Orbitcast: April 2008 Archives

April 2008 Archives

Congress: "FCC process appears broken"

Chairman Kevin MartinAs the congressional investigation of the FCC continues, a memo obtained by The Washington Post turned up complaints about the way Chairman Kevin Martin runs the agency.

"The bottom line is that the FCC process appears broken and most of the blame appears to rest with Chairman Martin," wrote Commerce and Energy Committee staff members in the April 28th memo to committee chairman Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

The memo to Dingell and Stupak said the investigation is ongoing and proposed holding hearings on the findings in June, according to The Post.

Additionally, more than 30 current and former FCC employees were interviewed, along with telecommunications industry representatives and private citizens, according to the memo. This is the first indication that the investigation has turned up material to support complaints against Martin himself.

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


Sirius, XM extend merger agreement indefinitely


Gary Parsons and Mel Karmazin

Sirius and XM have to extend their merger agreement, again. This time, though, they're not messing around with any deadlines (since the FCC sure isn't) and so they've decided to extend the merger agreement indefinitely.

The two companies have agreed not to exercise their rights to terminate the Merger Agreement prior to May 15, 2008. In addition, they've agreed to continue to extend the merger agreement, as necessary, for rolling 2-week periods.

The rolling renewal will continue until either side notifies the other of its intention not to extend.

[Press Release]


Mel Karmazin made $32 million in 2007; More than XM Management - combined

Howard Stern and Mel KarmazinSirius Satellite Radio Inc. chief Mel Karmazin earned himself a comfortable $32.2 million in 2007, according to the company's recent SEC 10-K/A filing. That's $2 million more than XM's executive management team, combined.

While Karmazin's base salary of $1.25 million did not change in 2007, the company awarded its CEO an $4 million bonus. The year prior, the company awarded Karmazin a $3 million bonus.

Add in other compensations, stock awards and option awards last year, and his total compensation package tops out over $32.21 million.

Compare this to XM Radio's entire executive management team - which includes the compensation paid to former-CEO Hugh Panero - and Mel Karmazin beats their combined total by $2.3 million.

[Form 10-K/A]


Still going: FCC meets with American Public Media

Nothing out-meets the FCC bunny
Stilllll going! Just when you thought we had reached a lull in the meetings at the Federal Communications Commission, along comes American Public Media to keep the fire burning.

Rick Chessen, Senior Legal Advisor to Commissioner Copps, and representatives for American Public Media met on Monday to discuss a letter (PDF) it sent to the FCC last week. Yes, that's right, a letter sent late last week deserves a meeting.

The non-profit organization reiterated its letter (you think?) urging the FCC to require that Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. hand over 20% of its combined spectrum for "for non-commercial educational use."

[View Filing (PDF)]

AT&T to discount 3G iPhone to $200?

3G iPhone on the cheap?According to FORTUNE, the upcoming 3G iPhone will be discounted by AT&T to bring the price of the device down to $200.

Citing a "person familiar with the strategy," AT&T is preparing to subsidize $200 of the cost of a new iPhone for customers who sign two-year contracts.

Additionally, they say the new iPhone will be 2.5mm thinner than the original and will have a built-in GPS chip for navigation and other location-based services.

The New York Times' Bits Blog sees several holes in this rumor, especially the claim that the subsidized iPhone would be offered in AT&T stores exclusively, and not Apple stores. Still, it's an inevitable part of Apple's strategy to drastically lower the iPhone's price to bring sales closer to critical mass, with or without any fabled "person" to provide the info.

[FORTUNE via Engadget Mobile]


Is the Sirius Starmate 5 going to be A La Carte capable?

Sirius Starmate 5While speculation abounds about whether the upcoming Sirius Starmate 5 will have the capability to receive both Sirius and XM, there's one piece of the puzzle that was missed... the ability to receive A La Carte channels.

As a refresher: Sirius-XM have said that after merging, they would offer the first-ever a la carte packages in subscription media. These packages would allow subscribers to choose 50 channels for $6.99/month, or 100 channels from either Sirius or XM for $14.99/month. Additional channels would cost $0.25/each.

But a commenter on SiriusBuzz points to the Starmate 5's user manual, which gives a strong indication that this radio could indeed be the first A La Carte capable unit.

The section in question, Page 74 of the user manual (PDF), refers to the "My Channels" category, which "will show all of the channels contained in your SIRIUS subscription plan." The Starmate 5 user manual then goes on to describe that the "category heading bar will show the total number of channels your Starmate ST5 is subscribed to."

A La Carte capable?The manual also differentiates these subscribed channels from channels that are locked by the built-in Parental Control feature (which has been available on previous generations).

Below are select bullet points from the manual highlighting this:
  • "If you try to tune to an unsubscribed channel the ST5 will display a 'Channel Unsubscribed' message."
  • "The ST5 will not display channel information for any unsubscribed or locked channels."
  • "The Memory and Song Seek functions... will only occur on subscribed channels."
Now, before we get all in a tizzy, it is also important to point out that the "My Channels" references in the Starmate 5's manual could be referencing the "select" packages and not true "a la carte" packages. As you can see in Sirius' post-merger channel lineup, there are  other programming packages that would limit the number of channels displayed on the unit, including a "Family Friendly" package, a "Mostly Music" package and a "News, Sports & Talk" package.

Even if that's the case, I still think this is an important development.

[via Orbitcast Forums]


President Jimmy Carter interviewed on Sirius

Jimmy CarterFormer President Jimmy Carter sat down for an interview on Sirius Satellite Radio to discuss his recent peace mission to the Middle East, among other topics, with Sirius host Alex Bennett.

Carter also talked about the current democratic presidential primary and his new book A Remarkable Mother about the life and legacy of his mother, Lillian Carter.

In addition, the former President discussed his controversial meeting with Hamas.

"We got what we wanted from Hamas. They agreed to a lot of very important things," said former President Jimmy Carter during the interview. "First of all they agreed to propose a cease fire just for Gaza, where as before they [Hamas] were demanding Gaza plus a West Bank. So they made that proposal, unfortunately Israel turned the proposal down, which could have stopped the rockets going into Sderot and could have brought peace."

President Carter's also added his thoughts on how he believes the Democratic presidential primaries will be resolved.

"I feel after June the 3rd, there will be a fairly clear identity of the winner," said Carter. "And then, in my opinion, the super delegates including me will go along the way the American democrats have."

You can hear Alex Bennett, a self-proclaimed radio gadfly, on "The Alex Bennett Program" weekdays from 9 - 12pm ET on Sirius Left (ch 146).


XM CEO made $4.85 million in 2007


XM CEO Nate Davis

An analysis of a regulatory filing by the Associated Press has revealed that XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. CEO Nate Davis received a cool $4.85 million in compensation last year.

Davis received a salary of $560,416, plus $747,500 in nonequity incentive-based compensation in 2007, according to the SEC filing. In addition, he also received stock awards valued at $3.54 million.

By comparison, XM's former-CEO Hugh Panero received a compensation valued at $3.71 million including $3.075 million in stock awards in 2006. Then in 2007, Panero received compensation valued at $7.27 million, including $538,522 in salary, a severance payment of $4.95 million and stock awards of $1.77 million.



XM's Unmasked returns for a new season in May

Lewis BlackXM's original comedy series "Unmasked" will be returning for a new season on May 3rd with comedic legends such as Lewis Black, Margaret Cho, Janeane Garofalo and The Kids in the Hall.

Recorded before a live studio audience, "Unmasked" offers up candid, one-on-one interviews with comedic talent for an uncensored look into their creative process and the lives that shape their comedy. "Unmasked" originally launched in September with George Carlin as its inaugural guest.

Lewis Black (pictured) will kick off the 2nd season, sharing stories of his early, broke years working in the theatre, and the night he spent in jail. Then every two weeks a new episode will air, with Marget Cho (May 17), The Kids in the Hall (May 31) and Janeane Garofalo (June 14) in the queue.

The season premieres on Saturday, May 3 at 8pm ET/5pm PT on XM Comedy (ch 150).

Click the jump to see a photo of Lewis Black with XM's EVP of Programming, Eric Logan.


Why Arbitron's satellite radio ratings are wrong


"When the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem begins to look like a nail."
- Abraham Maslow

In the world of statistics and research, methodology is paramount. That's pretty basic. If you're going to draw a conclusion from the polling of a sample, the methods you use to extract those answers had damn well better be solid. Because in the end, the way this data is gathered defines the final outcome.

And this is exactly why I say that the Arbitron ratings for satellite radio listening are wrong. Indeed, they're bullshit.

Maybe that was a bit harsh, I'm sorry. Let's instead say that these ratings are for "information purposes only," because that's how Arbitron refers to them.

Mind you, the criticism that's about to ensue has absolutely nothing to do with terrestrial radio and how its listenership is measured. That's a whole different issue. This is meant to point out the flaws in how Arbitron measures satellite radio listenership and nothing more. So when I say that "Arbitron's ratings are wrong" I mean for Sirius and XM, and not regular radio.

So let's begin.

Arbitron Diary

Reason #1
The Arbitron Diary.

Actually, it's the methodology for terrestrial radio ratings that's screwing it all up. Arbitron's diary is built from the ground up to measure AM/FM. Not Internet Radio. Not Satellite Radio. Not even HD Radio (that is, if anyone was listening to HD Radio). It's meant for good ol' regular radio and nothing else.

Here's a big problem: There is no checkbox for a listener to select "Satellite Radio." None. Nothing for Sirius. Nothing for XM. Nothing. Diarykeepers need to actually physically write in the service and the channel info, in addition to the time they started and stopped listening to the program as well as the location of where they did this. Do you think people will actually write in all that information? Right there, the data becomes tainted.

Follow the jump to keep reading...


Directed Electronics extends contract with Sirius

Directed ElectronicsDirected Electronics has extended their contract with Sirius from August 31, 2008 to January 31, 2009.

The extension also includes a contract amendment that reduces Directed's exposure to warranty costs incurred from satellite radio products.

"In the third quarter of 2007, our earnings were adversely impacted by a $4.3 million increase to our warranty expense principally related to our satellite radio business," said James Minarik, President and CEO of Directed. "With this new amendment, the risk of unexpected satellite radio warranty expense is expected to decrease significantly, while concurrently improving our ability to provide superior service to our satellite radio customers. Cumulatively, we believe these changes will lead to improved financial results for this business."


Sirius and XM postpone 2008 Annual Stockholder Meeting


Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. have both announced that they have postponed their 2008 annual meeting of stockholders.

The meetings were originally scheduled for May 20th and May 23rd for Sirius and XM respectively. A new date will be set when they have more information relating to the timing of the merger.


The FCC meetings continue: NAB joins the fray

David RehrThe meetings at the FCC continue occur as we rapidly approach the May 1st deadline for the extended merger agreement between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. This time, the National Association of Broadcasters is the latest group to enter the fray.

NAB President and CEO David Rehr (pictured) and NAB Executive VP of Legal & Regulatory Affairs Marsha MacBride, met with FCC Commissioner Michael Copps and his Senior Legal Advisor/Media Advisor Rick Chessen last Friday, according to a FCC filing.

At the meeting, Rehr and MacBride argued that a merged Sirius-XM will "harm consumers" as well as "undermine fair competition in local radio markets."

The NAB stuck to the same stale argument from over a year ago that approving the merger would "violate the Commission's long-standing prohibition against a merger of the nation's only two satellite radio licensees" that the FCC needs to be mindful of Sirius and XM's "record of violations of the Commission's rules."

How much longer does this need to drag on? Seriously. I think we've exhausted all the angles and it's time to make a decision. Nothing new is being added that hasn't already been said.

[View FCC filing (PDF)]


Sirius users: Are you getting signal dropouts?

Sirius SatelliteOver the past week or so, I started noticing my Sirius signal cutting out frequently, and sometimes for quite an extended period of time.

At first I thought it just normal behavior (spring is in the air here in Connecticut, and the leaves are starting to return), but the frequency and length of the dropouts had me wondering. When I noticed the same behavior in my wife's OEM install, I knew that something was going on.

There's now an extensive thread on Sirius Backstage talking about several experiences with Sirius signal cutouts. And so I'm curious, has any readers here had any problems picking up their Sirius signal?


Dale Jr. welcomes Danica Patrick on his XM show

Dale Jr and Danica Patrick
Two of the biggest names in auto racing will go one-on-one on XM Satellite Radio this week when Dale Earnhardt Jr. interviews Danica Patrick on Earhnhardt's XM show "Dale Jr. Unrestricted."

Danica will talk shop with Junior this Thursday, May 1st, on XM Sports Nation (ch 144) at 7:30pm ET/4:30pm PT. Encores to air Thursday at 10:30pm ET and then again on Saturday at 1:30pm ET and 6:30pm ET.

