and activities into your account. Then you can download and access them from your car. So you don't just have the regular points-of-interest on your navigation system, you have personalized data and a custom agenda for use on the road. Pretty cool.

My next question was about content. It's all fine and dandy to have the mobile video capabilities, but that's useless until you have something that people want to watch. That's when ICO told me that they just signed a deal with NBC Universal, and the stream we were watching was live MSNBC. Suddenly this took on a whole new level of reality.

Follow the jump for additional in-vehicle photos (and I do apologize for the blurry shots)...


Satellite Radio in Europe: Ondas Media signs with Nissan


Ondas Satellite RadioNissan must like what's happening here in the States, because the company will become one of the first automakers to bring satellite radio to Europe.

Ondas Media, a Madrid-base company that plans to be Europe’s first and premier satellite radio provider, has entered into an agreement to install satellite radio receivers in Nissan and Infiniti vehicles across Europe, the company announced recently.

"The radios in Nissan vehicles will be the most advanced in the marketplace and will be capable of receiving hundreds of channels of audio programming as well as a suite of data services," said Dave Krueger, COO of Ondas. "This definitive agreement brings Ondas Media's total number of pre-sold, factory-installed satellite radios beyond the 1 million mark."

Ondas is preparing to offer 150+ channels of satellite radio across Europe by 2011, utilizing the same S-band frequency that XM and Sirius currently use. A smart tactic since OEM manufacturers are already are familiar with how to incorporate these smaller sized antennas. Signing on automakers ahead of bringing their service online also ensures immediate penetration.

[via Satellite Today]


2009 Kia Borrego to be first Kia with Sirius


Kia Borrego

The all-new 2009 Kia Borrego midsize SUV, unveiled recently at NAIAS in Detroit, will be the first Kia vehicle to have Sirius Satellite Radio as factory standard equipment. Set to go on sale this summer as a 2009 model, the Borrego also houses Kia's first-ever V8 engine, making it the most powerful Kia vehicle to date.

Sirius and Kia announced a partnership 20-months ago that runs through 2014. There's also an optional extension to 2017.

Alongside Sirius, the Borrego also comes standard with USB/iPod capabilities powered by a 600- watt Infinity audio system. Each Borrego will come with three months of free Sirius service.

Sirius is scheduled to become a standard feature in all 2009 model year Kia vehicles.


CRB denies SoundExchange rehearing on XM, Sirius royalties

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XM, SiriusThe US Copyright Royalties Board denied a petition from SoundExchange last week for a rehearing on the royalties agreement between the Board and Sirius and XM Satellite Radio.

"SoundExchange has not made a sufficient showing of clear error or manifest injustice with respect to the gross revenues definition or new evidence with respect to the proposed merger that would warrant a rehearing," reads the CRB's ruling. "To the contrary, SoundExchange's arguments in support of a rehearing or reconsideration are based on the same insufficiency of evidence that caused its similar arguments to be rejected by the Judges in fashioning their Initial Determination."

SoundExchange contends that the Copyright Royalties Board exempted too much of XM and Sirius revenues from the equation. Revenue such as merchandising, which XM and Sirius feel they shoudn't have to pay royalties on (understandably). The decision set a royalty base of Sirius and XM's adjusted gross revenue, starting with 6.0% this year and growing to 8.0% by 2012.

But it's that "adjusted" part that SoundExchange had a problem with. Regardless, the CRB didn't agree, stating that SoundsExchange had "no credible evidence" that these forms of additional revenue had a significant impact on the total calculation.

And so the ruling stands.

[CRB Ruling (PDF) via BetaNews]
Thanks Jerry!

1 Comment

Spotted: Tony Kornheiser at XM studios in DC


Tony Kornheiser on XM

Tony Kornheiser, whose radio show returns to XM this Monday, stopped by the XM studios in Washington DC yesterday.

The ESPN analyst and Washington Post columnist is resuming his radio show after a seven-month hiatus to focus on his role on “Monday Night Football.”

Kornheiser does his radio show at terrestrial station WWWT-AM in Washington, and XM carries the show nationally on XM Sports Nation (ch 144) weekdays from 8:15am to 10am ET.

Kornheiser came to XM headquarters - lovingly referred to as "The Eck" - to do some production for the XM broadcast and tape an interview with Bob Edwards, who will air the interview on XM Public Radio (ch 133) this Monday at 8am ET.

Monday is Tony’s first day back on the air on both XM and WWWT. It’s also the first day that XM Sports Nation will start carrying Dan Patrick’s new show (which airs from 10am to 12 noon ET... right after Kornheiser).


Up close with ICO mim: The new face of Satellite Multimedia (Part 1)


ICO mim

ICO Global Communications first caught my attention back in June 2007 after they announced a partnership with Alcatel-Lucent and Hughes. That's when I first learned about "ICO mim" (which stands for "Mobile Interactive Media"), and the potential of a new mobile entertainment platform entering the market.

When the company said they would be demonstrating ICO mim at CES this year, I jumped on the opportunity. Afterall, this is a company that will be launching a satellite in March, and delivering live broadcast media nationwide through a hybrid (satellite + terrestrial repeater) network. Just like what Sirius and XM currently do.

What I learned, and experienced first hand, is by far the next-generation in mobile entertainment. I absolutely believe that this is what "satellite radio" will transform into for the years ahead.

In fact, after spending a couple hours with the company at CES, I'm initiating ongoing coverage of ICO. I think this is definitely a company to watch.

ICO mim

ICO mim calls itself a "converged mobile media service" that offers live (and cached) mobile video in vehicles, interactive navigation, as well as roadside assistance. But understand that data is data. Just as Sirius and XM are able to provide live video, next-gen navigation services, as well as a myriad of other satellite-based services - ICO (pronounced eye-ko) will be able to do the same.

The company also plans to make the service interactive, with social networking capabilities, meaning that it won't just be a dumb "bent pipe" but rather will progressively build itself as consumers use it. And I have a feeling that's just the beginning.

Follow the jump for more photos and a further explanation of my experience with ICO mim...


XM Canada says it will outpace XM in the U.S.


XMXM Canada is likely to outpace the subscriber growth of XM in the U.S., the company said yesterday.

"We believe the Canadian market will surpass the growth predicted for the U.S., given the U.S. is in its sixth year of business and we're still in our early stages of growth cycle here in Canada," Michael Moskowitz, the company's new president and CEO.

XM Canada reached 350,000 subscribers as of the end of their first quarter (ending Nov. 30th), a growth rate of 86% over the same period the prior year.

Moskowitz said XM Canada has benefited from the promotional campaigns and product penetration in the United States. The awareness helped prepare Canadians for the rollout of the service.

"We're really at the infancy stage here," Moskowitz said. "We still have a low percentage of cars that come with XM, so I think there's tremendous opportunity."

"The best years are to come because we're at an earlier stage in the whole development of satellite radio in Canada," he added in an interview after the meeting.

As for the merger, Moskowitz said it's still business as usual up north. "Even if there was a merger it would take several months - upwards to a year - because there's (Canadian) government regulations that would have to come into play as well," he said.

[The Canadian Press]
Thanks Lee!


FCC Chairmain says merger decision in first quarter


FCC Chairman Kevin MartinFCC Chairman Kevin Martin said recently that the Commission expects to complete its review of the merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. by March.

"If I had to guess, I would guess the commission will be trying to address it in the first quarter of this year," said Martin.

Back in September, the FCC Chairman had said that he was targeting for the Sirius-XM merger review process to conclude in the fourth quarter of last year.

Martin also conceded that the unofficial 180-day shot clock for considering the merger had concluded in December. In fact, Martin said the FCC has not yet completed its analysis and that as recently as a few days ago the Commission was meeting with Sirius and XM over follow-up questions about some of its data.

Kevin Martin also said that it was customary for the FCC to wait for the DOJ before weighing in on a merger and didn't know when the Justice Department would be coming out with its decision. He added that the FCC would not necessarily hold off once the DOJ has completed its review.

