Would a Sirius/XM Merger Stop The Rot?

from the let's-make-a-deal dept

Shares of satellite radio providers Sirius and XM have been getting pummeled as the companies’ losses continue to mount. Despite consumer interest in the product, the companies simply haven’t been able to make the business model work — their customer-acquistion costs remain high and content costs grow as the two companies compete for talent and exclusive deals. We’ve wondered before if bankruptcy and restructuring would be the only way these companies could survive, but there’s a growing clamor for XM and Sirius to merge. There are some benefits such a deal would hold that are pretty obvious: they could quit competing against each other for deals to broadcast sports and other content, holding costs down, and they could shift the customer-acquisition battle from being one they’re fighting against each other to one that tries to attract new users in a more profitable manner. There would be some big questions over the deal, not the least of which the challenge of dealing with two sets of redundant satellites and networks, and a user base whose equipment is only made to work with one or the other. It’s unclear how a merger would restructure the cost base of the satellite networks, which have saddled the companies with debt. Conceivably, the government could also block a merger between the two on competition grounds, though any such action would ignore the fact that XM and Sirius aren’t just competing with each other.

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Comments on “Would a Sirius/XM Merger Stop The Rot?”

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Anonymous Coward says:


I am the idiot that mentioned NPR which led to the complete destruction of this thread. I owe all of you an apology for my reckless action. I promise it will not happen again.

The only reason I mentioned it is due to the fact that I couldnt care less about commercial radio (yet spouted off an opinion about commercial radio ventures).

kitzmark says:

One more thing about NPR

But how helpful is that? They could run a segment called “Earth’s Shape- People Disagree” and allow opposing sides to each give a speech, and maybe even yell at each other, and that could technically be considered ‘neutral’ or ‘balanced,’ but at the end of the day it’s a waste of the public’s airwaves without an examination of the empirical data.

And as a clarification, when I say ‘provocative; I don’t mean 9/11 conspiracy theories, I mean, for example, well the documented records of conduct by the ‘players’ in arena of world wide events.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: One more thing about N

What people believe is an independent set of data from why they believe it. A more general level of detail and useful in its own way and personally, while it is obscure and zany enough, pleasantly interesting to hear.

NPR reports on many well-documented, factually unequivocable subjects. Those that it avoids are specifically due to the controversy and I contend that in almost all cases those happen to be in the two 30% factions that are almost different species of humans where each side is guaranteed to call every statement uttered by the other a lie. The 40% in the middle I am saying is innocuous enough not to be assailable by any sane person and very few insane people. And this is exactly what I would expect to hear on the public airwaves. There are plenty of other places for people to buy the prefab opinions they want to hear. I am not willing to use the public airwaves to force both disgusting sides of an issue down the public’s throats. I listen to NPR instead of any other talk station specifically to get away from that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: One more thing abo

Well, don’t forget that all airwaves belong to the public, not just NPR. And I have no interest in forcing anything on anyone. Quite the opposite in fact. And I have interest in disuading anyone from listening to NPR.

But you seem to make my point for me by saying it avoids controversial subjects. Firstly, you think it’s an accident that certain subjects are controversial? Debates on certain subjects are poisoned by design, to give the illusion of insolubility.

What do you suppose would happen if NPR started reporting accurately and in totality on such radiactive subjects as Waco, Ruby Ridge, our govt’s well documented history of deeds in Central America and the Middle East? How fast can you “Congressional hearings?” How fast would corporate sponsors pul funding? There are many ways to coerce, just as there are many ways to ‘innocuously’ control public perception.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: One more thing

Those things you listed will be considered too controversial by the right 30% faction who will not regard them as matters of unequivocable fact. Those issues _are_ insoluble due to the response of that 30%. I can agree that some subjects are intentionally poisoned, but the 30% factions will never agree on which those are. I believe that some issues are simply impossible to consider in the whole in a neutral manner due either to their essence or a close nexus with other politically charged issues.

In part, the focus on personal angles is their way of dealing with this by forcing a narrower section of the problem to be on the microscope.

I can see how avoiding issues where one might be accused of bias could work out to be a bias itsself if the avoided issues were not symmetrically balanced out… but I insist that this is working properly with NPR.

I can agree with you though in your claim that the choices that get made with this approach of appeasement results in appeasing the existing government. I don’t think it is the role of a government-assisted organization to pit itsself against the government. Private organizations are able to do that quite well and be part of the effort to change the government and thereby change what NPR can discuss.

As a matter of fact, I think NPR is doing all that a government should be able to do to improve the mental health of its citizenry. By providing a model of eclectic neutral curiosity, the thought patterns of society might improve and grow more sophisticated. Allowing political discourse into that would be an incestuous poisoning act. This sort of modeling is a valuable role for NPR and it cannot do it if it stoops to what amounts to actual bias. I actually credit NPR with providing a stark contrast, when I dared to discover it at a younger age, to Rush Limbaugh which is what I had been raised on for one-way intellectual discourse. I immediately recognized its superiority as a style of thought. So what if its political content is lower?–I can get that elsewhere at a time of my choosing. NPR is a relaxing relief from the general torrent of sludge that passes for political discourse in this country.

kitzmark says:

Re: Re: Re:2 One more t

thanks for the comments, very good.