"Dale Jr. Unrestricted" every week brings you into Dale Jr.'s living room to listen to him and his friends talk about anything and everything.

Patrick is on a media tear in the wake of winning the Indy Japan 300 last week, which made her the first female to win a major auto race.

So far Danica's been on the front page of USA Today and the New York Times, plus she's made appearances on "Good Morning America," CNN, Conan O'Brian, "The View" and David Letterman... not that I'm tracking her every move or anything.


Fall '07 Arbitron Ratings for Satellite Radio: Howard Stern still #1

Ratings show that Howard Stern still leadsYesterday, Arbitron released its Fall 2007 ratings for Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio. Below are some key takeaways from the ratings report, but check back later when I explain why Arbitron's ratings are all wrong (well, for satellite radio at least).

Overall, Arbitron reports that XM leads Sirius in listeners, 10.4 million versus 7 million respectively. Combined, there were approximately a half-million more satellite radio listeners in the Fall than in Spring 2007 when Arbitron last released its satellite radio ratings report.

Here's a breakdown of the Top 5 channels (in terms of "cume" - or the total number of unique listeners) from both Sirius and XM:

Sirius Arbitron RatingsSirius Ratings -
  1. Howard 100: 1,210,000
  2. Sirius Hits 1: 584,800
  3. Howard 101: 501,000
  4. Sirius New Country: 468,300
  5. Sirius Big 80s: 417,900
  6. Sirius Octane: 383,700
  7. Classic Vinyl: 347,100
  8. Classic Rewind: 335,500
  9. The Pulse: 330,700
  10. Totally 70s: 309,400

XM Arbitron RatingsXM Ratings -
  1. Top 20 on 20: 1049200
  2. Flight 26: 741600
  3. 80s on 8: 698300
  4. 70s on 7: 667400
  5. 60s on 6: 581300
  6. Highway 16: 579500
  7. Top Tracks: 534900
  8. The Blend: 532400
  9. The Heart: 493400
  10. Fox News: 464800

For those that want to compare how the "shock jocks" line up, Opie & Anthony's The Virus channel had a cume of 171,300. For a comparison of AQH (Average Quarter-Hour), which is the average number of people listening for at least five minutes during a 15-minute period, here's how the three channels compared:

  • Howard 100: 97,600 AQH
  • Howard 101: 33,200 AQH
  • The Virus: 18,500 AQH
So there's the numbers, and numbers don't lie... or do they?

Check back soon when I explain, in detail, why Arbitron's numbers - for satellite radio ratings at least - are all wrong.

[Arbitron Fall 2007 Satellite Radio Ratings (PDF)]


Kevin Martin's lips are sealed over Sirius-XM merger

FCC Chairman Kevin MartinMums the word for FCC chairman Kevin Martin about the merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. at a recent meeting with reporters at the agency's DC headquarters.

Martin said he had no comment on the timing for a decision. When asked whether the FCC had waited for the Justice Department's decision to issue its own ruling Martin told Radio Ink,  "I wouldn't say that the DOJ was slowing us down."

He also rejected the suggestion that the FCC is holding out for a unanimous 5-0 commission vote on the deal, but said, "I always think it's preferable that we have a unanimous decision."

In related news, representatives from Sirius and XM met with Chairman Martin and Daniel Gonzalez on Wednesday (PDF). The subject of the meeting focused on - once again - the review of "pending issues raised in recent filings."

The Department of Justice approved the Sirius-XM merger over a month ago.


State AGs have found the answer: Free Satellite Radio!

XM / SiriusAttorneys General from Maryland, Connecticut, Ohio and Washington - who all greatly oppose the Sirius-XM merger - feel they have found the answer to preserving competition in satellite radio: offer it for free.

This revelation was uncovered in a recent letter (PDF) to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, where the state Attorneys General suggest that the Federal Communications Commission lease a portion of Sirius and XM's bandwidth to a 3rd party. And that leased portion, should be made available, for free.

Does this plan sound familiar?

Radio & Records nicely sums it up for us, "the only entity that has made a pitch to lease satellite spectrum from a combined Sirius-XM is Georgetown Partners."

R&R adds that should the deal win approval, Georgetown Partners "would be willing to take a long lease on the spectrum and form a free, commercial-based satellite radio company," which it promises "will be richly diverse."

It's so nice to see these AGs coming to the rescue.

[View letter (PDF) via Radio & Records]
Thanks Nathan!


Scott Ferrall renews contract with Sirius

Scott Ferrall
Scott Ferrall will continue to host his live sports call-in show, "The Scott Ferrall Show," every weeknight because he's renewed his contract with Sirius Satellite Radio.

"I work for Howard Stern, 'The King of all Media,' and Sirius Satellite Radio," said Scott Ferrall. "I couldn't walk away from the revolution -- it's too much fun."

On Saturday, April 26th Ferrall will host a special live broadcast from NFL Draft Fan Central outside Radio City Music Hall in midtown Manhattan. The one-time show will air from 3pm - 4pm ET on Howard 101 and will feature Ferrall in front of a live audience talking directly to fans in attendance as the 2008 NFL Draft kicks off.

This weekend Ferrall makes his feature film debut in Redbelt, the mixed martial arts drama written and directed by David Mamet. Ferrall plays himself, an "opinionated" sports broadcaster. Redbelt premieres today, April 25th at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

The Scott Ferrall Show airs live Monday-Friday from 8pm - 12am ET on Howard 101 (ch 101).

Photograph by Matthu Placek


Source: Randi Rhodes returning to Air America... on XM

Randi Rhodes
XM Satellite Radio is talks with former Air America personality Randi Rhodes, and Air America Radio, about bringing the talker back to the channel on XM, according to Orbitcast sources.

Randi Rhodes quit the Air America radio network earlier this month after being suspended for using derogatory words about Senator Hillary Clinton at an event in San Francisco.

XM is working on a deal with Air America, and the exiled host's new syndicator Nova M Network, about bringing Rhodes back to XM's Air America (ch 167) channel. An announcement can be expected in the coming weeks, according to sources.

During a curse-filled standup routine Rhodes ranted about Clinton and called former congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro "David Duke in drag." Rhodes then referred to Clinton as a "big #$%&ing whore," subsequently causing Air America to suspend Rhodes for "abusive, obscene language." Rhodes quit the progressive talk network a week later.

Rhodes' routine was not broadcast, but a video of it circulated the Intertubes.

The Air America channel on XM carries not only Air America programs, but also some non-Air America progressive talkers like Ed Schultz and Bill Press.


Steve Winwood to takeover on The Spectrum

Steve WinwoodSinger-songwriter Steve Winwood will take over Sirius' The Spectrum channel for an entire weekend to celebrate the upcoming release of his latest album, Nine Lives.

"The Spectrum of Steve Winwood" will air on Saturday, April 26th at 8am ET through Sunday, April 27th at 8pm ET on - wait for it - The Spectrum (ch 18).

Throughout the weekend, Winwood will give a personal track-by-track introduction to each of the nine songs that he recorded for his latest album, Nine Lives, which will be previewed on the channel before hitting stores on Tuesday, April 29th.

"The Spectrum of Steve Winwood" channel will showcase the music of Steve Winwood throughout the weekend, with Winwood also sharing stories about a his rock & roll career spanning over 40 years. Winwood will discuss his musical influences and improvisation, starting from his days as a 15-year old in the Spencer Davis Group, his work performing with Clapton in Blind Faith through Traffic and his acclaimed solo work.


GM: Auto sales entering worst months of the year

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
General Motors said yesterday that the US market slowdown had led to a sales decline that has given Toyota an early lead for this year's global auto sales.

For the first-quarter, Toyota capitalized on growth in China and Europe as GM saw its North American sales drag down gains in other markets. Toyota said sales grew 2.7 percent, selling 2.41 million vehicles for the period, compared with GM's 2.25 million, a decline of less than 1 percent. As a result, GM is about 160,000 vehicles behind its Japanese rival.

On Wednesday, GM became the latest automaker to predict that the industry was entering its worst months of the year. GM said that the second quarter, which typically has strong auto sales, could end up being the slowest period of the year.

Ford officials echoed the sentiment this month, stating that they believed Spring would be the slowest season for automakers in 2008.

Chrysler too said it was not counting on a significant improvement in the market this year.

"The big caveat is gas prices," said Michael C. DiGiovanni, GM's chief sales analyst. "This is clearly a head wind we didn't anticipate would be to this level."

The average price of regular gas has reached a record high of $3.533 a gallon, according to the AAA motor club. And that doesn't bode well for the belt-tightening consumer, who will continue to be less likely to purchase a new vehicle, and as a result become a satellite radio subscriber.

[New York Times, AP]
Pictured: The 2009 Cadiallac Escalade Hybrid, © General Motors.


New Citi analyst sees 55M subscribers by 2011; gives SIRI/XMSR rating

XM and Sirius MergerNew Citi analyst Tony Wible issued a client note this morning, assuming coverage of the satellite radio industry with a "Buy" on Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and a "Hold" on XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc.
"Satellite radio should continue to change the audio entertainment industry and gain share as its proves to be fresh (no need to create play lists or buy MP3s), original, cost effective, and a simple way to access premium/long tail content that can not be supported via radio or MP3 models," wrote the Citi analyst in the note. "Given the highly fixed cost base of the companies, we view the sub growth as the key driver of the stocks and we see the industry having up to 55 mil subs by 2011."

Wible also rated SIRI as a "Buy" with an $8 target based on a 70% probability that the deal closes. He rates XMSR with a "Hold" with a $12.25 target price.

The Citi analyst believes that the SIRI stock - as a merged entity - would be worth $10.


Audio: Listen to Bam Margera interview about sex tape


And if you missed the Opie & Anthony show this morning where Bam Margera flat out denied the existence of a sex video featuring "an X-rated romp" with Opie's fiancee, you can hear the audio below:

UPDATE: Oops, sorry. The audio autoplays everytime the page loads - I've moved it now so you can listen to it after the jump.

[via FoundryMusic]


Opie fiancée/Bam Margera sex tape "shocker" - where's the proof?

Opie's fiancee LindsayThe holes in the New York Post's story about a supposed sex tape featuring Opie's fiancée Lindsay (pictured above) and Bam Margera are widening... a lot.

Chaunce Hayden - who was quoted in the Page Six article as saying  "They're doing the nasty - and I mean nasty" - amazingly admitted to FMQB yesterday of actually never having seen the video. Apparently, he based his entire account of the contents of the video on the word of a single disgruntled ex-employee of the Opie & Anthony show.

"If that doesn't show that Chaunce has some sort of agenda, I don't know what else to tell you," said Opie on their show this morning.

The smoking gun was revealed this morning when Bam Margera himself called into the Opie & Anthony show, and denied that the sex tape exists.

"I think it's nonsense... if I filmed it, I filmed it myself. I never even heard of those dudes," said Margera referring to the ex-employee who supposedly bought the rights from Bam. "I would pay $100,000 to see it myself."

The conversation continued on to discuss how ridiculous and unsubstantiated the claims made by the New York Post were.

Opie thanked Margera for setting the record straight, "You're a stand up guy Bam. I greatly appreciate you coming forward... I just appreciate that someone did the right thing for once."

"I totally 100% believe that it's not true, and I'll match you on the 100-grand," added Margera.

Opie & Anthony even were more than happy to plug Margera's show on Sirius Faction (ch 28) which airs 7-8pm on Mondays.

The sad part is that the New York Post obviously didn't even bother to verify the story by simply contacting Bam Margera. The fact that Page Six even quoted Chaunce Hayden's account of the contents of the video - when he didn't even see it - is truly a lapse in journalistic integrity.

But then again, "Page Six" and "integrity" aren't necessarily synonmous with each other.

Photo Credit: Speaking of integrity, I don't know who took the above photo but it's the only photo of Opie's fiancee that I know of. So if you're took it, please contact me so I can give attribution.


Music execs concerned with satellite radio merger

Sirius-XM at New York AutoshowA merger between Sirius and XM might lead to "more choice and better prices" for consumers, but many record label executives are concerned about the merger's implications, according to a recent Reuters article. Some label promotion representatives polled by Billboard feel that the reduction of redundant formats could lead to fewer promotion opportunities for niche formats.

"It's great that their combined (channels) will have a larger audience but it's also at the expense of the exposure," Virgin Records VP of promotion Dave Reynolds says. "It takes away 50% of my chance of being exposed correctly."

"Both networks offer different ways to feature and launch a new project," said Brad Paul, senior VP of promotion at Rounder Records.. "I feel good about having both those options to go to."

Citing Arbitron's numbers, the top channel on Sirius (after Stern) is Sirius Hits 1 with 653,000 listeners, while the top channel on XM is Top 20 on 20 with 1 million.