[Broadcasting & Cable]


XM at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show


XM at NAIAS 2008

XM unveiled a brand spankin' new booth for the 2008 NAIAS in Detroit this week. It features various interactive listening stations and kiosks where fans can try each of XM's partners user interfaces for XM Radio and XM NavTraffic.

XM at NAIAS 2008

Alan Taylor of Car & Driver Radio (heard Sunday mornings on America Right) is occupying the space in the center of the booth (seen above), bringing the big names and announcements from Detroit to listeners across the country.

The Detroit auto show also marked the public unveil of XM's Infotainment Vehicle.

Click the jump to see many more photos of XM's booth at NAIAS...


2009 Cadillac CTS-V comes with XM and XM NavTraffic standard



General Motors yesterday unveiled the CTS-V, the high performance version of the redesigned CTS sedan, at the North American International Auto Show. The CTS-V delivers 550 horsepower and 550 lb-ft of torque from the supercharged 6.2L V8, and will be available in a six-speed manual, or (for the first time) a six-speed automatic transmission. It will have the strongest engine in Cadillac's history.

The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V will also come standard, factory-equipped with XM Satellite Radio and with XM NavTraffic on navigation-equipped vehicles.

The CTS-V will not be a high-volume seller, but it's not supposed to be. It's meant to cement Cadillac's image as a high-performing luxury line.

Pictured above is GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz as he unveils the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V at NAIAS 2008. Check out AutoBlog for more live shots of the CTS-V unveiling.


Unreal: 4 Million iPhones sold to date



You can't make this stuff up. Today at MacWorld 2008, Steve Jobs announced that Apple has sold 4 million iPhones to date.

Today marks the 200th day that the iPhone first went on sale (to put that in perspective, it's been 333 days since the XM and Sirius merger was announced).


That's an average of 20,000 iPhones sold every day.


In its first quarter of shipping, the iPhone brought in a 19% marketshare of smartphones. Combining Palm, Motorola and Nokia together, "We equaled all them in the first 90 days..." said Jobs.

Couple that with the fact that Apple sold 2 million songs on Christmas Day (that's in one day), and last week the company sold its 4 billionth iTunes track. That billion with a capital B. Unreal.

Now ponder this:
Steve Jobs admitted that they were disappointed with the number of movies sold on iTunes (a meager 7 million movies), so Apple has decided to get into the movie rental business. Can't sell them? Stream them instead. Now, can you imagine what would happen if iTunes music sales began to slow, and Apple decided to get into the radio business?

Start imagining, because it's inevitable.



XM's Infotainment vehicle at Detroit Auto Show


XM Infotainment

The boys over at Jalopnik had the distinct opportunity to crawl around the new XM Infotainment Infiiniti QX56 vehicle over at the North American International Autoshow in Detroit.

There's nothing really much new from what we saw last week - XM NavTraffic, NavInfo, NavWeather, etc - but Travis did seem to get to snap off additional shots that I missed. So that alone makes it worth checking out.



2009 Ford F-150 get Sirius Travel Link


2009 Ford F-150

Ford Motor Company's new 2009 F-150 truck not only has added the updated Ford SYNC (complete with "911 Assist" and Vehicle Health Reports), but also has added on the new Sirius Travel Link system.

Sirius Travel Link was previously only known to be included on the 2009 Lincoln MKS.

The beauty is that by combining Ford SYNC with Sirius Travel Link, now many of Sirius' functions are accessible through Microsoft's voice-recognition software. So real-time traffic, coast-to-coast weather conditions and fuel price information from over 120,000 gas stations - as well as Sirius Satellite Radio itself - are all now voice-activated on the 2009 Ford F-150.

2009 Ford F-150

You can see Orbitcast's own hands-on photos with Sirius Travel Link, or check out CNET's photos with the Travel Link system in the F-150 here.

[via Engadget]


FlyTunes bringing Internet Radio to the iPhone


FlyTunesFlyTunes, unveiled recently at CES, is an Internet Radio service that touts itself as being "better" than satellite radio.

The free service - which isn't available until January 21st - claims it will make it easy to play internet radio on your iPhone or other cellular/wifi-enabled device.

FlyTunes works much like Slacker does, in that it pre-caches the songs on the device so that you can listen uninterrupted even in areas where you have no signal. By default, it saves 30 minutes worth of music on your iPhone, and syncs up with additional music when it sense a good wireless connection. If you know you're going to need more time (e.g., a 4-hour plane ride), FlyTunes can pre-cache as much music as you want on the device.

The service acts as a middle-man to the thousands of Internet Radio stations already in existence. What it instead does is deliver these stations in a simplified interface. FlyTunes then creates its own channels, based on your preferences, that you can tag as a "favorite" tune or that you "hate" it. Again, similar to Slacker, only without the dedicated device.

As a result, FlyTunes is claiming it has features that satellite radio could never have, and even lists itself as being "better" than satellite radio.

Watch the video below of FlyTunes in action:

[via TechCrunch]


Chrysler to offer Cellular, WiFi and WiMAX connectivity


Chrysler ecoVoyager

Chrysler announced today at the North American International Auto Show that the company is working to develop an advanced, in-vehicle wireless communications system to be offered over the next few years.

Chrysler's technology roadmap for vehicle connectivity includes Cellular, WiFi and ultimately WiMAX.

According to the company, the following features will be coming to Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles over the next few years:

  • Turn-by-turn navigation combined with satellite imagery to provide more realistic maps
  • Automatic wireless map updates, to ensure that drivers will always have the most up-to-date map information. Real-time weather and hazard information will also be available
  • Electronic service reminders, delivered directly to the vehicle
  • Internet search
  • E-mail access, to include access to e-mail accounts, read-out of messages using text-to-text speech, and sending messages via voice command
  • The ability to make on-line purchases, view streaming movies and download music
  • Remote vehicle computer updating - Wirelessly download software updates for any electronic module
  • Wireless audio and video file transfer from home computer to car

(emphasis added)

This sort of future "Connected Car" technology is absolutely inevitable. First it starts with Cellular and WiFi connections, and eventually goes to an constant-on, high-speed platform like WiMAX.

XM and Sirius shouldn't be turning their collective heads and denying that this is coming, they should instead be looking at how they can integrate into these systems and add value. Satellite connectivity can very easily - and currently - provide a lionshare of what automakers are seeking in these next generation vehicles.


The Orbies: Nominations close on Wednesday

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The Orbies
Nominations for the first-annual Orbitcast Awards (aka "The Orbies") will close on Wednesday, January 16th at 12:00 pm ET. After which nominees will be gathered together and we will open it up to final voting.

So if you have a favorite Comedy Talk Show, Music Show, or want the world to know about the Best Kept Secret in Satellite Radio - hop on over and nominate them before it's too late (and you have to wait another year).

The 2007 Orbitcast Awards are a chance for shows, channels, and talent on both Sirius and XM to get the recognition they deserve from their most dedicated fans. Satellite radio has such an incredible range of appeal, and depth of content, that it deserves its own award - and this is it.

So what are you waiting for? Nominate your favorites today.

[The Orbitcast Awards]

1 Comment

Ford SYNC expands: Adding "911 Assist" and Vehicle Health Reports



Ford SYNC is continuing to expand its feature-list, as well as its penetration rate, adding a new "911 Assist" functionality and regular Vehicle Health Reports later this year.

At CES, Bill Gates announced that Ford will expand SYNC to nearly all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles by the end of the year. Currently, it's only available on 12 models.

But that's not really the big news. The big news is that Ford SYNC is getting a massive update later this year to include "911 Assist" functionality. All the new models, as well as current SYNC-enabled models on the road, will get this expanded functionality (since the SYNC system can download software updates).


This new "911 Assist" feature makes SYNC compete not only with satellite radio, but also with other telematics systems like GM's OnStar. The big difference being: there's no additional monthly fee.

Instead of setting up a separate cellular connection, Ford SYNC simply pairs itself with your current cellphone (which it's designed to happen every time you enter the vehicle). Upon airbag deployment, the system will wait 10 seconds before it automatically calls the local 911 emergency operator. A pre-recorded message will then play when the call is answered, and occupants in the vehicle will be able to communicate directly with the 911 operator.