I get your point and I generally agree that most of the programs, judged on their own merits, are good, however the role you put them in effectively means they’re doing nothing but pissing in the wind given the sheer volume of what dominates the other 99.99% percent of our airwaves. You could say I’m being pessistic and wouldn’t be too far off, but I would counter that your comments (“never agree” & “impossible to consider”) in the first paragraph are pretty pessimistic, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

And those issues that fall into what you call “too controversial” can be discussed without bringing flame throwers into the debate. It is possible. Just not, as was my original point, on NPR. We seem only to be arguing about the why.

ps- and I conceive anyone can challenge the govt, even if you work for it. We are all still citizens no matter from where we are paid. And be careful with the word “superiority” — truth can sometimes come from the strangest of places. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 One mo

I disagree with your claim that some issues can be discussed without flamethrowers. But quite apart from that, as I implied when I called NPR a peaceful refuge, I am glad that as a person in the middle 40% of the population I _never_ hear anything that disgusts me and makes me want to change the dial. Well except maybe the other day when someone was replaying an interview with damon wayons where he was doing some masturbatory comic bit. Anyway–some of those issues you think are so important that any human being with a conscience ought to be raising incessantly and harping on give me a headache and I’m glad NPR doesnt touch them.

kitzmark says:

Re: Re: Re:4 One more thing

Does it serve well as your personal refuge? Sure, I won’t argue that. Is it a good, reliable source for news and information? On the narrow spectrum allowed, sure, but on the whole, no. Whether or not you want or like to be exposed to “controversy,” the answer is still sadly no. Overwhelmingly no

Some “things,” are argued like their consequences are a threat to the very survival of our species. Seems like that’s worth a headache, but what do I know? And that’s the point- such monumental subjects, and there are many more, aren’t even on our radar. At least not with the priority they ought to have, imo. And it is possible to have a civil debate about these “things.” I’m a witness to that much at least.

Johnp5435 says:

Re: Not gonna happen

…….”neither company is in a financial position to buy the other.”

Are you serious?? Just because these stocks have a low price doesn’t mean their BROKE! Sirius has a WAD of cash laying around and could buy XMSR with little or not trouble. The biggest challenges are the different technologies that are not interchangable and the surplus infrastructure the merged company would be left with. I think it’s a 50-50 shot at this point.

Steve Jones says:

Another case of FCC/FTC screwing America

There should have never been 2 sat radio companies in the first place. There should have been one set of sats/uplinks/radios, with dozens of companies selling different packages to consumers. Sat tv/radio are just not big enough markets to support 2 sets of birds, 2 sets of uplink stations, 2 different kinds of receivers being developed/installed all over the US.

Qazman says:

Re: Another case of FCC/FTC screwing America

That is a good perspective. The same thing happened in cellular. We set up a system where multiple companies with competing technologies had to battle it out for cellular business, while the rest of the world approved one standard for each country and the cellular technology in those countries zoomed ahead of ours.

Sometimes our wide open capatilistic economy results in inefficient markets. You’re right, the FCC should have dictated one standard with open acess.

I have used both XM and Sirius, and I think they are both good. If they merge, the selection of stations will be reduced and prices will increase. That’s too bad. But if they can’t make any money, what other choice do we have?

Jim says:

Why not offer 12 of so channels for free – with commericals. No monthly fee.

Then offer premium service witha monthly fee.

Special events can be free for the paid premium service but could be puchased on an item basis for other users (similar to pay-per-view events).

I like the idea but can not bring myself to pay $10-15 a month to listen to a radio even if it is commercial free.

Sat Radio says:

growing market

I think both can be successul. The sat radio market has not had enough time to grow. Just now cars are making sat standard. I don’t think it will be long before someone makes a small device that lets you switch your XM to Siruis and vise versa. Personally Sat radio is the best thing I bought lately. I got it for Stearn, but listen to many channels. I now get very annoyed when in a car with regular radio because the commericals on the music stations seem to never end. I have listened to XM a lot before I got Siruis and instead of the big guys they are almost the same. Music stations are the same (different names) and they share some channels like the old time radio and discovery channel. I think a merger would be good, but do not think it will happen until XM is going under. Everyone should buy Siruis it is so much better than radio and Ipod.

By the way, that was cool that the thread got so out of hand they torched it. Got to try that again.

nunya_bidness says:

Re: Is there really a market?

Are you so full of yourself that you actually think anybody cares what you think of Stern. You are obviously affected because you, like many others, can not talk about sat radio without mentioning his name. Anybody with a measurable IQ will be able to think for themself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Is there really a market?