"It's very rare to find a station like Sirius Hits 1 or XM 20 on 20 that will put in a new song and play it 21, 28, 35 times a week right off the bat," Virgin's Reynolds says. "That's really exposing a record."

"Satellite radio definitely had a lot to do with Sean Kingston's career," Koch Entertainment VP of urban promotion Shadow Stokes says. Rap channels like XM Raw and Sirius' Shady 45 have helped break a number of hip-hop acts, he adds, citing Sheek Louch, AZ and Yung Berg. Still, few executives that Billboard talked to could cite a specific case of Sirius or XM breaking an act.

Losing XM's The City and Sirius' Hot Jamz would be like losing a local station with naitonal reach, says Stokes. "You're talking about losing 40-50 spins," he says. "If you lose a piece of audience, that's always bad whether you're talking about a terrestrial station or a satellite station."

The article goes on to cite reps from metal, smooth jazz, and country genres. It's an important concern, and one that I said scares me the most over a year ago. There's a lot of nuisances between channels like Octane and Squizz, or Highway 16 and New Country, and in an effort to grab those "synergies" a lot could be lost.

Still, in my interview with Gary Parsons, there was one comment that the future Chairman of the merged company said that I think needs to be repeated:
"Clearly some of the synergies on a combination are on a longer term, and others are more near term. And while every expense category has an opportunity for improvement, it's not really the classic case of head count reductions... you know, fire a bunch of people. Because both companies are still growing strongly and they need to grow which requires that head count to grow outwards. That's not where the savings come from."

Here's to hoping that Gary's comments ring true, and the doom-and-gloom speculation from these music execs doesn't.



Sirius Starmate 5 found at the FCC

Sirius Starmate 5UPDATE: Check out the newly unveiled Sirius Starmate 5!

The fan favorite Sirius Starmate 5 (ST5) satellite radio receiver has landed in the halls of the Federal Communications Commission, giving us a sneak peek into what's to come, albeit accompanied by some not-so-sexy FCC testing photos.

According to the FCC submissions, the Starmate 5 will feature:
  • Sirius Replay: Pause/rewind/replay up to 44 minutes of live radio
  • Memo function: Store up to 30 favorite songs and artists, plus a favorite sports team or NASCAR car, and be alerted whenever they're on.
  • Wide-angle 5-line display
  • Built-in wireless FM transmitter
  • Remote control
  • Universal dock
Reading through the product manual (PDF), it doesn't look like the Starmate 5 will feature the same multi-color display functionality that it's big brother the Sportster 5 enjoys. That's unfortunate, because I love the color-changing capability.

One interesting thing to note, though, is that there's some question as to whether this radio will be capable of receiving both Sirius and XM due to a comment made by the FCC in its correspondence with the testing firm. Judging from all the documents submitted to the FCC, there is no other mention of dual-mode/interoperable functionality, so I don't think this is the case.

But see for yourself. Check out another photo of the Starmate 5, and read the correspondence letter after the jump...

XM reps have conversation with Commisioner Tate's office

XM Headquarters in Washington, DC
And the meetings continue at the FCC, only this time, it's by phone.

According to an filing made public by the FCC this morning, counsel for XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. had a telephone conversation with Amy Blankenship, Legal Advisor in Commissioner Tate's Office.

The conversation, which occurred yesterday, was to "review pending issues raised in recent filings" as is frequently the case.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) there's little else to report except that XM's counsel, Latham & Watkins, urged for "prompt approval" of the pending merger with Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.

Today marks the 400th day anniversary since Sirius-XM filed their application with the FCC.

[View FCC Filing (PDF)]

Audio: Opie denies fiancée sex tape with Bam Margera, offers $100k for proof

Opie denies sex tape of Bam Margera and LindsayThere's nothing like a good ol' sex tape scandal to wake you up in the morning. The New York Post's gossip column Page Six published an article claiming that Gregg "Opie" Hughes is livid over a sex tape featuring his fiancée, Lindsay, and Bam Margera, sourcing a "disgruntled ex-employee of the radio duo."

During this morning's Opie & Anthony show of Opie categorically denied the story's veracity and offered $100,000 to anyone who can produce the tape.

Below is an excerpt from the New York Post article:
Gregg "Opie" Hughes is said to be livid over an X-rated romp starring his stunning blond fiancée, known by her first name, Lindsay, and MTV wildman Bam Margera. A disgruntled ex-employee of the radio duo recently acquired rights to the video from Margera and it's soon to be released on a pay-for-play Web site, reports Steppin' Out's Chaunce Hayden. "They're doing the nasty - and I mean nasty," Hayden says. "Hughes is taking legal action to prevent its distribution. Apparently, he's so distraught, he's banned the name 'Bam' from being mentioned on the show." Hayden says Lindsay was living in Philadelphia, Margera's stomping grounds, when she met him and made the tape "to gain some exposure." This was before Lindsay began dating Hughes.
But Opie denies that a tape exists and that he has even sought out legal action - pointing out that any legal action would be public record and that no such record exists.

In addition, Opie offered $100,000 to anyone who can produce a copy of the sex tape.

Listen to Opie talk about the sex tape below:

[Watch on YouTube]

Spotted: XM at Pennsylvania primary day (and a surprise visit from Obama)

XM POTUS at Pat's King of SteaksXM's all-politics channel POTUS '08 broadcast live from Pat's King of Steaks in Philly today, where they talked politics with the locals, spoke with folks from the different candidates camps... oh, and received a surprise visit from Barack Obama himself.

Pictured above is POTUS '08 (ch 130) anchor Joe Mathieu digging into a gen-yoo-wine Philly cheesesteak at Pat's King of Steaks as XM broadcast live on Pennsylvania's primary election day.

Check out all the photos, including a couple shots of Obama, after the jump...

Clear Channel/Premiere want your opinion on Satellite Radio

SatFans.comPremiere Radio Networks, a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications, has recently setup a website polling subscribers about their opinion on their channel offerings on XM Satellite Radio.
Specifically, the company is inquiring about the commercials on the music channels.

The website they registered is SatFans.com.

SatFans.com was registered in late February of this year. Quite the interesting bit of timing as Clear Channel's forward sales agreement, which includes the right to program 409.6 kbit/s of XM's bandwidth, is expected to expire in June of this year.

[via Orbitcast Forums]


Analysts: Forget the merger, show us the money


XM and Sirius Merger

The perpetual delays in getting the approval from the Federal Communications Commission may be the least of worries for Sirius and XM.

TheStreet is reporting that analysts are expecting XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., which TheStreet says is set to release its results on Thursday, to post a loss of 39 cents a share, according to a Thomson First Call survey. Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. is expected to lose 7 cents a share as well, when it reports on April 29th.

Shares of Sirius and XM have fallen more than 15% since the last reporting quarter's results in late February.  

"Excluding the merger proposal, we do not believe the fundamentals, subscriber growth curves, or risk-adjusted estimates support a premium or equal valuation for Sirius versus XM," wrote Goldman Sachs analyst Mark Wienkes in a February 26th research note, adding that "trends in subscriber adds, churn, and [average revenue per subscriber] confirm our cautious view on the industry."

For Sirius, increases in the churn rate and subscriber acquisition costs (SAC) are what especially trouble analysts, especially in a troubled economy. Monthly churn is expected to rise slightly from 2.3% in the fourth quarter. At the same time, SAC will likely rise from $90 to a range of $95 to $100, according to several analysts. Inreasing churn and growing SAC are also a concern for XM.

But it's the concern of transforming from a retail-based business model to an OEM-driven model that seems to be the most troublesome, according to TheStreet.

Penetration rates have increased in the automotive sector, but in March auto sales fell 12 percent from a year earlier on an unadjusted basis.

"Recent comments from the automotive industry indicate that many of the issues impacting the subprime [and collateralized debt obligation and loan obligation] market are projected to trickle down and carry negative implications on new car sales, implying around 15 to 16 million units sold in 2008," said Goldman's Wienkes. "As satellite radio operators progress toward an OEM-centric model, watch for primary and derivative effects of a housing and auto slowdown to temper the subscriber ramp."

What TheStreet doesn't mention is that Sirius and XM aren't blind to this, and have said that the increasing penetration rates will offset the declines in auto sales. Whether or not this holds to be true will be seen soon enough.

Analysts also anticipate that the conversion from OEM promotional subscribers will decline - although during the fourth quarter the conversion rate actually increased from 52.4% to 53.9% year over year. For the full-year though, the conversion rate fell slightly from 53.3% in 2006 to 52.7% in 2007.

"Sirius installs will approach 70% of manufactured cars at Chrysler and Ford by year-end 2009 with penetration in other models such Volkswagon and Audi approaching 80%," said RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank in a note in February. "But the outlook for auto sales is soft, and retail ... demand is anemic, so near-term upside to subscription estimates is probably limited."

As for average revenue per user, or ARPU, TheStreet says that Sirius is expected to see ARPU tick higher in the first quarter, many analysts expect it to go down for XM. And in the event the merger gains FCC approval, ARPU is not expected to improve much as the time progresses.

"We assume no ARPU synergies as the combo may have to agree to price restrictions to get a deal done," said Stifel Nicolaus analyst Kit Spring in a March 25 research note. "We calculate a net ARPU impact over time of a negative 2% to 5%, getting worse over time as the percentage of radios that are a-la-carte capable increase."



Sirius Kids Stuff celebrates Earth Day

Earth Day
In honor of Earth Day today, Sirius' Kids Stuff channel will play songs created by some of today's most respected children's musicians singing about the importance of preserving the Earth.

Kids Stuff (ch 116) favorites Laurie Berkner, Raffi, and Uncle Rock will sing songs about conserving and protecting natural resources and other Earth-friendly topics.

During the day-long special, Kids Stuff will also play a special song from an album recorded using only solar power.


Primosphere goes on an FCC meeting marathon

Satellite RadioPrimosphere, one of the original four bidders for the satellite radio licenses in the 90s, held a series of meetings recently with the FCC to discuss the pending merger between Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio.

According to five separate filings made public today, Primosphere met with various members of the Federal Communications Commission to reiterate points made in prior filings.

Primosphere is asking the agency to consolidate the Sirius-XM licenses and grant them the other half of the SDARS spectrum. The company has said that it is prepared to construct and launch their own satellites in order to be "a new competitor" in satellite radio.

On April 8th, Primosphere met with FCC Commissioner Adelstein and Rudy Brioche of Adelstein's office, as well as held a separate meeting with Amy Blankenship of Commissioner Tate's office.

On the same day, Primosphere also met with Elizabeth Andrion of Chairman Martin's office, Rich Chessen of Commissioner Copps' office and with staff members from the Media Bureau, International Bureau and Office of General Counsel.

[Read FCC Filings: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (PDF)]


Danica Patrick on XM this Tuesday night

Danica PatrickOn Tuesday, XM Satellite Radio will be celebrating Danica Patrick's historic win at the Indy Japan 300 with a special edition of the "Andretti Green Racing Hour," the XM show that Danica co-hosts with fellow members of the AGR racing team.

Patrick won her first IndyCar Series race this past Sunday, making her the first woman to win a major closed-course auto race.

You can hear Danica and members of her family talk about her victory on the show on Tuesday night at 7pm ET on XM Sports Nation (ch 144). Then at 8pm ET, XM will replay its broadcast of the Indy Japan 300, followed by an encore presentation of the "AGR Hour" at 10pm ET.

If and when there is more "Danica on XM" news, or even just "something remotely related to Danica" news, it will be reported right here on Orbitcast. And not simply because it's a legitimate excuse for me to dig through photos of her. Nope. Not at all. I'm actually extremely offended you even thought that.


Sirius Stiletto gets its own YouTube channel

| 1 Comment
Sirius Stiletto on YouTubeIt looks like Sirius Satellite Radio has created a YouTube channel dedicated to the Sirius Stiletto (and other Sirius devices).

The channel itself is nicely customized, complete with Favorite videos (including an Orbitcast one) and matching colors. But what really shines are the two videos - for the Stiletto 2 and Sportster 5 - that appear to have been made specifically for the YouTube audience.

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, because I dig it.

Watch both videos after the jump...
1 Comment

Artie Lange returns to Stern show

Artie LangeAfter taking a week off and cooling down following his resignation from the show, Artie Lange returned to the air this morning assuming his position as one of the cohorts on The Howard Stern Show.

The question on many Stern fans minds for the past week was answered immediately at the beginning of today's show. Artie apologized for the incident and expressed his amazement in the response from fans and members of the show.

There's still no official word on whether or not there will be disciplinary action taken, though it was said that Artie will not have anymore chances following this incident.

Looks like Chaunce Hayden and his source, which "has never been wrong" was indeed, wrong.