Later this year, SYNC will offer a Vehicle Health Report functionality as well. Again, using your current cellphone, SYNC will gather data from the vehicle's control modules and send that information to Ford via an 800-number. The whole process, which in some vehicles will include a routine check of more than two dozen systems, takes a matter of minutes.

You can then receive these health reports regularly either by email or by text-message alerts. And it's all free.

It's interesting to see that Ford/Microsoft are accepting the fact that users all have their own devices that do the same thing as competing systems in the car. Rather than embedding a harddrive in the car (e.g., MyGig), SYNC uses your iPod/MP3 player. Rather than embedding a cellular connection (e.g., OnStar), SYNC uses your current cellphone.

They're not focusing on convergence, they're focusing on integration. And that's important, because it future-proofs Ford for whatever may come.




A look at Slacker's dock (verdict: undecided)


We've seen computer-generated mockups floating around the internets for a while now of what Slacker's Dock would look like, but we never had a the chance to see one up-close and personal. That is, until last week... and it's completely different.


What you see here in these (highly uninspired) photos is Slacker's Dock. Noticeably absent from the mockups is the buttons along the bottom and along the side. In chatting with the Slacker guys, they found that the buttons simply made the dock too big for use on the dashboard. So Slacker decided to dedicate a majority of its functionality to the remote.

I'm not convinced this was an entirely great decision, but I'm withholding judgement for now.

Part of my problem is that with all the plug-and-play radios I've tested, I always find myself just using the controls on the radio itself, and rarely using the remote. The remotes usually just get stashed away into the center console, never to be seen again.

Slacker did do a couple ingenious things with this dock though.

First, the remote tucks neatly behind the Slacker Portable into the dock. So if I feel the need to reach for my radio, I can grab the remote and start using it. This also keeps me from hiding the remote from myself.

Second, the dock serves as both a Home Dock and a Car Dock. There's no need to buy two. The back features the standard four-screw connection that fits many suction-cup/vent-clip mounts, or it will stand by itself nicely on your desk. For most people though, the dock will probably just stay in the car.

You can still use the controls on the top of the Slacker Portable, so most of the necessary functionality is still there. But personally, I think I would've liked to see a row of buttons for preset channels. Still, I'm withholding final judgment until I can actually drive around with the device.



Clarion unveils new XM and Sirius units


Clarion at CES this year introduced several new in-dash units that integrate a direct connection for either Sirius Satellite Radio or XM Satellite Radio.

Sirius gets the MAX385VD and the VRX485VD units, now with the simplicity of a built-in translator box.


Clarion's MAX385VD double DIN multimedia center, which not only features a 6.5" touch panel display, but also offers Sirius direct connect with absolutely no black box or adapter cable required. The stylish VRX485VD 1-DIN AV Center includes a huge 7" flip-out monitor with touch panel controls, MP3/ WMA and DivX video playback. Simply plug in the Sirius tuner (SCC1) and antenna, and you're good to go with no additional cables or translator boxes required.


Clarion also introduced new units with XM Mini-Tuner direct connection. In total, three different models were announced: the DUZ385SAT, VRX785BT and the MAX685BT - all feature XM Mini-Tuner direct connection ready for your in-dash multimedia enjoyment.

The Clarion DUZ385SAT is a stylish new 2DIN design, with large buttons that have an OEM factory look and feel, and is fully featured at an entry level price. The DUZ385SAT also offers the capability of interfacing with factory steering wheel controls when used with an optional third party device (it's also Sirius-ready when used with Clarion's CeNET CLA-SC1 translator - pictured below). The VRX785BT - featuring a motorized 7" TFT flip-out touch screen panel - is a new one DIN in-dash DVD system which is CeNET Navigation ready, has built-in Bluetooth, A2DP (audio streaming) and the AVRCP (audio video remote control profile).


Check out full product details and additional photos after the jump...

Spotted: Bubba at the AVN Awards


Bubba with Stormy Daniels

Here's Bubba the Love Sponge with porn star Stormy Daniels (a frequent BTLS Show guest) on the red carpet of the AVN Awards at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, on Saturday.

Photo by Scott Harrison.


New Hyundai Genesis: First Hyundai to offer XM NavTraffic


Hyundai Genesis

The new Hyundai Genesis, the automaker's first foray into premium sports sedan territory (we saw a first glimpse of it here), will also be the first Hyundai to offer the XM NavTraffic real-time traffic service as an option.

XM Radio will of course be standard on the Genesis, as it is on all Hyundai vehicles.

XM NavTraffic, which is available in 80 major North American markets, will be made available as part of the Genesis' navigation system. Every 2009 Hyundai Genesis equipped with XM NavTraffic comes standard with a free 3-month subscription of the traffic service (XM Radio also comes with a 3-month trial subscription).

"While Genesis will compete for customers with cars like Chrysler 300 and Pontiac G8, our engineering benchmarks were Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series, Infiniti M, and Lexus GS," said John Krafcik, VP product development and strategic planning at Hyundai Motor America.

Genesis is built on Hyundai's all-new, rear-wheel-drive architecture with three powertrains offered, including 3.3-liter and 3.8-liter V6 engines, and Hyundai's all-new 4.6-liter Tau V8. The Tau will produce an estimated 375 horsepower using premium fuel (368hp using regular unleaded) leading all competitors in specific output with 79.5 to 81.0 horsepower per liter.

Hyundai's new flagship vehicle will also be the most advanced Hyundai ever. From its 8-inch navigation display (which also sports a 30-gig harddrive), to its Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFLS), Smart Cruise Control, and its Lexicon state-of-the-art audio system featuring LOGIC 7® technology (which, by the way, is only available on the Rolls Royce Phantom in addition to the Genesis). The MSRP is unknown at this time, but I'll make a bet that it will be a big seller for the automaker.

Hyundai Genesis

Also check out:


Bill Clinton clarifies "fairy tale" comment on Sirius


Bill and Hillary ClintonFormer President Bill Clinton talked to Sirius host Mark Thompson on Friday, January 11th to clarify comments he made that suggested Barack Obama’s presidential campaign was a “fairy tale.”

The former president drew criticism for the "fairy tale" comment he made while campaigning in New Hampshire for his wife Hillary Clinton, Obama's main rival for the Democratic Party nomination in the November presidential election.

"Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen," Clinton had said in accusing Obama of distorting his stance on the war.

The most senior black in the Democratic congressional leadership, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, told The New York Times on Friday that he may end his neutrality in his state's January 26th primary because of recent remarks by the Clintons.

On "Make it Plain" a show that airs weekdays from 5-8pm ET on Sirius Left (ch 146), Clinton also comments on Obama’s stance on the war on Iraq, how Hillary’s life has been shaped by the civil rights movement, what the Clintons want to say to the African-American voters of South Carolina, and much more.

"This is what happens anytime anyone tries to question a statement or a position of Senator Obama, the response is ‘You’re attacking me personally’ and that relieves him of the obligation to address the substance," said Bill Clinton.

"Number one, I brag on Barack Obama in every speech I give—every single one. I have given hundreds of speeches all over America and anybody who has heard me speak, or my wife, will tell you, I always start by bragging on Senator Obama and the other candidates as well. And I respect why many in the African-American community are supporting him and how proud they are of him."

"Number two, I never said that he, his life, or his campaign was a fairy tale. It is a serious campaign…it might be a successful one. I have said, however, that all campaigns should be judged by the same standards."

"Presumably, every African-American in this country believes that. And what I said was a fairy tale was his attack on Hillary….he said months ago in a very disrespectful way, we’re talking about disrespect …that it was ridiculous for her to claim that anything she had done for America in the 90s or even in this decade as a senator could qualify her to be president because it was such a divisive time."

[Listen to full audio of Bill Clinton's interview.]


Jesse Jackson, Georgetown Partners met with FCC Chairman


Jesse JacksonThe Reverend Jesse Jackson joined Georgetown Partners in a meeting with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin last Wednesday, it was revealed in a recent FCC filing.

Georgetown Partners has proposed - as a "partial remedy to the adverse competitive effects" of the merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. - that the companies be required to lease a portion of their infrastructure and bandwidth to Georgetown.