Be charitable, sir, the only fact most folk without satellite radios have at their ready when entering a discussion about satellite radio is trivia about howard stern. While a more englightened individual would decline to participate in a discussion armed with such little information, many do not. This doesnt make him elitist, only a member of the seething masses that have such little concept for what it means to discuss and produce illumination that they think they are actually contributing to it, unaware that they are about as useful as a first grader in a quantum physics symposium.

Qazman says:

Re: Is there really a market?

If you listen to it, its a clear difference. Local FM radio has become such a boring compromise. They have such a small market that they have to try and cater to the lowest common denominator, which means the playlists are very safe and boring. And the commercials drive you nuts. Once you have Tivo for TV, your tolerance for commercials drops to zero. Listening to radio with commercials becomes really annoying.

My commute is really short, so I don’t have XM in the car, but I listen to it all the time at home thru DirecTV. I think that is the key to value – bundle it with other stuff to reduce the cost.

Vlodnak says:


I’m “ALMOST” with comment #8 above…

I’ve had XM for about 3 yrs now, and get really annoyed at FM and AM radio commercials and lack of choice (at least in eastern Massachusetts where I live). I also don’t like driving for 2-3 hours in a direction (although I don’t drive EAST that far or I’d need an amphibious car) and having to change channels. I have found that since getting XM, I rarely use FM, AM, or CD’s in the car.

I listen to a LOT of talk radio–and quite a bit of music–and I *am* willing to pay $10/month for it–because I enjoy it, and I could waste $10/month on a lot less.

As far as the XM v Sirius thing… *shrug*… I use XM because it is what I have had (previously via a roady and now built-in to my Honda), and I like the channel line-up just fine. I’m sure if I’d used Sirius for the same time I’d say same–as long as it had what I want. I get the talk-show personalities I like on XM–and I don’t think that they are on Sirius–so that would be a down side.

Anyway… to the topic at the top… merge or not, I’ll keep using sat radio… and I hope that XM doesn’t sink in the next 4 years before I get rid of the car that has it built in.

To the TechDirt owners: This is a great site… I read it daily–even though this is the first time I’ve posted on it. Keep up the great work! When will I be able to get audio feeds of this site on XM? ๐Ÿ˜›

shane says:

If there was somebody much smarter than me at either company xm or sirrus they could possibly do this.

The xm reciever has to retrieve a program guide every once in a while so there is a data transfer more than just streamed music. There is a possibility for updating the program run on the reciever to play the sirrus stream. Or maybe since somewhere inline from central office to satelite to reciever there is a registry tracker, there could be dual signals transmitted and the reciever wouldn’t know the difference… last option is change the satelite transmitter to broadcast a television feed out only *unlike direct tv that recieves also* and they could make money off of the dual satelites, one on radio, one streaming tv stations. it’s just digital either way. a large amount of people have tv’s in their vehicles anyway, maybe it’s possible.

All just suggestions.

zeromus says:

Re: shane's suggestions

I suppose the long run effects could be vastly different services offered in the newly-doubled bandwidth. But… while not having any particular knowlege on the subject, only the background of a computer engineer, it is extremely unlikely that the systems are similar enough or built in such a way that they can be reprogrammed in situ to receive the other streams.

I like your idea of television, though.. that would truly be a killer way to get satellite reception into peoples vehicles, and from there sell other services. But you can fit tons of radio streams in the same space as one video stream… I doubt there is sufficient bandwidth to do this on a substantial scale.

shane says:

Re: Re: shane's suggestions

i don’t imagine that it would be high definition at all, maybe little like 300 *200, most tv’s in vehicles are small 8 or 10 in, it definately wouldn’t be HD. Possibly with a long buffer like 10 seconds or so. I’m not sure. maybe somebody will think out the box over at whichever company. >>> however we are talking about a fictional merger.

Hautedawg says:

Sat radio and choice

In the mid-sized Mid Western city I live in there is little (or no) choice in what I can listen to. No funny, no good music (my opinion) and loads of crap commercials. Since I have had XM, my drive (albeit short) has been rather pleasant.

The combination of the two services would serve to better supply the listeners. There is not room for competing companies, at least not in this market. The cost of equipment is too high for general users and then the cost for subscription. Is there enough difference between the two to warrant them? Probably not, other than Opie and Anthony and Stern, which really doesn’t matter for the majority of users.

Combining the two, which will probably never happen, could ensure continued sat radio, more listeners and more recievers. There have been comments regarding providers, but then you throw a whole new mess into the mix, comast, time warner et al that screwed the pooch with cable.

Just my opinion…and most of you think that stinks anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚

pghbill says:

block the merger make them earn our business

sirius spent 55 to 60 million for howard stern who really can’t stay on regulated radio for anywhere near that money.then they have sophmoric shows by jim brewer who was a d level star on saturday night live, remember goat boy.
they have raw dog comedy & other 4 letter using programs.
Hey I didn’t buy or subscibe to sat radio to hear 14 year olds swearing, I can get that for free walking down the street. concentrate on diversify music & content, dump stern and bring our rates down 6 or 7 dollars a month, you might actually make money!

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