Photo Credit: HowardStern.com


Danica Patrick first woman to win IndyCar race

Danica PatrickDanica Patrick became the first woman to win an Indy race when she beat out pole-sitter Helio Castroneves by 5.8594 seconds at the Indy Japan 300.

Word has it that XM is putting together plans for some Danica-related programming to air this week. As soon as there's more details, they'll be posted here. But in the meantime there's always that Sports Illustrated swimsuit photo shoot to remind you how much of a winner she really is.



Sen. Dorgan, again, voices opposition to Sirius-XM merger

Senator Byron DorganSenator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), has once again voiced his opposition to the merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. - this time in a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

In March, Dorgan said that the DOJ's approval "didn't make any sense" to him and last August the Senator cited terrestrial radio as a form of audio that had "sprouted up" since 1997.

In the letter sent on Friday, the high-ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee urged that the FCC should not follow the "illogical" decision of the Justice Department.

"This merger is contrary to the public interest. I hope that the FCC will stand up for competition in the public interest and deny this merger," wrote Dorgan.

"The Department of Justice did not believe that the merger would allow for an increase in prices," Dorgan said in the letter. "Yet when the satellite companies no longer compete with one another, there will be no direct competition with the ability to regulate the cost of the satellite radio service. The iPod will not affect the price of satellite subscriptions. Terrestrial broadcast radio will not affect these prices."

On the financial state of the companies, Dorgan said: "Even if the companies were failing, they should not be rewarded with a government-granted monopoly."

You can contact Sen. Byron Dorgan here.

[Reuters, RadioInk via Orbitcast Forums]


Sirius, XM merger update: More meetings with Tate's offices

FCC's Deborah Tate (talking to David Rehr!)The offices of FCC Commission Deborah Tate has been busy the past few days with meetings with various parties over the pending Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. merger.

On April 11th, the Media Access Project met with Commissioner Tate and her legal assistant Amy Blankenship. Media Access suggested that a portion of Sirius-XM's spectrum could be used much like cable leased access. Additionally, the lessee could be subject to FCC regulations if it were a free advertiser-supported service.

Then on Tuesday, April 15th, C3SR met with Amy Blankenship of Tate's offices. There's really nothing new to say about C3SR's meeting - they simply disclosed that the merger should be denied and that, if approved, there should be a "structural remedy" to restore competition.

On the same day, Commissioner Tate and Amy Blankenship met with iBiquity to discuss their proposal to require inclusion of HD Radio chips into Satellite Radio receivers.

"iBiquity explained that this proposal will help promote the development of a level playing field between satellite and terrestrial digital radio," wrote the company in the filing.

And I agree with iBiquity - almost. But why limit it to just digital? Let's level the playing field across the board. They're right, a level playing field between satellite and terrestrial radio is necessary.

So let's require that all AM/FM radios must include Satellite Radio capabilities as well. How's that for a level playing field? I think that's a fair request.

[View FCC Filings: 1, 2, 3 (PDF)]


Sirius live from "Cosmopolitan's Record-Breaking Bikini Bash"

Cosmopolitan Guinness Book of World Records Bikini ShootSirius Satellite Radio's Cosmo Radio on Friday will be broadcasting live from Cosmopolitan magazine's attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest swimsuit photo shoot in history.

Cosmo Radio (ch 111) shows "Wake up with Cosmo!" and "Cocktails with Patrick" will be on site and behind the scenes at the Nikki Beach Club in Miami Beach.

Cosmo Radio will be live on the beach talking with bikini-clad babes and hosting both the "Confessions Cabana" and the ""Bitch Back on the Beach" attractions. "Confessions Cabana" is a tent set up to encourage the participants and passers-by to confess their deepest secrets. And the "Bitch Back on the Beach" is an open forum set up for girls to confront and 'bitch out' their friends, enemies or boyfriends.

Tune in this Friday, April 18th from 7am - 3pm ET on Cosmo Radio to hear all the action. And whatever you do, don't click here to see photos from the last time Cosmo held this event in Bondi Beach, Australia.


Could the FCC delay hurt Sirius, XM holiday sales?

XM Satellite Radio waiting roomThat's what Reuters contributor Franklin Paul is suggesting might very well be the case. Even though it's just barely spring, the unfinished merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. could hurt not only their holiday sales - but the pain might also extend into 2009.

"No matter how quickly they get it done, if they miss this fourth quarter, they will miss one year of opportunity," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst for the Enderle Group. "So getting this cooked fast -- at least from the standpoint of the perception to the buyer -- would be critical."

That's absolutely the truth. From a device development standpoint, every minute lost is extremely valuable.

"Unless they do something superhuman, their biggest shot ... is late third quarter 2009 -- the back to school season. That's a long time to wait for ramp," Enderle said.

I'm not sure where Rob's doom-and-gloom estimation of 3Q09 came from... maybe he's talking about the A La Carte radios? To be clear, Sirius and XM have said for many months that it would take about a year for an A La Carte -capable device to become available. Adding to that, the "Back to School" season isn't necessarily a hot one for satellite radio.

Either way, there's definitely no doubt that thoughts nightmares about the holiday season push are swimming around in engineer's heads (not to mention, the retail distribution guys). All the more reason to ask the question of the FCC: what's the hold up?


Pictured: Appropriately, that's the waiting area of XM Satellite Radio. Photo Credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing


ICO strikes a deal with Delphi

ICOICO Global Communications has entered into a partnership with Delphi to develop DVB-SH devices for its "ICO mim" service.

Under the agreement, ICO gets exclusive rights to all DVB-SH devices developed by Delphi for use in the mobile satellite services (MSS) spectrum band in North America over the next 3-years.

Delphi will design ICO's first aftermarket devices and units in are expected in December 2008. The alpha trials for the ICO mim service will start later this year in Raleigh-Durham, NC and Las Vegas, NV. 

The partnership with Delphi will also serve as a shoe-in for OEMs as the company will co-market ICO's interactive mobile video, navigation and emergency communications services to automakers.

"ICO is poised to deliver a unique interactive suite of mobile services for American consumers, and Delphi's extensive experience in mobile electronics makes them an ideal partner as we implement ICO's go-to-market strategy," said Craig Jorgens, president of ICO.

(Pictured is an alpha device used to demo ICO mim at CES 2008, it is not a Delphi device.)


Scion adds HD Radio to "select" systems

2009 Scion xBToyota has gone and partnered with iBiquity, to offer HD Radio in its Scion vehicles.

Details are pretty scant at this time, all we know is that HD Radio will be offered in "select audio systems" in the "near future." Which means that it's not standard equipment and it won't be available in every system across Scion's three model lines.

Here's the standard corporate blah-blah from Toyota (iBiquity's isn't even worth quoting):

"Since Scion customers are in tune with audio technology, it makes sense that we enhance our already outstanding audio offerings for them," said Jason Adang, Accessory Audio and Electronics Planning Manager, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. "Digital HD Radio technology is ideal for our youthful, tech-savvy customers who will enjoy the wide range of content available on HD Radio channels."

He's right, Scion users are indeed in tune with audio technology, they're also notoriously young. Which isn't an insignificant development, as terrestrial radio is trying desperately to re-engage that youth audience.

The real question is whether this opens the door for HD Radio inclusion in more Toyota vehicles.


Lisa Lampanelli on Bubba the Love Sponge

Lisa Lampanelli on BubbaThe uninhibited jokes and insults will be flying when the "Queen of Mean" Lisa Lampanelli makes her umpteenth live, no-holds-barred guest appearance on Bubba the Love Sponge Show.

Lisa Lampanelli will join Bubba and co-hosts Brent, Ned, Manson and Spiceboy live in Bubba's custom radio studio in Tampa on Thursday, April 24th. The Bubba the Love Sponge Show airs from 3-7pm ET/12-4pm PT, but you can expect Lisa to appear around 3:30pm ET/12:30 PT.

Pictured: Lisa looking dazzling in Bubba's Tampa studio (photo courtesy BRN).


Sirius-XM merger status: What's the hold up?


Sirius XM Merger

The Motley Fool is right, something isn't right.

  • It's been over 4 weeks since the DOJ approved the merger... and that was considered the hard part.
  • This weekend, it will be 14 months since the Sirius-XM merger was announced, and almost 400 days since the companies filed with the Commission.
  • And in about 2 weeks, Sirius and XM may need to extend their merger agreement... again.
Meanwhile, the FCC continues to entertain ridiculous propositions like those from Georgetown Partners, with meeting after meeting after meeting. Why? Why is Jesse Jackson even involved in a satellite radio merger anyway?

"I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Extremely wise words by a brilliant and legendary man. If only Chester Davenport and the Reverend Jesse Jackson heeded them. Judge by merit. Not by color. By their own admission, Georgetown Partners are not broadcasters they're simply a minority-owned firm that looks "for opportunities to extend minority ownership and control," as the firm says.

I don't get it. There shouldn't be anymore meetings. There shouldn't be anymore filings. None of that, there should just be a decision. And the FCC has had more than enough time to make one. Nearly 400 days should suffice, be it for or against the merger, don't you think?

This is ridiculous and we need to once again make our voices heard. If you have a few minutes, please send a comment to the FCC. You can use these forms to make it easy: pick the XM version or the Sirius version, whatever your flavor.

Let them know how you feel about this madness, because one way or another, this just needs to end.


Crazy: FlyTunes adds AccuRadio, increases offering by 320+ channels



There seems to be no end in sight for FlyTunes. Earlier this month, FlyTunes announced a strategic partnership with various content providers - including NPR - to bring their channel count to over 160 channels.

Now they've gone and blown that figure right out of the water.

This week, FlyTunes announced that they've partnered with AccuRadio to make their 320+ radio channels available - for free - to iPhone and iPod touch users.

AccuRadio, which was recently nominated for a Webby award, is among the top Internet radio broadcasters in the world. It was founded by Kurt Hanson, the publisher of RAIN: Radio And Internet Newsletter.

"The move to the mobile Internet has been a big question in the broadcasting industry in the past few years," said FlyTunes CEO Sam Abadir. "Today's announcement ... proves that mobile Internet radio is now ready for prime time -- and I expect terrestrial broadcasters to follow this trend shortly."

The last part of that statement sounds like a not-so-veiled hint of what is to come.

[via iLounge]
Thanks Lee!


POTUS covers Pennsylvania Primary from Pat's King of Steaks

Pat's King of SteaksAs Pennsylvania voters go to the polls for the presidential primary election, XM's POTUS '08 channel will be broadcastinf live from Philly's landmark restaurant Pat's King of Steaks.

On April 22nd from 11am - 4pm ET, POTUS '08 (ch 13) anchors Joe Mathieu and Rebecca Roberts will be taking the pulse of Pennsylvania live from Pat's. Mathieu and Roberts will be interviewing local voters, journalists, and politicians about the hard-fought Democratic contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as the prospects for presumptive GOP nominee John McCain.

Located in the heart of South Philly, Pat's King of Steaks was founded in 1930 by brothers Pat and Harry Olivieri, who are generally credited as the co- creators of the Philly cheesesteak. Today the legendary establishment is run by Harry's grandson, Frank Olivieri Jr.

That night, Roberts and Mathieu will be live from the Pennsylvania campaign rallies for Obama and Clinton starting at 7pm ET, while fellow POTUS anchors Tim Farley and Adrienne Mitchell will be stationed at the XM studios in Washington, D.C.


Kevin Martin was busy last Friday

Kevin Martin meets Sirius-XM, Georgetown and Jesse JacksonFCC Chairman Kevin Martin was busy last Friday with meetings over the pending Sirius-XM merger, according to filings at the Federal Communications Commission.

On April 11th, representatives from Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. met with Chairman Martin, Daniel Gonzales, and Elizabeth Andrion. The purpose of the meeting was "to discuss Commission action on the merger" and "to review pending issues" brought up in various filings.

In general, these FCC filings tend to be as generic as possible and usually only include the "review pending issues" line. With that in mind, it's notable that this meeting specifically included a discussion about "Commission action on the merger" - hopefully implying that there will be some sort of action in the near future.

On the same day, Chairman Martin again alongside Daniel Gonzales and Elizabeth Andrion, also met with Georgetown Partners and the Rainbow PUSH Coaltion. Chester Davenport, founder of Georgetown Partners, as well as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Kimberly Marcus of Rainbow PUSH, were in attendance at the meeting.

The details on Georgetown's meeting are even more vague and simply were consistent with filings "previously submitted on this docket."

[View FCC Filings: 1, 2 (PDF)]


Tim Robbins blasts broadcasters at NAB Show

Tim Robbins at NAB ShowNot being one to avoid making enemies, Tim Robbins took the opportunity of his keynote speech at the NAB Show in Vegas.