The company is asking that at least 20 percent of Sirius and XM's channel capacity be handed over to "a minority-controlled entity" (read: Georgetown Partners) on a permanent basis. The goal is to "create competition and diversity" in satellite radio. To me, this is implying that diversity is not a focus of both companies, regardless of statements from the NAACP that point to the exact opposite.

Jesse Jackson has already publicly opposed the Sirius-XM merger, so I can only imagine what he had to add to the conversation with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

[via Orbitcast Forums]


Chrysler unveils 2009 Dodge Ram: First truck with Sirius Backseat TV


2009 Dodge Ram

For this week's North American International Auto Show, Chrysler has officially unveiled the 2009 Dodge Ram truck - the first truck ever to feature Sirius Backseat TV.

Chrysler is looking to make waves with this all-new redesigned truck, featuring their first-ever crew-size cab, giving Dodge an entry into the largest and fastest-growing part of the market. Crew-size cab sales accounts for nearly 50% of market share.

The interior is fastly improved as well (driven by consumer demand of "rough on the outside, smooth on the inside" offerings from automakers). The Dodge Ram's interior now sports premium seating, soft-touch materials, redesigned controls, floor console with shifter, and nearly double the storage options.

Infotainment choices include Chrysler's MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System with 30-gigabyte hard drive, navigation system, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system available in the Quad Cab and crew cab.

And rounding it all off is Sirius Backseat TV - for the first time ever in a truck - and the segment-first surround-sound audio.

More than anything, it seems that Sirius Backseat TV is an added value for automakers (currently, only Chrysler) meant as a differentiator against competitors. Whether that will drive subscribers is unknown right now, but it definitely adds brand-awareness (plus it doesn't hurt to remain on the good side of OEMs).


Full Disclosure: I own a Dodge Ram, and I really really like it.


Squeezebox Duet - now featuring Slacker


Squeezebox Duet
Enter the Squeezebox Duet. It's a wireless multi-room digital audio receiver. Play your entire MP3 collection, or stream Internet Radio from various online services - including Pandora, Rhapsody, and, yes, Slacker.

The Squeezebox Duet provides the kind of functionality you'd normally expect to see on a $1,000 system, for less than half the price. Plus, it includes Slacker. And I don't just like Slacker, I love it.

It's called the "Duet" because the device includes a separate Controller and Receiver. The Controller has a bright iPod-esque 2.4" display with album art and other goodies. So you no longer need to walk up to the receiver to change the tunes (convenient if you're using it for multi-room purposes). You also don't need your computer to be on (or connected) to listen to your personal collection or other services - they let you store your MP3s in an online "music locker" - so it's pretty darn convenient as well.

Oh, and it won a CNET Best of CES award.

The Squeezebox Duet isn't available for sale yet, but when it is, it'll run for $399. That's a decent entry price, especially for consumers who are into home entertainment systems.

Anyone want to guess when these types of products will be the "home radios" of the future?

Squeezebox Duet

Check out more pics, with the fully functioning Slacker service running, after the jump...


Is AT&T looking to get into Satellite Radio?


AT&T Satellite Radio Patent
AT&T Inc. could very well be looking at getting into satellite radio, at least that's what it seems like based on two recent patent applications published recently.

The patents are for entire satellite radio systems with two-way "feedback" capabilities (remember, Sirius and XM are one-way communications). The receiver would provide information to a centralized system, allowing for additional functionality like requesting additional information or purchasing a song over the air.

The receiver, in either mobile or fixed form, is connected to a network via broadband, telephone line, wireless, etc.

Since this is for an entire system, including satellite(s), you have to wonder what kind of business case AT&T is building for this. Would they deploy their own satellite? Or just use an existing infrastructure? We can only begin to guess.

[Satellite Radio TechWorld]


XM Canada gets new VP of Marketing


XMXM Canada has appointed Janet Gillespie as their new Vice President of Marketing. In addition, Donald McKenzie will leave as XM Canada's Senior VP of Sales & Marketing today.

Janet comes from Palm Canada Inc. where she started off as the Director of Marketing roughly eight years ago.

She led the marketing efforts for Palm handheld computers and smartphones, including the successful positioning and launch of the Treo smartphone product family. Most recently, Gillespie was responsible for wireless carrier business development where she held overall sales and account management responsibility for Treo smartphones to Canada's leading wireless carriers, including Bell Mobility, Rogers Wireless and Telus Mobility.

In total, Gillespie has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and sales from a variety of leading technology and communications firms.



House Committee to investigate the FCC

FCC Chairman Kevin MartinThe U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee has launched a probe to investigate FCC rule-making procedures.

Specifically the Committee will seek to determine whether agency procedures are "being conducted in a fair, open, efficient and transparent manner."

Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) and Joe Barton (R-TX), sent a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin informing him of the formal investigation into the FCC's procedures. They asked Martin to save all electronic records and personal e-mails related to FCC work. The investigation would also "address a growing number of allegations received by the committee" that relate to management practices, their letter said.

The panel did not cite a specific case though.

"This most likely won’t impact XM/SIRI, but another risk factor develops," wrote Jonathan Jacoby in a recent research note.

"While we believe this will not stop Martin in his decision regarding the XM/SIRI merger - it does create another element of risk for the deal."

An FCC spokesman declined to comment on the letter.

[Read the full letter (PDF) via Reuters]

Hands on with Sirius' own "Infotainment" vehicle


Sirius at CES

Sirius didn't actually call it an "Infotainment" vehicle, but that's pretty much what the Ford Edge on display at their booth at CES was. It brought together the latest in Sirius' non-radio offerings: Sirius Backseat TV with the OEM version of Sirius Travel Link.

To make it even more impressive, the Sirius Travel Link system was coupled with Ford SYNC, allowing for voice control over the interface. And if voice-recognition doesn't float your boat, the massive display also utilized a slick touchscreen interface.

Follow the jump for more photos and info...


Video: Howard Stern on David Letterman last night


Stern made an appearance on David Letterman last night. For those who missed it, watch the video below:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:


Bubba The Love Sponge to present at the AVN Awards


AVN AwardsBubba the Love Sponge will be hitting Las Vegas this weekend to present three AVN Awards, and make special appearances in celebration of the 25th annual AVN Awards.

On Friday, Bubba The Love Sponge will appear with adult stars Raven Riley and Brandi Love for a meet and greet in celebration of the movie Succubus. Location: Little Darlings (1514 Western Ave. South).

Then on Saturday, Bubba will walk the red carpet of AVN Awards with adult star Stormy Daniels starting at 7:30pm, and then afterwards he'll present three AVN Awards starting at 9:30pm. Location: Both events at Mandalay Bay Events Center (3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South).

Finally on Sunday, Bubba will again join Stormy Daniels at her AVN Awards After-Party in celebration of the movie Operation Desert Stormy, at Tao. Location: The Venetian (3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South). Doors open at 9:30pm.


Hands on with the XM Infotainment vehicle (or "Inside XM's mystery box")


XM Infotainment vehicle

Remember that mystical black box that stood like a great Monolith in the center of the North Hall of CES?

Well, I nervously crawled around the enigmatic structure like an ape from "The Dawn of Man," and managed to see what hides inside. All in an effort to give you a first-hand glance of what XM has on the horizon (ok fine, XM let me in without a batting an eye, but let's just pretend it was difficult).

Inside the box rested a souped-up 2008 Infinity QX56 armed to the hilt with gadgetry galore. From a huge touchscreen interface, to an electronic programming guide; not to mention streaming point of interest data like live local fuel prices and even flight departure times.

That's right, this is a behind-the-scenes look at the new XM Infotainment vehicle, which is set to be officially unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week.

Follow the jump for tons of photos and details...


FCC approves sales of Clear Channel


Clear ChannelAccording to multiple sources, the Federal Communications Commission has approved the sale of Clear Channel Communications, Inc. to Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners for $19.5 billion, reports All Access.

The vote was reportedly 5-0 in favor of the transaction.

If this turns out to be true, the FCC would have taken 386 days to come to this decision.