"We don't want any kind of reporting outside the soundbite," said Robbins. "I don't know about you, but show me a drunk starlet getting out of a car with no panties on, and I think the world is a better place."

But it's what he said about satellite radio which will be of most interest to folks here. Here's an excerpt from Variety, which has one of the better accounts of the keynote:
"Robbins stepped on sensitive ground when noting that 'just when we were getting close to a national music playlist, along comes satellite radio that actually plays music people want to hear.' NAB battled to stop the proposed XM and Sirius merger, which the Justice Dept. recently approved. Despite NAB's ongoing, bitter protests, the Federal Communications Commission is likely to approve the merger, too."

The article ends saying that about two-thirds of the packed ballroom rose to a standing ovation.



Tony Stewart to broadcast live from Graceland

Tony StewartTony Stewart will be hosting his weekly NASCAR Radio show live from Graceland on Monday, May 12th.

Stewart and co-host Matt Yocum will host the show in front of a live audience at Elvis' home on NASCAR Radio (ch 128). As part of the show, Stewart will talk about the one-of-a-kind collection in the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum, which showcases more than 33 vehicles owned by Elvis including his famous Pink Cadillac, Harley Davidson motorcycles, the red MG he drove in the movie Blue Hawaii and more.

The two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will also be as a guest DJ live on Sirius' Elvis Radio (ch 13) before going on "Tony Stewart Live." There he'll play a selection of his favorite Elvis songs.

"I can't sing and I can't act, but I do like Elvis' music and I can collect cars," said Stewart, who has more than 40 vehicles in his own collection.

Listen to this special "Tony Stewart Live" from Graceland on Monday from 8-10pm ET/7-9pm CT.


XM Radio Mobile for BlackBerry on Facebook (but what about XM Radio?)

XMRO on Facebook
Last week, XM started a page for XM Radio Mobile for BlackBerry. It's a neat page, with some quick styling, you can check it out here.

Having a Facebook page is a simple and useful social media engagement tool. Afterall, when someone becomes a "fan" they don't just give you their name, or permission to contact them, but they're also giving you a rich visceral understanding of who they are. On top of that, they're announcing to all their friends that they love your service/product.

So what about regular ol' XM Radio?

I couldn't find a Facebook page for the bread 'n butter of XM. (If someone knows better than me, please let me know.) It seems odd to me that XMRM for BlackBerry would have a page, but not XM themselves. I don't want this to be a bash-fest, it's just surprising since XM has been quite cutting edge with their social media strategy. And considering how easy it is to setup a Facebook page, this seems like a no brainer.

Sirius on Facebook
Sirius has their own Facebook page, complete with over 700 fans. They added a video, and have some activity on the page as well. You can check it out here.
And... what about an Orbitcast page on Facebook?

Well, to make sure practice what I preach, I created one this morning. :) You can check it out here - complete with a fancier new logo.

UPDATE: Apparently that Sirius page isn't an official one. I should have read the overview a little better (it's actually in the screen capture above... ouch). Oh well, kudos to jeff for taking the initiative.


XM, Sirius aren't the only ones playing in Traffic

Nooo! Traffic!Sirius and XM introduced their real-time traffic services in 2004, but even though they were fairly early to the game, they're definitely not the only ones focusing on the space.

Last week a group of broadcast corporations - comprised of Cox Radio, Entercom, Bonneville, Emmis, Beasley, Greater Media, Radio One, and NPR - formed a joint venture called the Broadcaster Traffic Consortium. The goal? To help monetize the HD Radio spectrum (which is in dire need of monetization). And they're working with NAVTEQ to make it happen.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Microsoft Research laboratories spent the last five years developing a complex software model to avoid traffic jams, called Clearflow.

Clearflow will be freely available as part of Live Maps, with support for 72 cities. It doesn't just reroute you around traffic jams, because in some cases rerouting off the highway can send you into even more congested areas. Instead, Clearflow will figure out whether its worthwhile to stick it out on the freeway, rather than taking a detour.

Of course Clearflow was created to help Live.com compete with Google, but how long before Microsoft applies the Clearflow technology to MSN Direct?

MSN Direct has snuggled up with Garmin over the years, and the folks at Redmond have even partnered with Clear Channel to deliver MSN Direct HD over - you guessed it - the HD Radio spectrum (note that Clear Channel isn't part of the consortium).

And then there's the ICO mim service - which yesterday enjoyed a successful launch of their ICO G1 satellite - that will be going online in the near future with a trial service. Their setup will be similar to Sirius and XM, using a hybrid satellite and terrestrial network (as opposed to HD Radio's pure terrestrial setup). ICO is still in its infancy when compared to these other technologies, but shouldn't be discounted either.

The bottom line is that the current solution for avoiding traffic congestion (i.e., listening to your local radio station) is a subpar one to say the least. By the time an accident is mentioned on the radio, it's usually too late. And the daily commuter will be more than happy to plunk down a few bucks a month when they're stuck in a mile-long jam.

Don't get me wrong, Sirius/XM were pretty darn smart in seeing this need and getting a shoe-in with automakers nearly 4 years ago. But this is still extremely new technology as far as the consumer goes. And as a need arises, there will be plenty of companies willing to profit from fulfilling it.


Satellite Radio awareness flat, but 1 in 6 say "likely" to subscribe

Arbitron and Edison Media Research studyEven though most of the news surrounding Sirius and XM revolves around the merger, a recent Arbitron and Edison Media Research study, "Infinite Dial: Radio's Digital Platforms" (PDF) found that awareness has remained flat for the past three years.

Indeed, while Sirius has remained relatively stable between 60-61% awareness, XM saw awareness rise to 64% in the beginning of 2007, only to drop back down to 59% in January 2008.

Now everyone always wants to see these numbers grow. But this is reenforcement of something I've been talking about for a while: there's a natural limitation to the number of people who will ever "pay for radio."

In other words, those who care about satellite radio, know about it. And those who don't... well, they don't know about it. I'm not spinning this, because when it comes to media, you always want more awareness. But I doubt that other 40% would be apt to convert into a subscriber.

Which brings me to the next slide...Arbitron and Edison Media Research study

Among the respondents who aren't already satellite subscribers, 1 in 6 said they would be "likely" to subscribe. A mere 2% said "very likely" while another 14% said they'd be "somewhat likely" - while a whopping 84% said they're "not at all likely" to sign up in the next 12 months.

Now in my opinion, that 84% are terrestrial radio's bread and butter. They're the ones who will opt for free over pay no-matter-what. The problem is, they're also mighty fickle.

Opie & Anthony's contract for only 1-year


Opie and Anthony

Following last week's announcement that Opie & Anthony have renewed their contract with CBS, Orbitcast has learned that the length of time for the renewal was for only 1-year.

Gregg "Opie" Hughes on the air today inadvertently mentioned that the contract was renewed for a year, a statement that was also confirmed with Orbitcast sources.

The reason? Why else: because of the pending merger with Sirius.

The merger agreement allows either company to only make certain long-term contractual agreements without the need for the other company's Board approval, and programming agreements are not one of them, according to sources.

It's a safe assumption that CBS and Opie & Anthony wanted a longer term, but that likely won't be possible while this merger is still pending. After the merger is consummated, then any contractual agreements can be revisited, but we need to cross that bridge first.


ICO satellite launch today

ICO G1 LaunchICO Global Communications will be launching its G1 satellite from Cape Canaveral today.

It's not only the largest satellite ever launched by an Atlas rocket, but the ICO G1 is one of the largest commercial satellites ever built and is specifically designed to deliver signals to mobile and portable devices.

If the launch is successful, ICO will be the first mobile satellite services provider to become operational, and the first to deploy DVB-SH (digital video broadcast - satellite-to-handheld) technology in the United States.

There will be a live webcast of the launch starting at 3:40pm ET - the launch window is from 4:12pm - 5:12pm EST - so check it out. If the launch slips, they'll start it up again tomorrow at around the same time.


XM's POTUS at grand opening of Newseum building

XM at the Newseum
The Newseum
, the Washington DC museum devoted to news and journalism, played host to XM's POTUS '08 channel on Friday, during the grand opening of the Newseum's $450 million building on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The POTUS '08 (ch 130) anchors could be found broadcasting live from an XM broadcast booth on the main floor of the museum as thousands of tourists poured through the doors (and picked up XM swag and XMRO promotions along the way).

The Newseum is sponsored by the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to "free press, free speech and free spirit for all people." The original Newseum was opened in 1997 in nearby Rosslyn, Virginia., but the Freedom Forum decided to move the Newseum across the Potomac River to Washington, and closed the original facility in 2002.

The new 643,000-square-foot Newseum has an enormous "window on the world" looking onto Pennsylvania Avenue and the National Mall. Overlooking the street is a giant panel with the 45 words of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution carved in stone. Inside, the Newseum has seven floors of displays, 15 theaters, a dozen major galleries, two broadcast studios, and an interactive newsroom.

One of the cooler displays is the "Today's Front Pages Gallery," where more than 500 newspapers transmit their front pages electronically to the Newseum each day. Additional front pages are displayed outside the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue.  You can also see them here.

Another cool exhibits? There's eight 12-foot-high concrete sections of the Berlin Wall, each weighing about three tons. And a three-story East German guard tower from Berlin stands nearby.

Pictured above: U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., interviewed by Linda Douglass, National Journal contributing editor and host of the POTUS '08 show "National Journal On Air."

Check out more photos after the jump...


Send in the clowns: Georgetown, NPR meet with FCC

Johnathan AdelsteinSigns of growing Commissioner involvement in the FCC's deliberations over the proposed merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. continue to become evident as two organizations met with Adelstein's offices in recent days.

National Public Radio (NPR) met with Commissioner Adelstein directly, on April 8th, to discuss their positions on the pending merger.

NPR discussed with Adelstein possible conditions for the merger, including requiring the inclusion of terrestrial HD Radio reception capability in Satellite Radio receiving equipment.

Meanwhile, on the following day, Georgetown Partners met with Rudy Brioché, Legal Advisor for Media Issues to Adelstein. The discussion was "consistent with its filings previously submitted" to the Commission over the Sirius-XM merger.

On April 1st, a week prior, Georgetown's Chester Davenport and the Rev. Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition both met with Democratic Commissioners Adelstein and Copps to highlight "the need for diversity" in the FCC's decision process.

NPR is a content partner for Sirius, providing two channels exclusively to the satellite radio provider. Despite this fact, NPR has historically been vehemently opposed to the Sirius-XM merger, stating that a merged entity "might reduce the amount and quality of public radio programming" available on satellite radio.

[View FCC filings: 1, 2 (PDF)]


Orbitcast Radio: Tune in this Friday, April 11 @ 8pm ET/5pm PT

Orbitcast Radio
It's that time to tune into Orbitcast Radio again. We've got a ton of things to talk about, including the incredible events from today, earlier on in the week, and much more.

Listen live this Friday, April 11th at 8pm ET/5pm PT. Remember, there's a full chat room where listeners can interact while the show is going on (plus, if I can swing it, there might even be a surprise feature this week... no promises though).

And thanks to you guys, Orbitcast Radio continues to be a featured show on the BlogTalkRadio network. So I appreciate you tuning in and helping us grow!


UPDATE: Help me, help you. I'm curious if this whole "Friday night" thing is a good timeslot to do the show. So let's put it to a vote: if there's a better day when you could listen to Orbitcast Radio (like maybe the weekend?) then let's hear it.

Opie & Anthony renew contract with CBS

Opie and Anthony on CBS Radio Opie and Anthony have renewed their contract with CBS Radio to continue to broadcast their morning radio show on both CBS and XM Satellite Radio.

"We are both very excited to be re-signing with CBS Radio," said Opie & Anthony in a statement. "Hosting morning drive on K-Rock in New York City has been a career highlight, and when you add in WBCN/Boston and WKRK/Cleveland it makes it even more special and fulfilling.

"That said ... we look forward to our next firing with great anticipation."

"CBS Radio is excited to be able to continue this unique partnership with Opie and Anthony," said CBS Radio VP of programming Chris Oliviero, "They have accomplished the rare radio feat of not only dominating afternoon drive but now bringing that same level of ratings success to the ultra competitive morning drive slot. We are thrilled to have O & A on our stations."

Terms and the length of the deal were not disclosed.

[via AllAccess, Radio & Records]
Thanks to everyone who sent this in!


Audio: Listen to Artie attack Teddy and resign from Stern Show

Artie LangeHoward 100 apparently is not replaying today's show where Artie resigned, instead they're replaying a show from the beginning of the week. To my knowledge, this is the first time that Sirius/Howard has done this.

But thanks to the awesome power of the internets, you can listen to the audio from today's Howard Stern Show, and hear Artie freak out from the comfort of your chair.
"Your job is to stay under control," said Howard Stern in the heated exchange with Artie Lange.

"And then I can't do my job... I can't guarantee you that won't do that again," replied Lange.

Stern: "Well then you can't be here."

Lange: "Then I won't be here anymore."

Stern: "You can't Art... you can't act that way."

Lange: "Howard I love you, but I can't do it anymore... I'm an out of control person"

Stern: "Alright, then you can't be here... If you can't control throwing things at people..."

Lange: "I resign, I'm sorry, I can't do it anymore."

"Then I accept," replied Stern.

Listen to the full audio below:

(WARNING: Explicit language, so put on your headphones if you're at work.)

UPDATE: The original audio apparently stopped working, so I've updated with a clip supplied via YouTube. Enjoy.

Photo Credit: HowardStern.com

Panic at the Disco takes over on XM this Sunday

Panic at the DiscoFresh off their appearance on "Saturday Night Live" last weekend, Panic At the Disco will take over on XM Radio's modern rock/alt channel, Ethel, this Sunday for a special edition of the show "Offsite."

The band will play some of their favorite bands and songs, and talk about their new album "Pretty. Odd." (MP3 album here). "Pretty. Odd." debuted in the U.S. at #2, selling 139,000 copies in its first week. While speaking to MTV, the band's co-founder Ryan Ross explained that the album "sounded like a film score" and that the new songs have "a more positive outlook to them."

The hour-long "Offsite" show will air this Sunday, April 13th at 10pm ET/7pm PT on Ethel (ch 47).


Artie Lange walks off Stern Show (will he be back?)

Artie LangeArtie Lange walked out on the Howard Stern Show after an argument with his personal assistant on the air, and now the question remains whether he will ever return.

The argument between Lange, who joined the show permanently in 2001, and his assistant of 2 years, Teddy, quickly escalated from a simple squabble over travel accommodations.

As the spat continued, Lange became enraged and physically lashed out at Teddy, but the physical confrontation was apparently diffused by other members in the studio.

When Lange returned, he said Teddy would be "dead" had he reached him and that he'd be in jail.

Stern said he cannot condone Lange's actions, but Artie (who's been prone to such outbursts) said he can't guarantee he won't act out in the future.

Artie then offered his resignation, and Stern accepted but told Lange to leave and cool off.

Teddy returned to the studio several minutes later and said there was overreacting from everyone. Howard Stern and producer Gary Dell'Abate said they "did not know what to make of it all."

[via Newsday; Read discussion at SternFanNetwork]

UPDATE: If you missed the show, you can listen to audio of Artie's outbreak here.

Photo Credit: HowardStern.com


XM/Bob Dylan Feature: Vanity Fair peers inside Dylan's brain

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Inside Dylan's Brain
In what can only be described as one of the most amazing and revealing glimpses ever at the recent Pulitzer Prize-winner, the May issue of Vanity Fair magazine assembled an incredible two-page spread entitled "Inside Dylan's Brain."

Vanity Fair contributor Duff McDonald constructed a fascinating and insightful portrait of Bob Dylan based entirely on his weekly XM show, "Theme Time Radio Hour." He assembled together everything that Dylan has played from the two years worth of shows, from the artists, to the poets, movies, TV shows, history lessons and even Dylan's one-liners.

Even if you're not a Dylan fan, or an XM subscriber, I highly recommend reading this article and for a bonus check out the large version of the picture shown above.

[Vanity Fair]

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Open Access advocacy continues to grow (and bloggers are cited)


Open Satellite Radio Devices

U.S. Electronics (USE) is continuing to encourage the FCC to have an "open device" mandate when considering approval for the Sirius-XM merger.

In an ex parte filing made public today, USE cites recent articles from The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, as well as blog posts from Public Knowledge, SiriusBuzz, and yes, even Orbitcast.

Here's a snippet from the LA Times article, which pretty much sums it up nicely:
"...the FCC should require the same kind of openness from XM and Sirius as it has started demanding from some wireless companies. It should direct the merged company to open its service to any manufacturer wanting to build compatible devices, and then let customers make their own choices."
-- March 31, The Los Angeles Times
Sadly, my last name was spelled wrong in the filing, so I can't show my kids when they get older "look, daddy was in an ex parte filing!" But, don't worry, that doesn't change my stance on the issue.

All rib jabbing aside, I firmly do believe that having an open access policy - as long as the devices comply to 'do-no-harm' and authentication requirements - would not only be beneficial to consumers, but ultimately to the companies themselves.

[View FCC Filing (PDF)]

Sirius-XM Merger: FCC Commissioner meeting last week

Kevin MartinAccording to recent filings with the Federal Communications Commission, representatives from Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. continue to meet regularly with top officials at the agency, indicating a final decision could be near.

On March 28th, two weeks ago, counsel for Sirius and XM met with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, along with the Chairman's Chief of Staff Daniel Gonzalez, and Martin's Senior Legal Advisor Michelle Carey.

Another FCC filing (PDF) reveals that on April 2nd, last Wednesday, again representatives from both satellite radio companies met with Chairman Kevin Martin, Michelle Carey, and Catherine Bohigian.

These recent meetings most likely aren't much of a surprise. But it's the most recent meeting, last week, that could be prove to be of greater significance.

Last Friday, Richard E. Wiley of Wiley Rein LLP, counsel for Sirius, met with Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate to discuss "pending issues raised in recent filings." This is actually the first direct meeting between the companies and an FCC Commissioner this year (indeed, after sifting through dozens of records, I couldn't find a single instance where reps from either Sirius or XM met with a Commissioner). 

Of course, reading the tea leaves with this merger has proved to be a fairly futile effort, so it's difficult to characterize this as an indication that an FCC decision is "imminent." It's been "imminent" since last fall. But the fact that Commissioners are now directly meeting with the companies themselves holds some weight that can't be ignored.

[View the FCC filing (PDF)]


XM sponsors RS*R Scion tC drift car

XM RS*R Scion tCXM will be sponsoring the RS*R Scion tC in Formula Drift events this year.

Scion's drift car is based on its most popular model: the tC sports coupe. But this isn't any regular ol' tC kids. This Scion was converted from front-wheel drive to a rear-wheel drive to make it a true drifting contender. Exhaust and suspension manufacturer RS*R used its performance shop to transform the tC's stock transverse engine to a longitudinal setup, driving power directly to the rear wheels.

"This sponsorship of the RS*R Scion tC in Formula Drift events is an extension of our support in the racing community and our relationship with Scion," said Joe Verbrugge, senior VP of XM's automotive partnerships and international operations. "XM loves racing, and we're thrilled to join Scion's involvement in this cutting-edge motorsport."  

The RS*R Scion tC, which is also sponsored by Toyo Tires, Rogue Status, BASF, Sparco, Enkei, AEM, Proceed and Meguiar's, will make its first appearance at Formula Drift's Round 1, Streets of Long Beach in California this Friday, April 12th.

XM displays will be at each event alongside the Scion/Toyo Pit area, featuring prize giveaways and live XM listening stations.

Photos available after the jump...


Bear Stearns: FCC approval in 2-4 weeks


The merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. could likely see approval from the FCC within 2-4 weeks, says analyst Robert Peck at Bear Stearns.

Additionally, Peck says that investors may be too concerned over spectrum divestiture.

"One of the concerns is that the FCC may ask Sirius/XM to divest one set of spectrum," writes Peck in a client note this morning. "However, given this will result in significant dislocation for millions of existing [subscribers], and limited possibility of another potential satellite radio play, we do not think spectrum divestiture is likely."

"We believe FCC approval is likely over the next 2-4 weeks and conditions could include providing limited carriage to other content providers, a la carte, as well as pricing caps for a specified period of time."

Peck noted that the FCC is meeting on April 10th, but satellite radio is not on the agenda.


Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Cafe concert on Sirius

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Jimmy Buffettif you can't make the grand opening celebration of the Margaritaville Cafe in Glendale, AZ - no worries, because Radio Margaritaville will make you feel like you're in the front seat.

This Wednesday, Radio Margaritaville (ch 31) host Miles Hampton will broadcast a live pre-show party from the concert. Following the party, listeners will be treated to special concert performance with guitarist Mac MacAnally celebrating the grand opening of the Margaritaville Cafe.

The pre-show party kicks off on April 9th starting at 6pm ET, and concert performance starts at 9pm ET. Sit back, pour yourself something tall 'n strong and enjoy the show.

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Slacker inks publishing deals with major music labels



Slacker has finalized publishing agreements with major music labels so it now "officially" has the content rights allowing users of its online service to transfer songs onto Slacker Portable Radio Players.

The publishing license agreements, which were completed prior to the availability of Slacker Portables, also enable Slacker Premium Service customers to transfer songs and replay them whenever they want.

EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group and Warner/Chappell Music are all working with Slacker radio. They even were kind enough to throw in some quotes for the press release, so you know they're especially happy about this deal. (And, I suppose, anything that helps chip away at Apple's digital music dominance will make the RIAA happy nowadays.)


NAB spent $9 million on lobbying in 2007

David RehrThe National Associations of Broadcasters spent nearly $9 million to lobby Capitol Hill in 2007, according to the Senate's public records office.

That's more than 3-times what Sirius and XM spent on lobbying last year.

The difference, of course, is that a chunk of that money was to argue that the NAB didn't in fact compete with satellite radio. A rather self-defeating argument in my opinion (and the DOJ apparently agreed).

To be fair though, the NAB also used a portion of that lobbying fund to argue against the use of unused TV channels, known as white spaces, for high-speed internet (because who needs more internet in this day and age, when you could have... nothing, instead). They also lobbied over issues related to radio royalties and media ownership.

The first-half of 2007 saw a lobbying spend of $4.3 million, while the second-half saw an increase to $4.6 million.



ICO G1 Satellite prepares for launch

ICO G1 SatelliteICO Global Communications is in the final phases of preparing for the launch of its ICO G1 satellite, scheduled for one-week from today.

Last week, the company received its grant from the FCC for a milestone extension reflecting the planned launch date. Under the revised milestones, ICO is to launch the satellite by April 15th, and have its mobile satellite services (MSS) systems operational by May 15th. 

The ICO G1 satellite was mated to its Atlas V launch vehicle (pictured) on April 2nd and the launch is scheduled for next Monday (April 14th) from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

"A week from today we will launch one of the largest commercial satellites ever built," commented Tim Bryan, chief executive officer of ICO.

The geosynchronous ICO G1 Satellite is based on a Loral 1300 standard satellite platform - the same design that Sirius and XM's latest satellites are based off of. It has an expected service life of 15-years and features a 12-meter antenna that focuses the 2 GHz signals on North America.

The service, ICO mim, is scheduled to be commercially available sometime next year. It'll offer features like real-time traffic and weather, roadside assistance/messaging (think OnStar but satellite-powered), and most notably live audio/video content.

(Due to spam, I'm closing comments to this post. Sorry.)


Imeem acquires Snocap

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imeemMusic social network Imeem has acquired Snocap, the struggling digital rights company founded by Napster creator Shawn Fanning.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though its believed to be less than $5 million. That's a ridiculous discount to the $25 million that investors (including Morgenthaler Ventures, WaldenVC, and Court Square Ventures) sunk into Snocap.

Imeem, which uses Snocap technology, is gaining the firm's content identification technology and a digital registry, as well as its COO. Snocap's CEO Rusty Rueff is moving on.

Snocap's technology matches digital music to its database of 7 million songs, which then lets Imeem figure out how to allocate portions of its advertising revenues to the music companies who own the copyrights to the songs.

Snocap has been on the chopping block for some time, so it's not necessarily indicative of a massive downward trend. But it's another example of how the business model for digital music - even those that are fairly useful - still has yet to be worked out. And why some of these artificially bloated VC-funded companies haven't quite figured out that whole "sustainable" piece yet.

I'm not saying that Internet Radio isn't a threat to the big-bad broadcast infrastructure. Of course it is, and a looming one at that. But many of these companies haven't quite discovered the business model yet.

And there's still plenty of opportunity to get in on the action.

[TechCrunch, paidContent]
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Greenstein & E-Lo explain the theory behind Microchannels

XM / Sirius
Many passionate subscribers to Sirius and XM have criticized the company's for the "microchannel," or "pop-up channel" strategy - channels focused purely on a single artist or theme for a period of time.

But there must be a reason why they've continued to do these, and a recent article in the Washington Post gives us a bit of a glimpse into the theory behind this seemly new technique.

Take, for instance, Client 9 Radio:
"The Spitzer story was so in the zeitgeist of the country for a minute," says Scott Greenstein, president of entertainment and sports at Sirius told WaPo. "We try to be the ultimate aggregator."