[All Access]


CES: RCA Infinite Radio - Internet Radios (with Slacker)



Audiovox this week unveiled its RCA-brand "Infinite Radio" series of tabletop internet radios.

Each tabletop radio features regular analog AM/FM, USB Host, WiFi 802.11b/g, and direct access to a custom Web radio aggregation service and to Slacker’s personalized Internet radio service.

The RCA RIR200 retails for a suggested $99, but the $149 RCA RIR205 adds a companion “WiFi enabler,” a transmitter/receiver that plugs into a wired home-network router and removes the need to use WiFi setup software.

The interesting thing is that the Slacker service is embedded into these devices. Slacker has an API that allows the service to essentially be built into any internet connected device. This is just one example.

Check out a bunch more photos after the jump...


CES: FCC Chairman Kevin Martin


Kevin Martin at CES

Yesterday FCC Chairman Kevin Martin was at CES 2008 for an "Industry Insider" session with CEA president Mark Shapiro.

While Martin's focus was primarily on open access, the DTV transition, 700mhz auction, whitespaces and other issues the FCC is considering, he did touch upon the XM-Sirius merger very briefly. He wouldn't speak about the current status, but did say it was under consideration right now and that the DOJ needs to rule as well.

The FCC Chairman did seem impressed with the A La Carte pricing model proposed by Sirius-XM and commended them for it. But the discussion was really in whether the model would be applied to Satellite TV.

So overall takeaway:
While Martin wouldn't address it directly. the olive branch presented in the form of a la carte pricing seemed to made a positive impression with the Chairman.


Orbitcast Radio: Special CES Episode is LIVE now!

Orbitcast Radio is LIVE from Las Vegas for CES 2008. Listen in here!

CES: Private meeting with Slacker (and hands on with the new Portable)



Slacker didn't have a booth at CES this year, but they were still there holding private product demonstrations and showings of their ultra-slick Slacker Portable. This was brilliant because it was separated away from the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas Convention Center, allowing for a truly in depth discussion (and understanding) of Slacker's business and products.

One of the core goals of Slacker is to be heard everywhere. They're not relegating themselves to the confines of their own device/service ecosystem. What Slacker is doing instead is getting their service embedded wherever someone can listen to it. That not only includes listening on the PC, but also through various Internet Radio enabled devices.

We'll see a bit more on the other Slacker-enabled devices shortly, but for now let's focus on the Slacker Portable.

Follow the jump for much more...


CES: XM at Delphi's booth


Delphi at CES 2008

XM had a nice section of Delphi's booth to showcase their products, including the XpressRC, SkyFi3, and the Premium Sound System.

Delphi had many other products on display, including the Autonet system which turns your car into a moving WiFi hotspot. More on that later.

Additional photos viewable after the jump...


CES: Sirius' pimped out Mini Cooper


Sirius at CES

As I understand it, this vehicle was put together in a 6-week period. The goal is simple, create a single vehicle that can be a mobile showplace for Sirius' products. It's got literally everything in this car: Sirius Travel Link, Sirius Backseat TV (6 monitors worth - all displaying a separate live video channel), an Alpine headunit, Stiletto 2, a collection of plug-and-plays in the back, etc.


And there's only one antenna. It's functional, yet an extremely clean install. And very impressive.

More photos after the jump...


CES: HD Radio's new portables (Part 2)


HD Radio at CES

One of the key things about shrinking the chipset, is the capability for integration becomes a reality. HD Radio is barely a blip in the radar when the burden of responsibility is placed on the consumer to adopt it.

But when that burden is removed, then it becomes a problem.

More after the jump...


CES: HD Radio's new portables (Part 1)


HD Radio at CES

HD Radio has a pretty significant presence here at CES 2008. At almost every booth that is displaying headunits, you see HD Radio alongside Sirius and XM (and iPod support, of course).

But the real news is that the HD Radio chipset is finally getting smaller, meaning it can be used in portable mode.

See more after the jump...


Sirius' presence at CES 2008


Sirius at CES

As opposed to XM, Sirius had a far more significant booth presence at CES this year. It actually wasn't much different from last year's booth (nor should it be, why reinvent the wheel?) though the cars were updated and packed far more features.

The Ford Edge was the Sirius Backseat TV display car, while the Mini Cooper was simply pimped out to the max with every product Sirius has to offer. More on the Mini later.

Sirius at CES

Check out a lot more photos after the jump...


Starbucks and XM part ways (good riddance)


XM CafeXM Satellite Radio and Starbucks have gone their separate ways and terminated their partnership as of late last month, as disclosed recently in an SEC filing.

To get out of the agreement, XM handed over $22 million worth of stock. If Starbucks doesn't make the $22 million out of selling the stock, then XM may need to hand over some more shares to make up the difference.

This ends a multi-year partnership between XM and Starbucks, that just never seemed to pay off as expected. Starbucks recently has also been cozying up with Apple, and XM's relationship with the Seattle-based coffee giant seemed to be on the rocks anyway.

"This partnership has been beneficial to both XM and Starbucks in terms of extending outreach as a music and entertainment brand," said XM spokesman Chance Patterson. "We just made a decision to allocate our resources toward other initiatives."

In other words, XM found more value in separating than they did in continuing through with the teetering partnership.

Starbucks XM Cafe (ch 45) will continue to be available for a "limited time" - though it's unknown whether XM will simply rename the channel, or remove it entirely in the aftermath.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in!


XM's Presence at CES 2008



Notable for this year's CES is XM's presence at the show, or should I say lack thereof. In what only can be chalked up as cost-management, XM is sharing the booth with Audiovox and doesn't have a booth of their own.

Well, sort of.


There is some XM space in the middle of the North Hall, but we just don't know what it is. As you can see below, the "XM Monolith" is just a big black box in the middle of the show floor.


The contents of that box are unknown to the general public. (...for now)

XM did manage to maintain an outward appearance to general show-goers, having the same "column boxes" and a big ol' blow-up square-thingy outside of the North Hall (which houses all the In-Vehicle Technologies exhibitions).


These are a nice location, because when everyone is leaving the show (an arduous task), they're waiting in line and staring at these displays. XM also is featured in much of the CES magazines that are distributed to everyone.


So while they actually don't have a significant presence on the floor, to the average attendee, they're still very much front and center. A nice usage of precious marketing dollars.



Orbitcast at CES: Finally have a connection!


The live mobile updates have been working well, but without a solid internet connection, I haven't been able to do much in terms of uploading. But now we're up and running (although it's still pretty spotty) so, let's get on with the show!

CES 2008


XM's new "Infotainment" vehicle: Features touchscreen, electronic program guide, and more


2008 Infiniti QX56
Alongside XM NavWeather, XM is also unveiling its latest "Infotainment Vehicle" at next week's North American International Auto Show in the form of a brand spankin' new 2008 Infiniti QX56.

In the new infotainment vehicle, XM will also show off a next-generation, full-feature color touch-screen display, a built-in electronic programming guide (yes, you read the right), streaming stock and sports tickers, dynamic information technology and more.

Here's the breakdown of what XM's pimped out 2008 Infiniti QX56 will show off at the NAIAS in Detroit:

Touchscreen User Interface
XM will show off a brand-new touch-screen interface, with a full-color display - including album art - as well as channel and sports team logos and a multi-function display for viewing multiple XM channels at once.

Electronic Programming Guide
A real-time, interactive programming guide that shows upcoming special programs. The driver can request a reminder for a program of interest and later be alerted if they are in the vehicle the next time the shows they selected are broadcast.

The ability to pause and replay multiple channels of XM programming - simultaneously.

XM NavTraffic
See current traffic conditions, such as travel speeds on major roads, accident locations, and road closures, updated in real-time on the navigation screen.

XM Sports and XM Stocks
Streams your team's game times and scores and/or your updates to your stock portfolio directly to your vehicle as updates happen, and without interrupting your XM Radio listening.

Sophisticated voice control, developed by VoiceBox Technologies, for operating the radio, along with weather, traffic, stock quotes, and sports scores. (Watch a video of this technology here.)