Or even POTUS '08 (which, I'd argue, isn't a "micro" channel at all):
"There is a massive appetite for what's hot at the moment," says Eric Logan (E-Lo), XM's executive VP for programming. "We're trying to reflect the mood of current culture in a way nobody else can. Right now, the core appetite is for the presidential campaign, and we have Fox and CNN channels that cover that, but we wondered if we could take them deeper."

But what about the music channels? What about those "artist only" channels (such as XM Thriller, Rolling Stones Radio, Strait Country, or E Street Radio) that seem to be popping up more frequently than ever?

"When you look back, if you're north of 30 or 35, we bought records or went to a concert and it would move you, and for the next few days, you really mainly wanted to listen to that artist," Greenstein says.

So, in other words, the timing of these artist-only channels isn't meant to be just a promotional tool for those artists - which it clearly is - but also an extension of the music experience. A way for those dedicated fanbases to surround themselves with the full experience beyond simply hitting 'play.'

"People don't want to constantly aggregate and update an iPod," Greenstein added. "We're creating channels that aren't just jukeboxes, but are produced artistically, with interviews, live performances and archived material."

And while we don't know - for sure - the popularity of these channels, XM's Logan says that the more successful short-term formats match and even exceed the audience for some of the company's most popular regular channels.

Some of XM's most successful microchannels have been built around holidays: Radio Hanukkah, XM Green, Car-B-Q, etc.

I'd like to add that it's possible for these micro/pop-up, channels to coexist with the standard lineup. But there's only so many times you can preempt someone's favorite music channel with dedicated (and seemingly unrelated) content before they give up on the service. Keep the channels separate - or, simply enough, create a single channel meant just for this type of vertical content. Let your listeners have their cake and eat it too.

[Washington Post]


Jensen Rock 'n Road GPS/XM Radio review


This is a guest post by Mario Rubio reviewing the Jensen Rock 'n Road personal navigation device. You can read more from Mario at Brewed For Thought.

Hey folks. Normally I write about beer at my blog Brewed For Thought but I'm also a big fan of Satellite Radio, specifically XM. I recently had a MyFi installed in my wife's car and began experiencing problems with my power supply, so I used this as an excuse to buy her the unit she's been dropping hints about: the XM-Ready, Jensen Rock 'N' Road GPS Receiver.

When you open the box, you'll find your typical assortment of battery, cheap carrying case, remote control, headphones, windshield mounting bracket, home and car charger and USB cable. There's a quick start guide and a CD with the Manual stored via PDF. There's also what appears to be an antenna for either the GPS or XM, but this is simply a connector with 6" of wire. I threw it away. I immediately put the unit on the home charger and headed to the car to get my wiring set up.

Jensen Rock 'n Road review
After doing all my necessary work, I went back inside to start the unit and play with it a little.  I turned it on and went to the Navigation program. The load time on this program is a little long and requires you to touch the screen to move forward. A little annoying, but seems fairly standard with in-car options. Even though I was inside, the unit found my location and saving my home address was fairly straight forward. I added a few other addresses and when entering these directly, found the predictive text to be very helpful.  More on address/POI searches later. It was time to get into the car and fire up the XM.


Alltel gets more XM Radio Mobile channels

XM Radio Mobile
XM Radio Mobile listeners on Alltel Wireless have recently received an update to their lineup, bringing the total number of channels available to 25.

Alltell Wireless was the first wireless carrier to add XM Radio Mobile to its offering, and at the time they had a total of 20 channels available. Now Alltell customers can enjoy fan-favorites such as The Heart, XM Hitlist, Lucy, Chrome, The Groove, US Country & Caliente.

The services runs for $7.99 a month, but if you're looking for a quick music fix check out Alltel's XM Radio Mobile "Day Pass" which runs just $1.99 for 24 hours.

[XM Radio Mobile]


XM launching "Papal U.S. Visit 08" channel

XM, like Sirius, is launching a six-day channel devoted to the Pope Benedict XVI's historic visit to the United States.

The channel, aptly named "Papal U.S. Visit '08," will air on XM channel 120 (XM Live) from April 15th to April 20th.

"Papal U.S. Visit '08" was created in conjunction with the EWTN Global Catholic Network which will provide comprehensive coverage of Pope Benedict's visit for subscribers. Expect to hear news and commentary as the Pope travels to Washington, D.C. and New York City.

On-site coverage by EWTN will include the masses at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., St. Patrick's Cathedral and Yankee Stadium in New York, as well as the Pope's visits to the White House, United Nations, Ground Zero, and the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center.


Flytunes adds NPR and more music: Now over 160 channels



When the FlyTunes service was first unveiled at CES, it had only 50 channels to offer users. Now, a few months later, FlyTunes has received an injection of new content bringing its number of channels to more than 160 channels consisting of new sports, talk, weather and a myriad of music genres.

The free service (which pre-loads Internet Radio content onto your iPhone or iPod Touch) now includes programming from Radio Paradise, SmoothJazz.com, RauteMusik.fm, and 53 music channels from 181.fm.

In the talk category, FlyTunes has added on NPR - yes, NPR - as well as sports content from TheScore.com, and even local weather in the top 15 U.S. markets.

FlyTunes says they've signed on "hundreds of thousands" of users since their January launch, and that the average FlyTunes iPhone user listens for about 8-hours per month. Not too shabby since they're still in their infancy. And now with the channel count rivaling that of either satellite radio service, iPhone/iPod owners have yet another reason why they don't need Sirius or XM.



John Kerry asks Kevin Martin not to rush through merger decision

John Kerry
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), wrote an open letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, urging him not to rush the approval of the merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. and to very closely consider the matter.

It's a funny statement, considering that it has been over 380 days since the companies filed their merger application with the FCC, but Kerry feels that "serious concerns remain as to how this merger will impact consumers if it is permitted to go forward."

Kerry recognizes that "the financial incentives to consolidate are indisputable" for Sirius and XM, but that it "does not follow however that it would be in the public interest for these two competing entities to merger."

The former presidential hopeful added that "if left unchecked, the entity that would emerge from this partnership would be capable of exercising monopolistic powers that could potentially result in diminished service at increased rates to consumers."

Kerry additionally asked Martin to "resist rubber stamping the Justice Department's determination that sufficient competition exists. Should the FCC determine that this merger does indeed serve the public interest, I urge you to consider appropriate conditions that will effectively protect the American consumer from what could prove to be an entity with strong monopoly power."

The Senator also pointed out that he is a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee (which oversees the FCC along with the House Energy & Commerce Committee) and said he will keep his eye on the Commission to make sure that it serves the public interest.



REM to headline XM's "Offsite" this Sunday

REM is really pulling out all the stops when it comes to promoting their 14th studio album Accelerate. The band will be headlining XM's "Offsite" with an hour of song performances from their new album, plus an in-depth interview with Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Peter Buck. 

They pulled a bit of an April Fools prank on Wednesday when REM "interrupted" six XM channels (Flight 26, XMU, Fred, Ethel, Lucy, and Squizz) around 5:15pm ET with a sneak preview of performances from the "Offsite" special.

Recorded in the band's hometown of Athens, GA, "REM Offsite" will air this Sunday, April 6th at 10pm ET on Ethel (ch 47). Offsite, which features conversations with and performances by current artists recorded on location across the country, airs weekly on Ethel.


Sirius celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month

John Coltrane
Sirius Satellite Radio is paying homage to the seventh annual Jazz Appreciation Month with a dedicated programming lineup for the entire month of April.

Sirius' month-long celebration of jazz will feature artists like Kenny G, Gary Burton, Al Jarreau, Jon Faddis, Spyro Gyra and others.  Sirius will also include countdowns of the top jazz trumpeters, saxophonists and pianists as well as special tributes to great jazz legends John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus.

Click the jump to see highlights from Sirius' Jazz Appreciation Month programming on Jazz Cafe (ch 71) and Pure Jazz (ch 72).


"Thanks" to our sponsors!

Just a quick note, I'd like to give a special thanks to Orbitcast's sponsors for making this site possible. Please show them your appreciation for supporting us by visiting them and checking out what they have to offer:

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These sponsors show their support for Orbitcast and help make this site happen. If you enjoy what you read here everyday, please take the time to return the favor.



Jesse Jackson, Chester Davenport meet with FCC Commissioners

Chester Davenport, Jesse JacksonOn April Fools Day, Chester Davenport and Reverend Jesse Jackson met with the two Democrat FCC Commissioners, among others, to discuss their proposal for divesting the broadcast infrastructure of Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., according to a recent ex parte filing.

Specifically those in attendance at the meeting were Chester C. Davenport, Founder and Managing Director of Georgetown Partners; Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Founder and President, Rainbow PUSH Coalition; and Kimberly Marcus, Rainbow PUSH Coalition. From the FCC Commissioner Adelstein, Commissioner Copps, Rudy Brioché, Rick Chessen and Scott Deutchman were in the meeting.

In addition to discussing the forced leasing of spectrum to Georgetown Partners, Jackson and Davenport also discussed the DOJ's decision not to block the Sirius-XM merger. Georgetown stating that "the decision is contrary to years of well-established law in the antitrust area, as well as sound public and economic policies."

They added that the Justice Department's decision "rewards Sirius and XM for their failure to honor the commitment they made to the Commission to develop and market an interoperable radio capable of receiving both Sirius and XM."

In an earlier filing (PDF) made public last week, Georgetown detailed that the public interest, in their opinion, would be achieved by requiring that "[a] minimum of 20 percent of the total satellite DARS capacity and access to the requisite infrastructure" be made available to an independent party, such as Georgetown.

Georgetown continued to propose that the lease be "privately negotiated or imposed at commercially acceptable terms" that would compensate Sirius-XM while prohibiting any control or influence over the competitor or the competitor's programs.

At the recent meeting with Copps and Adelstein, Georgetown said they are prepared to be "a viable competitor" to a merged Sirius and XM, as well as satisfy "the need for diversity."

Both Adelstein and Copps have long felt that diversity in media, or lack thereof, is a sore point in the FCC's current policy. There's no question that Georgetown Partners, with the backing of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, brings "diversity" to the table (though, it must be noted that top executives at XM - including current CEO, Nate Davis and Chief Marketing Officer, Vernon Irvin - represent diversity that we don't see in the rest of the industry).

One has to question though... how is Georgetown Partners otherwise "prepared" to be this viable competitor? Aside from being a minority-owned, private-equity firm that analyzes FCC regulated communications markets "for opportunities to extend minority ownership and control," (their own words) - what other qualifications do they bring to the table?

[View FCC Filing (PDF)]


Spring Football on XM this Saturday

Geaux TigersAh yes, it's springtime. The flowers are sprouting, the birds are chirping, and sports fans are dreaming about... college football?

Yep. Spring football games are a big tradition for many college programs across the country.  The coach divides the football team into two teams for a scrimmage, and the hardcore fans turn out in droves to get a preview of the new team.

This Saturday, XM will carry the 2008 spring game for the defending national champion LSU Tigers, as well as the annual "G-Day Game" from the University of Georgia, on channel 199.

The Georgia spring game kicks off at 2pm ET/11am PT, and the LSU game starts at 6pm ET/3pm PT.

This month, XM will also air spring football games from Oklahoma State, Illinois, Penn State, Tennessee, and Arkansas. (The Texas Longhorns spring game aired last Saturday.)


Sirius, XM file "greatest hits" with the FCC

Sirius-XM "Greatest Hits"
Sirius and XM have submitted an enormous 209-page filing with the FCC, outlining the "greatest hits" of broad merger support.

It includes support from current/former elected officials, minority interest groups, former FCC Commissioners and staff, family and religious organizations and many more.

The content of the document isn't necessarily anything we haven't seen over the past year or so. What I think is significant here is the pure size of the document, and the obvious amount of effort it took to put it together. To me, it's an obvious indication that we're nearing the end of this whole ordeal.

[View Filing (PDF - Warning, it's huge), via SiriusBuzz]


Report: MySpace Music to launch in days


MySpace MusicThe rumors that MySpace is teaming up with the big labels are looking to be true. Reuters is reporting that MySpace will unveil a joint music venture with at least three major music companies within 5 days.

News Corp (which owns MySpace), Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group will each have a stake in the venture, say Reuters sources.

TechCrunch has confirmed through their own sources that MySpace has settled their lawsuit with Universal. Meanwhile, Silicon Alley Insider has more details in that Universal will receive "a 'huge' cash payment in return for settling the 2006 lawsuit, perhaps in the $100 million range."

"It's really creating a robust monetization component to MySpace and having a focused music effort that could be the MTV of a new generation," said a music industry executive to Reuters who asked not to be identified before the deal is formally announced.

MySpace to become the "new MTV"? As long as MySpace doesn't lose its way (like MTV did), this could pose to be a very significant development in the world of music discovery for future generations. It's up to the execs over at Sirius and XM (and the entire radio industry in general) to make sure they're part of that movement.

[Reuters, TechCrunch, SAI]

UPDATE: PaidContent has more details on the actual service:
  • Downloads will be DRM-free
  • Video/audio streaming will be ad-supported
  • Store will include merchandise and ticketing
  • With 30 million uniques monthly and 5 million bands on the site "we're not starting from scratch, it's a big heads start."
  • Not just for major music companies, but will be ways for unsigned artists to sign on.
  • There will be a mobile content solution as well. (important)
  • Pricing? Competitive with iPod? MySpace knows they're playing to an iPod-dominated base. DeWolfe: "Our intent is to make this content very portable and to give our users access to the content in the format that they want. To whatever extent we can leverage our environment via iPods, we'll look to do that."
This is very significant in terms of music industry. Remember, this is a joint venture with the three largest record labels (and possibly soon to include EMI, that's up to EMI to decide apparently). Whatever opportunities the RIAA feels they missed out on with online music - be it the original Napster, or now Apple iTunes - they're going to want to make up ground a lot of lost ground. This will be their avenue.


NHL Playoffs start on XM next Wednesday

NHL on XMThe 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs will air live starting Wednesday, April 9th on XM channels 204 through 209.

Pierre McGuire is joining the XM team of hosts and analysts on NHL Home Ice (ch 204), which includes Hall of Famer Phil Esposito, Gary Green, Denis Potvin, Bill Clement, Jim Tatti, Scott Laughlin, Jamie Shalley, Bob McKenzie, Don LaGreca, and E.J. Hradek.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman hosts the show "NHL Hour" on NHL Home Ice. Commissioner Bettman and a rotation of NHL executives talk with fans across the U.S. and Canada on Thursdays 4-5 pm ET.

Esposito, who co-hosts the show "In the Slot" with Tatti weekdays 3-6 pm ET on NHL Home Ice, will announce his third annual Espo Awards on Monday, April 7th. Esposito will announce awards for the 2007-08 NHL season, such as Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year, Top Rookie, Toughest Player and even Most Difficult Name to Pronounce. Each year, the awards are chosen by Esposito and his XM panel of hockey analysts.

Check out the full NHL schedule on XM here.


Device Interoperability debate brought to forefront with DOJ decision


Interoperable Satellite Radios
A recent article in the Associated Press has brought the debate about device interoperability to the forefront of the discussion over the Justice Department's merger approval.

Interoperable radios, devices that can receive both satellite radio services, isn't a new point of deliberation in the satrad-circles. During the summer of last year, Michael Hartleib suggested to the FCC that these interoperable (or "dual mode") radios are already available on the market. His suspicions were that the additional functionality of interoperable operation could be turned on via an over-the-air firmware update. These uncertainties have never been confirmed by either Sirius or XM.

But interoperability, or lack thereof, was one of the many factors that the DOJ cited as part of not choosing to block the merger.

The DOJ said "there has never been significant competition" between the companies for customers who already subscribed to one of the services. While Sirius and XM "made some efforts" to develop an interoperable radio, it said that "no such inter-operable radio is on the market and that such a radio likely would not be introduced in the near term."

"The parties did in fact develop an inter-operable radio and my understanding is they have one," Thomas O. Barnett, assistant attorney general for antitrust at the Justice Department, told the AP. "But there's a difference between developing something and market acceptance of something."

"We've developed it, we've lived up to our license. There's not a question," Mel Karmazin  told a House subcommittee. Karmazin

The companies argue that there is nothing in the 1997 FCC license that says such a radio has to be subsidized and brought to market.

"The reason we will not subsidize it today (is) because it's possible that Sirius would subsidize an inter-operable radio which would result in XM getting a subscription," Karmazin told Rep. Ed Markey, R-Mass., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Internet. "It doesn't make any sense for us to subsidize a radio where we don't get a subscription."

Whether or not interoperable radios are already on the market, as Hartleib contests is the case, is difficult to truly prove for certain. And I'm not sure that it even matters at this point. The DOJ has ruled. And the agency cited the lack of interoperability as only a part of its investigation.

"We focused on what was actually happening in the marketplace and what was likely to happen in the marketplace going forward," said Barnett. So whether or not they can receive both services isn't material, it's whether they do.

The responsibility now lies at the steps of the Federal Communications Commission. And on November 2nd, the FCC sent extensive requests for documents to both Sirius and XM, including a request for them to "provide a description of all efforts to develop and commercialize inter-operable satellite radio receivers and any difficulties in such development and commercialization."

Perhaps we will find out the results of those requests when the Commission makes its decision... whenever that may be.

Thanks Chris!

Derek Jeter and David Ortiz face off in latest XM marketing campaign

Derek Jeter and David Ortiz: Call StarsXM is poking fun at the presidential election race and has created their own "campaign" (get it?) to promote the MLB on XM. If you remember their Call Stars marketing push, think of this as Call Stars 2.0, because this time it's not just a website, but it's also a TV spot.

The new TV spot parodies of election ads with Ortiz campaigning for the "Every Game" platform, while Jeter stumps for "Every Team." The TV spot and online ads are premiering this week.

XM has also kicked off multiple websites dedicated to this campaign: XMbaseball.com, as well as JeterForPresident.com and OrtizForPresident.com - don't get confused though, they all go to the same site.

At any of the links above you can enter in a bunch of info and send your friend a personalized phone call from candidate Ortiz or candidate Jeter. Either one is sure to get a laugh from your friends.

Soon the site will let you upload a photo and create your own bobblehead image complete with your favorite team's uniform. XM will then let your personalized bobblehead star in a campaign video as the running mate for Jeter or Ortiz, and then share it with whoever you want. Pretty cool. They'll take it a step further and let you create a voicemail greeting from the candidates, or download a customized ringtone.

It brings together all the aspects for a successful viral campaign: silly humor, the ability to share (via mobile and online platforms even), and a built-in hardcore fanbase. It's great to see that XM is expanding on this even further.

Watch the TV commercial after the jump...

Slacker Portable Radio expands Wi-Fi access

Slacker Radio

Starting today, the Slacker Portable Radio Player will be allowed to instantly access hundreds of thousands Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide that normally require a password or web-based login.

Slacker has hooked up with Devicescape to enable this functionality. Essentially, Devicescape automates the process of accessing Wi-Fi hotspots so Slacker users can update their personal "radio stations" places like Starbucks and McDonalds.

Current owners of the Slacker Portable Player get the Devicescape functionality through a free firmware update (available today). Simply refresh your stations to automatically update all existing players.

All new Slacker Portable Players will ship enabled with the latest features, of course.


Why the DOJ approved the Sirius-XM merger: Barnett speaks


Department of Justice

After the Department of Justice approved the merger between Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio, they issued a lengthy analysis of why they reached this decision. But many found that "analysis" to be severely lacking because little evidence was given.

Following their approval of the merger, the DOJ held a conference call to explain the decision. I'm not sure if this will satisfy those who'd like to see more evidence by the Justice Department, but it gives a bit more color than the three-page release.

Thomas Barnett According to Broadcasting & Cable, Barnett said that in several areas the parties do not compete, especially for current subscribers who have already purchased the equipment. Given the fact that the radios are not interoperable, he said, people don't switch between services much.

He also said they do not compete in the "most important" distribution channel: the OEM channel.

Barnett said that Sirius and XM have exclusive deals with automakers stretching to 2012, and that after that there will likely be even more competition for in-car audio, including handheld mobile broadband devices as well as AM/FM radio, HD Radio and MP3 players.

They did find some competition in retail that would be eliminated by the merger, but there wasn't enough people who considered the two companies to be the closest substitutes to justify finding that the merger would harm competition or consumers.

When asked whether the DOJ had approved the creation of a monopoly, Barnett said no, that it had not found that the evidence did not support limiting the market for audio entertainment to satellite.

He also said that while Justice took into account possible future competitors given the rapid advance to technology, that was not "one of the core drivers" of the decision.

Even without that assumption, he said, he didn't think Justice would have had a basis for challenging the transaction.

[Broadcasting & Cable via Orbitcast Forums]


XM NavTraffic grows, added to 22 new GM models

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XM NavTraffic on GM vehiclesXM NavTraffic is continuing to grow in vehicle penetration. Today at the 2008 Dallas Auto Show, General Motors revealed that it is adding the satellite-driven data service to many of its vehicles.

GM will add XM NavTraffic across its lineup to provide real-time traffic data to 22 navigation-equipped vehicles in the 2009 model year.

Among the vehicles to offer XM NavTraffic will be some of GM's most popular models, including the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Sierra, Buick Enclave, Saturn Vue and Hummer H2.

All GM models equipped with XM Radio and XM NavTraffic come standard with a 3-month free trial subscription. Click the jump to see close-up photos of the interface...
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March auto sales fall 12 percent

Auto salesMarch auto sales fell 12 percent from a year earlier on an unadjusted basis, thanks to declining consumer confidence, higher fuel prices and recession concerns.

GM reported a 13 percent sales decline for the month, Chrysler dropped 13.2 percent, and Ford saw a 7.6 percent decline. Toyota, the #2 automaker in U.S. sales, said sales fell 3.4 percent.

"We're not immune to economic cycles," said Toyota division sales chief Bob Carter.

Toyota, which cut U.S. truck production in March, said it would be forced to lower its forecast for U.S. industry sales of 16 million vehicles in 2008.

"I think the main weakness is consumer confidence," said GM sales chief Mark LaNeve. "It's (mortgages) resetting. It's worry about the news. It's presidential candidates telling you how bad it is. It's Bear Stearns."

Conversely, Honda and Nissan outperformed the weak industry and increased their market share. Sales at Honda rose 4.2 percent while Nissan posted a 3.6 percent gain.

"The compact cars and the new crossovers are really what is carrying most manufacturers," said Jesse Toprak, executive director of industry analysis for Edmunds.com, highlighted by the fact that sales of pickup trucks and SUVs fell 18 percent in March.

"Consumers want to buy cheaper, more gas efficient vehicles," Toprak said.



Spotted: Jose Canseco on Opie & Anthony

Jose Canseco on O&APharmaceutical spokesman Jose Canseco dropped by Opie and Anthony's XM show this morning to talk baseball, steroids, and, of course, his new book "Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars and the Battle to Save Baseball."

Following the interview, the towering Canseco posed for a picture with Jimmy Norton, Anthony, and Opie. The man looks like Gulliver compared to them.


As Gregg Allman recovers, Sirius celebrates The Allman Brothers Band

Gregg AllmanDue to Gregg Allman's recovery from treatment for Hepatitis-C, the Allman Brothers Band has postponed their traditional spring and summer tour dates.

During their absence, Sirius' jam-band channel Jam_ON (ch 17) will be celebrating the Allman Brothers Band with a week of specialty programming.

Each day will include live music from the Allman Brothers Band, including archival interviews recorded at the Sirius studios.

Interviews will air on (all times Eastern)...
  • Wednesday, April 2nd - 9am and 9pm - Gregg Allman will choose an hour of his favorite blues tunes.
  • Thursday, April 3rd - 9am and 9pm - Hear an interview/performance by the The Allman Brothers Band from 2006.
  • Friday, April 4th - 9am - Then check out an interview and performance of Gregg Allman & Warren Haynes from 2003.
Sirius will then cap off the week with a full Allman Brothers concert.


XM now available on BlackBerry smartphones

XM on BlackBerry
XM is working with QuickPlay to expand its XM Radio Mobile service, making it now universally available on many BlackBerry smartphones.

What does this mean? BlackBerry users can now get XM Radio Mobile across a variety of major wireless carriers. Channels like XM's 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s decade channels, Top 20on20, Ethel, The City, XMU, Watercolors and Highway 16.

Also, for the first time, you'll be able to hear comedy content in addition to music, with channels like The Virus and XM Comedy now available to BlackBerry users.

Subscribers can opt to have their purchase of $7.99/month charged to their credit card or where available billed directly to their service provider.

BlackBerry smartphones supported by the XM Mobile Radio service require BlackBerry Device Software 4.2 or higher and include the BlackBerry 8800 Series, BlackBerry 8700 Series, BlackBerry Pearl Series and BlackBerry Curve Series smartphones (pictured) with a BlackBerry data plan on major U.S. mobile carrier networks.

The service, and a free 24-hour trial, is available via a downloadable application that can be accessed at xmradio.com/bb from the BlackBerry smartphone's browser, or by texting "XM" to 47201 and clicking on the download link provided.

UPDATE: XM also has a page dedicated to the BlackBerry announcement here.

Photo of the BlackBerry Pearl with XM Radio Mobile available after the jump...