XM NavInfo
Dynamic data service that utilizes the XM satellite pipeline to deliver point-of-interest data to the vehicle, such as nearby open parking space locations, local fuel prices, and flight information. XM NavInfo then relies on the vehicle's GPS to lead you there.

The infotainment vehicle is designed to illustrate how XM's next-generation technology can be implemented by its OEM partners. It doesn't necessarily mean these items will go to market, but it shows XM's capabilities.

Notably absent from this year's infotainment vehicle (at least from what we know) is XM's Satellite Video. It also looks like the dedicated XM ParkingLink service has been rolled into the wider XM NavInfo service offering.

Check out in-person photos of last year's infotainment vehicle at CES 2007. There's still no word whether this new vehicle will be at CES 2008 this year. But we'll find out soon enough.


CES: Two new "Sound Systems" debut from XM


XM Sound System

XM has taken the wraps off of two new universal systems - the XM Sound System and XM Compact Sound System - at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show.

Distributed by Audiovox, the XM Sound System and XM Compact Sound System will work with a variety of XM radios, including: RoadyXT, SKYFi3, XpressEZ, Xpress, XpressR and XpressRC, as well as the Inno and Helix with an optional adapter (sold separately).

The XM Sound System (pictured above) features two woofers, two tweeters, bass boost, and a 10 watts RMS amplifier to produce quality sound. The system also includes an Audio In jack for playing an iPod/MP3 or CD player. A foldable handle, internally stored XM antenna, and more than 18 hours of battery life allow listeners the option to take their XM Radio from the home or office to the patio or picnic table.

The XM Sound System (model # XMBB1) will be available for the suggested retail price of $99.99.

The XM Compact Sound System (pictured below) is a sleek, tabletop unit with an aluminum surface and black grille cloth design that fits smaller spaces like a night table, kitchen counter, or desk. The system features four full-range speakers, a four-channel enhanced digital audio processor, bass boost, and a 16 watts RMS amplifier to deliver dynamic sound. And, like the XM Sound System, it includes an Audio In jack for playing an iPod/MP3 or CD player.

The XM Compact Sound System (model # XMAS100) will be available for the suggested retail price of $149.99.

XM Compact Sound System


XM unveiling new XM NavWeather service at NAIAS


XM is jumping the gun a bit and announced the unveiling of their new XM NavWeather personalized weather tracking service for GPS nav systems, at the 2008 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).

While CES is ready to kick off this week, NAIAS will be held next week (January 13-17) in Detroit.

There's no official word about whether this new "infotainment vehicle" would be on display at CES as well - but you can bet I'll try to find out.

XM NavWeather - which we first heard about at last year's CES, and then later learned the product name back in August - enables drivers to view live, personalized weather forecasts and conditions on top of their existing navigation display. Sure, it was known that this personalized weather service was coming for the Bushnell ONIX400, but what we didn't know is how this would apply to OEM versions.

Another feature we didn't know about is XM's exclusive "Threat Matrix" technology which provides immediate alerts on developing weather conditions, such as hail, tornado and storm warnings, mapped to the driver's specific location and driving route. Drivers will get the option to view current and developing road weather conditions and multi-day forecasts for cities across the country, and also view weather maps to monitor conditions anywhere in the United States.

XM NavWeather was developed with Baron Services, who is XM's weather partner for the award-winning XM WX Satellite Weather service that provides "professional grade" real-time weather information direct to aircraft cockpits and marine navionics instruments.

This is the "consumer friendly" version of XM WX.

XM plans to announce the first auto partners to offer XM NavWeather in early 2008, and the service will be available for the portable Bushnell ONIX 400 within 30 days.


HD Radio increases presence at CES


HD Radio

HD Radio has stepped up its presence at CES this year, with over 50 products being displayed at more than 25 booths across the show, and advanced mobile applications are being showcased this week as well.

Alpine, Sony, Polk, et al are all showing various products featuring HD Radio (the Alpine IDA-X100 pictured above), many of which include the somewhat buzz-worthy iTunes Tagging technology. The jury's still out as to whether iTunes Tagging will be the boon for HD Radio, but there's little bad that can come from being associated with Apple.

Microsoft and Clear Channel are holding a private demo of location-based services. The services - which I believe will be called "MSN Direct HD" - will immediately include things like location-based directories, program guides, movie information, gas prices, restaurants, and more.

Samsung, iBiquity and others will announce at CES next week that MP3 players, cell phones and personal navigation devices will integrate HD Radio reception into their mobile devices. So that means that you'll be able to listen to HD Radio on your cell phone - and it sounds like Samsung is right on board.

More to come...


CES 2008: Orbitcast's coverage is expanding



The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is upon us once again, and this year Orbitcast is heading out to Vegas armed to the teeth with multimedia equipment and guns blazing.

I'll be at CES from Saturday through Wednesday, and will cover all that XM and Sirius are showing off - as well as an entire week's worth of other developments in the audio entertainment field. From HD Radio, to Wi-Fi Radio, to the latest in In-Vehicle Infotainment - and literally everything in between - I'll be bringing you photos, video, audio and live mobile alerts as I traverse the 1.8 million square feet of exhibit space in the Las Vegas Convention Center (not to mention all the surrounding events around Vegas).

Here's just a tiny sampling of companies and events I'll be visiting:

  • Audiovox
  • Delphi
  • Directed Electronics
  • Ford Motor Company
  • HD Radio
  • ICO/Alcatel-Lucent
  • On2 Technologies
  • Slacker
  • Sony
  • VoiceBox Technlogies
  • FCC Chairman Kevin Martin panel session
  • GM CEO Rick Wagoner Keynote
  • ...oh, and everything from XM and Sirius as well. :)

I'll be taking hours of video footage for your consumption - and on Wednesday, January 9th at 1pm ET/10am PT, I'll be hosting a special edition of Orbitcast Radio direct from the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

But wait, there's more!

If you want to get up-to-the-second updates about what cool technologies I'm encountering, I'll be sending constant updates from my mobile phone to Twitter (don't worry, there will be a Twitter widget on Orbitcast so you won't miss a thing). So if Kevin Martin or Rick Wagoner (or Eric Logan for that matter) say anything of interest, I'll let everyone know within seconds.

The fun begins starting tomorrow. So stay tuned, because Orbitcast is going to Vegas baby!

(And check out last year's coverage here in case you feel like being nostalgic.)


XM-Sirius Merger: Anxiously waiting for a decision


sirius xm merger
Despite hopes that an antitrust decision would be reached before the end of the year, the DOJ has spent nearly 10 months so far in its review process over the merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc.

The delay may be due to the complexity of the issue or because the Department of Justice is putting together a case to block the deal in federal court, analysts at Stifel Nicolaus said in a research note on Thursday.

Conversely, top officials at DOJ may be leaning toward approval but might still be weighing arguments from staffers who oppose the deal, Stifel Nicolaus said.

"Like many others, we believed it was likely that the DOJ would have reached a decision before the winter holidays," Stifel Nicolaus said.

"It certainly wasn't as imminent as (some) projected," Washington, D.C., antitrust lawyer Andre Barlow, of the firm Doyle, Barlow & Mazard told Reuters. Adding that some analysts may have underestimated the complexity of the investigation.

But Bear Stearns analyst Robert Peck - of whom Barlow is likely referring to (or maybe he meant RBC's David Bank? Either way, he's pointing fingers) - still believes the merger will go through, even though we have pass the 2007 milestone. Peck highlights the increased attention that HD Radio has been getting, particularly with the ramped up HD Radio-iPod efforts, as well as HD Radio's available across almost all 2008 Ford vehicles.

"Given the increasingly competitive landscape for satellite radio, as well as limited traction at retail, we believe the DOJ likely will allow the merger to go through," wrote Peck.

When Reuters inquired about the ongoing review process, Sirius and XM issued this joint statement:

"As the companies said from the outset, we expected to complete the processes at DOJ and the FCC so that the regulators could make their decisions and the merger could close by the end of 2007. We have fully complied with the requests from both agencies. The ball is now in their court and we look forward to their determinations."

Don't we all.

[via Reuters]


One million Ford SYNC vehicles on the road by early 2009


2009 Lincoln MKS

Ford Motor Company released their sales figures for the Ford SYNC recently, and stated that the Microsoft-powered system is on track to reach 1 million sales in early 2009.

Ford SYNC topped 30,000 sales in 2007, with sales in the final quarter of 2007 averaging approximately 10,000 units per month, the company said. This makes it one of the fastest growing new products in the auto industry.

The company also confirmed that nearly every new Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicle will be available with Ford's SYNC system by year end. Approximately 85 percent of Ford's retail volume will be offered with SYNC connectivity.

During 2008, SYNC will be offered on the new 2009 Ford Flex and F-150; the 2009 Ford Escape; Escape Hybrid; and 2009 Ford Expedition. The 2009 Lincoln MKS - being launched later this year - will have SYNC as standard equipment (and will offer Sirius Travel Link as well). SYNC is being added to the 2009 Lincoln Navigator, as well as the 2009 Mariner and Mariner Hybrid.

"The average commute in America is now 30 minutes, and people want to maximize the time they spend behind in the car," said Jim Buczkowski, director of Electrical Systems Engineering at Ford. "Ford has delivered the plans and technologies to accommodate customers' entertainment and infotainment needs while allowing them to stay focused on driving."


Analysts react to Sirius subscribers numbers


Sirius Subscribers

Analysts had a mixed - albeit somewhat lackluster - reaction to Sirius' subscriber numbers released yesterday. But they all seemingly agreed on one thing: the slowing retail sales are an issue.

The announcement of 8.3 million subscribers implies that quarter-over-quarter net additions came in at 654K. This indicates that year-over-year Q4 net additions are slowing (see my handy-dandy chart above to illustrate this). The fourth-quarter is very important for Sirius and XM, as it historically has given an injection of much needed subscribers, thanks to the holiday shopping season.

But Sirius' Q4 net additions came in below Bear Stearns' estimates of 690k, and far below Utendahl Capital Partners' estimate of 760k (which was a pretty aggressive estimate in the first place, in my opinion). Their total year-end subscriber numbers came in below Bank of America's model of 8.5M subscribers as well.

"We estimate that the retail channel was the culprit versus our estimate – as NPD data has been quite weak," wrote Bank of America analyst Jonathan Jacoby.

"Recall that Sirius had exceeded growth expectations in the last two quarters primarily on the strength of the OEM channel," wrote Peck in a recent client note. "We [estimate] retail gross adds declined... which likely led to the shortfall compared to our estimates."

"...we surmise that weaker than expected retail trends could have been the primary reason the company fell short of our expectations," added UCF's Alden Mahabir.

Not very encouraging news as we look at the year ahead. Something really needs to be done to spur growth at retail, because while OEM brings in the lion share of subscribers, it's obvious that retail still has a significant effect. And as U.S. auto sales are expected to slow significantly this year, it's a good idea to make sure those eggs placed are in several baskets.


Spotted: XM's POTUS channel in Iowa



XM’s POTUS ’08 channel (ch 130) was on the ground in Iowa for yesterday's presidential caucuses. And here’s a snapshot of “Meet the Press” moderator Tim Russert with POTUS host Tammy Haddad at the Polk County convention center in Des Moines.

The POTUS crew is now hitting the road for New Hampshire to cover Tuesday’s primaries.


Mel Karmazin to Keynote at Citi Entertainment, Media & Telecom Conference


Mel KarmazinHot on the heals of Sirius announcing its subscriber numbers, Mel Karmazin is set to keynote at the Citi 18th Annual Global Entertainment, Media & Telecommunications Conference - next Tuesday, January 8th at approximately 5:10 pm MT.

A live audio webcast of the keynote discussion will be available here at 7:10 pm ET.


Sirius breaks 8.3 million subscribers


SIRISirius Satellite Radio Inc. just announced that they ended the year with a total of 8,321,785 subscribers - that's up from 6,024,555 subscribes in the end of 2006.

During 2007, Sirius added approximately 2.3 million net subscriber additions.

"Sirius' subscriber base increased 38% in 2007, and our gross subscriber additions in 2007 were the highest in the history of satellite radio," said Mel Karmazin, CEO for Sirius. "Our full year monthly subscriber self-pay churn rate was 1.6% and all-in churn was 2.2%, consistent with the low end of our guidance. Based upon preliminary financial data, we expect to report significantly greater positive free cash flow in the fourth quarter of 2007 than the company reported in the fourth quarter of 2006."

It's interesting that Sirius decided to announce this today, while the full year 2007 financial results and 2008 guidance will be released in February.


More signs of MP3 player growth slowing


mp3_sales.jpgFurther supporting data released by NPD recently, consumer electronics industry consulting firm iSuppi Corp. is expecting that sales of digital music players will slow sharply over the next five years.

But that doesn't mean that consumers aren't listening anymore. They're just shifting devices.

iSuppli estimates that revenues from MP3 players (including iPods) grew 8 percent worldwide in 2007 to $19.5 billion, up from $18 billion in 2006. But the firm expects that growth will slow to just 3.5 percent in 2008 to $20.2 billion. Sales growth is forecast to plateau to $20.7 billion by 2011.

The slowdown over the next 24 months is due to the "long-term threat" from music-capable cellphones, says iSuppli analyst Chris Crotty.

Don't feel bad for Cupertino though. The mounting competition from music-capable phones - which, according to NPD analyst Ross Rubin, now outnumber portable music/video players - means that Apple is well positioned for the future with its iPhone. They anticipated this change in consumer behavior, and likely are a leading catalyst for this shift.

As users become more accustomed to using their cellphones as entertainment devices - and as high-speed wireless networks continue to build out nationwide - consumers will expect more in terms of downloading and streaming functionality. And what makes you think that Apple doesn't anticipate that as well?

[New York Post]
(Side note: Is the guy in that photo working the Blue Steel pose?)


Howard Stern buys apartment for $15.1 Million


Howard Stern's Penthouse ApartmentHoward Stern effectively doubled the size of his penthouse condominium apartment in Manhattan when he bought the apartment directly below for $15.1 million, according to the New York Post.

His current condo on 54th floor of the Millennium Tower, which is at 101 W. 67th Street, measures in at around 4,200 square feet. He first bought into the building in 1998, and combined two units (3,138 sqft, and 1,011 sqft), for just under $5.8 million.

But with the addition of the apartment below his current condo, Stern is effectively doubling the size of his residence to a respectable 8,400 square feet. As apartments go, Howard Stern's apartment is the equivalent of the Titanic.

"Before he bought it, he had to get permission from the building's board to combine the floors," one resident told The Post.

According to the Brown Harris Stevens listing, the "triple-mint" eight-room apartment on the 53rd floor includes three bedrooms, 4.5 baths, an office and a library. Not bad, but it's still only half the size of Howard Stern's 16,000 sqft mansion in Southampton.

[New York Post]


XM gets The Dan Patrick Show


Dan PatrickFormer ESPN personality Dan Patrick will have his show air on XM Satellite Radio starting on January 21st.

Patrick premiered his new syndicated radio show in October after leaving ESPN in August. In addition to the radio show, Patrick recently joined Sports Illustrated as a senior writer for the magazine and SI.com, and will re-launch DanPatrick.com in February 2008.

Prior to joining the Content Factory (a Chicago-based content distribution company which owns and produces the show) Patrick spent 18 years at ESPN, where he served as an anchor on "SportsCenter" and, for the past eight years, hosted his ESPN Radio show.

"The Dan Patrick Show" will broadcast on XM Sports Nation (ch 144) every weekday from 10am to 12 noon ET/7am - 9am PT.

[Press Release]
Thanks Ken!


Ron Paul makes "significant investment" in satellite radio ads


Ron PaulRepublican presidential hopeful Ron Paul recently made what XM calls "a pretty significant investment" across a myriad of news, talk and sports channels, reports Radio-Info.

In addition, word has it that Ron Paul might be looking to make an ad buy on "The Howard Stern Show" on Sirius.

This comes at a time when most candidates are busy fighting it out at the state level, rather than in the national arena that satellite radio targets. If Ron Paul is indeed investing significant ad dollars into satellite radio, it could be a strong indicator that Sirius and XM will be in for very good year ahead. As the already hot political environment heats up, and the focus turns from local to national, the major party candidates could turn their sights on the highly targeted (and affluent) satellite radio audience.

And best of all, satellite radio isn't bound by the same FCC constraints on political advertising that AM/FM radio have to abide by.

UPDATE: The statement that satellite radio is not subject to the Lowest Unit Rate rule is incorrect. XM and Sirius are subject to the same FCC rules on political advertising, and I have received confirmation that XM is indeed charging the lowest rate.

Ron Paul is a fundraising machine, having had raised $19.5 million in the fourth quarter of last year - a majority of his donations come from individual contributors.

[via Radio-Info]


Rumor: Jay-Z to start a record label with Apple


Jay-ZRumors are flying around that Jay-Z and Apple are about to start a record label, and it's going to be announced at MacWorld. Boy Genius Report says they've even "confirmed" it.

Jay-Z last month stepped down as President of Def Jam Records, which is owned by Universal Music Group. In a statement announcing his departure, Jay-Z said, "It's time for me to take on new challenges."

Earlier last month, in an interview with Billboard, Jay-Z said this about leaving Def Jam, "It's really about trying to invest in the future, trying to invest in maybe coming up with a new model. Because going in hard making records with artists and throwing those records into a system that's flawed is not exciting for me."

"It's not the music; people ingest music the same way," he continued. "It's just that the model of selling CDs has changed. So doing things the typical way is not in the best interests of anyone and not exciting for me.

[Boy Genius Report via Gizmodo]
Thanks Kevin!


Rush Limbaugh aired on XM


Rush LimbaughYesterday, Rush Limbaugh aired as a replacement for Gary Burbank on XM Satellite Radio's WLW (ch 173).

It looks like WLW is simply doing a rotating set of "surprise guest hosts" or something of that sort, and Rush was yesterday's guest host. But that's not the point. The point is that they were able to broadcast Limbaugh's program on XM. Something that I thought was never going to happen.

Let the speculation ensue.

A couple years ago, Limbaugh directly addressed the question of making the jump to satellite radio, succinctly stating that he would "cannibalize" himself if he went to Sirius or XM. With a weekly minimum audience of roughly 14 million listeners, Limbaugh is by far the biggest talk radio host in the country.

WLW is broadcast on XM as part of their contractual obligation to Clear Channel (which, incidentally, I believe is set to expire in June of this year). And Clear Channel owns Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates The Rush Limbaugh Show on some 600 stations nationwide.

There's some additional discussion at Radio-Info


Orbitcast Radio Episode 2: The pre-CES show


Orbitcast RadioOrbitcast Radio will head out of the gates in full stride on Friday with the 2nd episode: "the pre-CES show." We'll be covering, well, CES and what's to come next week - as well as the state of the merger (or lack thereof) and the current events of this week.

The live internet radio show is being extended to a full hour, with the same interactivity, 6 call-in lines and buzzing live chat room - and, hopefully, much less heavy breathing into the microphone.

Tune in this week live at its regularly scheduled slot on Friday, January 4th at 1pm ET/10am PT. If you'd like to call in and participate, simply call 646-595-3690 and listen to the show while you wait. Or check out the live chat room which will be available during showtime.

And stay tuned because next week: I'll be doing a special live Orbitcast Radio show direct from the floor of CES 2008 (tentatively scheduled for next Wednesday).

Listen to Orbitcast Radio on internet talk radio


WorldSpace gets a $40M cash infusion


WorldSpaceWorldSpace, the ailing international satellite radio service, has received a much needed cash infusion for up to $40 million of subordinated financing.

The financing facility comes from a company called Yenura Pte. Ltd. - a company that is conveniently controlled by Noah Samara - the chairman and CEO of WorldSpace. Under terms of the facility agreement, Yenura will make up to $40 million available to WorldSpace - who must be draw upon the money on or before January 31, 2008.

This cash infusion will help in WorldSpace's preparations for the launch of its European mobile service in the Italian market and business development activities in selected markets. Meanwhile WorldSpace is continuing to look for additional financing from a variety of sources, including existing and new investors.

WorldSpace also announced it had secured a waiver of certain pre-payment obligations owed to the holders of its existing debt.

Now here's where it gets interesting:
Yenura is a "special purpose entity" established by both WorldSpace CEO Noah Samara and an initial investor in WorldSpace, Salah Idris. That "special purpose" is to invest in WorldSpace, the company reported. Samara holds all of the voting shares in Yenura. But Idris, through his ownership of non-voting shares, holds the major economic interest in Yenura.

Salah Idris factory destroyed by US cruise missilesBack in 1999, Salah Idris had a pharmaceutical factory he owned in the Sudan destroyed by United States cruise missiles (pictured). U.S. officials said they suspected Idris' factory of making chemical weapons and was suspected to be "associated with the bin Laden network". But Salah Idris has always denied any connection with Osama bin Laden, and filed suit against the U.S. government in federal court over the bombing. Later, the U.S. Treasury unfroze Idris' bank accounts. [BBC]

The involvement of Idris, as well as other initial WorldSpace backers, including Saudi investors Khalid Bin Mahfouz and Mohammed H. Al-Amoudi, had been the subject much scrutiny back when WorldSpace went IPO.

All are Saudi Arabian citizens and "have been the subject of allegations that they and/or charities they were involved in have supported terrorism, and three of these investors were also named, along with a number of Saudi Arabian government officials and prominent Saudi Arabian citizens, in civil actions brought on behalf of victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, which actions also contain allegations that certain of such investors were involved in charities that supported terrorism," the company noted in a SEC filings [Wall Street Journal].

But none of the men, including Idris, own shares in WorldSpace or have any voting control according to WorldSpace [Washington Post].

That is... directly.


Radio One and XM are parting ways


The PowerRadio One and XM Satellite Radio are severing their partnership and handing over the reins to XM for full control of the African-American talk channel The Power (ch 169), according to the Redding News Review.

Syndication One News/Talk National Program Director Lee Michaels told RNR that it will end the relationship with XM (which has existed for over six-years) on Tuesday, January 8th.

“It has nothing to do with the programming, it has nothing to do with the people that work here,” Michaels said. “It was strictly a business decision.”

According to XM's channel page, Radio One will no longer offer the weekday programs "GW on the Hill", "Digital Spin", and "Spirit" as of January 7th. XM will also be adding new programs to the lineup during the first few weeks of January.

Michaels said Radio One had not made money on advertising for the joint venture with XM, where the primary focus is selling subscriptions. Radio One has been selling stations in non-core markets and blames "a challenging radio industry environment," for a 40.2% decline in third-quarter earnings.

[Redding News Review]


XM's new Spanish-language channel: Caricia


CariciaXM has launched a new Spanish-language channel called Caricia, which features music from popular artists, such as Julio Iglesias, Jose Feliciano, Roberto Carlos, Leo Dan, Jose Jose, Leonardo Favio, Armando Manzanero, Nino Bravo, Camilo Sesto and more.

Caricia (ch 93) is currently airing on XM Radio Online and on the Satellite Radio service.

The channel - which focuses on Spanish-language oldies hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s (aka "musica del recuerdo") - brings XM's total Spanish-language music offering up to four channels. (Correction: XM's Spanish-language music offering was already at 4 channels, see details below.) That's in addition to XM Deportivo, CNN En Espanol and MLB Play by Play en Espanol.

As a result, XM is touting that they offer "the most Spanish language programming on satellite radio."

UPDATE: Caricia is replacing Fuego on the satellite radio service, though Fuego will continue to be heard on XM Radio Online and on DirecTV. Fuego's programming - reggaeton - has been incorporated into Caliente (ch 94), which XM considers to be a better fit.

"Our listeners wanted a channel dedicated to Spanish-language hits, and Caricia was added as a result," a XM spokesperson told Orbitcast. "It appeals to a broader audience."

[Press Release]
Thanks Donald!