Fat kid was Sirius
December 11, 2006 11:42 PM   Subscribe

Is Sirius going to take over XM? The fat kid that smelled liked cabbage who works in the car audio section at Best Buy said it was likely....

I like listening to radio and have been eyeing satellite for awhile, but have been putting it off because I think they will eventually merge. After a trip to Michigan where everyone has XM, presumably because of its ties to GM/Delphi, I almost decided I'd go that route. I figured with all of that corporate backing plus the fact that it was included with Directv, XM would surely win, right? Also I like Opie and Anthony. I was previously almost convinced a year ago by a friend who works for Don Imus who said according to the I-man, Sirius was going to win the battle as soon as Stern went satellite. Hasn't happened yet.

Anyway, I thought I'd check out what both networks had to offer for the holidays while xmas shopping today thinking XM would be the clear favorite. Previously mentioned seemingly trustworthy fat kid said all of the sports channels were moving from XM to Sirius and that meant the end of XM. Any mefites know anything about this? By my search, it's been at least a year since we've had this debate.
posted by Dr. Lurker to Technology (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sirius is bundled with DishNetwork.
posted by k8t at 11:43 PM on December 11, 2006

And XM with DirecTV
posted by ShooBoo at 12:15 AM on December 12, 2006

Google News. It's all over the financial news these days.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:45 AM on December 12, 2006

I intend to ramble:

I don't think any subscribers ever doubted they would eventually merge -- but it probably won't save them. I was a long-time SIRIUS subscriber, but got fed up with them. Generic internet streaming is eating their lunch in most every category and they respond with bland homogenized programming. Where's the musical diversity they promised. 6 different country stations is not diverse. Repackaging the same handful of contemporary songs into 30 different channels is not diverse. Where's the "Big Band" station? Where's "Mandipop"? Any "Polka" music? Naw ... but somehow, Bitney Spears fits into 20 different categories.

When I was at SIRIUS there was (incredibly) no headline news of any kind! I'd have hired someone to just read AP wire stuff, sheesh! They were glutted with conservative squawking heads -- but had virtually no shows for the liberal audience ... and to compound that idiocy, they tried to pimp off in-house "talent" under the liberal banner by taking awful generic radio hosts and telling them to toss in an anti-bush remark every half hour so they could "appear" progressive. Who the hell is Lynn Samuels or Alex Bennett in the progressasphere? They are non-entities. And then, to add insult to injury, they top it all off by giving Alan Colmes prime time on the "liberal" band. (Dudes ... can anyone name a single liberal who doesn't have utter contempt for Hannity's dessicated buttmonkey?)

But the absolute WORST example of SIRIUS incompetence is the fact that they PRE-EMPT MOST ALL THEIR SHOWS to play more sports!!! Amazingly stoopid. Nothing pissed me off more than to sit down to listen to "Old Time Radio" only to discover that they had taken over that channel for one of dozens of sports games. I don't begrudge sports fans their fix, but they were taking over almost everything on a regular basis. It finally got to the point that I decided I didn't want to subsidize their obsession with my money, so I dropped SIRIUS.
posted by RavinDave at 1:17 AM on December 12, 2006

Fat kid is a Sirius fanboy (sad, I know - there are XM fanboys too and they're just as sad.) For great insight into the sad satellite radio fanboy dynamic check out Fark.com (yeah, I know) whenever a Sirius/XM thread comes up. It's usually good for lots of laughs.

Whether or not a merger happens there's no way cabbage man knows more than the financial press unless he's Mel Karmazin's nephew. IMO, it's unlikely that even the Bush administration would let a merger go through even if it makes financial sense. Even if it does happen, it makes no sense that the acquiring company would leave their new customers high and dry. And if they shut down one network, they almost certainly would give huge discounts to folks forced to make the switch (if not give the boxes away.)

Go with what makes you happy for now. I have XM and it's fine for me. I hear Sirius is better for talk channels and some sports but has pretty thin, commercial music playlists while XM has less talk selection (though they have This American Life so that's good enough for me) and other sports but deeper music playlists.
posted by Opposite George at 3:11 AM on December 12, 2006

If there is a merger, it will be the other way around, XM will buy out or take over Sirius. Not a fan-girl here for either (I have both, although I wont be renewing Sirius when my year subscription runs out)

The price of XM stock is almost 4 or 5 times Sirius's

Although both companies have yet to turn a profit, Sirius is way more in debt (they tend to overpay for talent, see Howard Stern et all)

XM has more subscribers, by several million.

Both have their share of big sports, XM has MLB while Sirius has NFL. m not sure which is "bigger" but I know from personal experience that baseball lends itself to a radio broadcast much easier (just because of the mechanics of the game).
posted by sandra_s at 3:55 AM on December 12, 2006

Nobody knows yet if a merger will happen, but if it does you can be sure that neither company's subscribers will be left out in the cold. One of the major rationales for this potential merger would be to increase market share, so whether it's Sirius buying XM or the other way around, I would be pretty confident that no customers will be ditched. I wouldn't use the possibility of a potential merger as the sole reason for deferring a purchase.

As others have said, go with whichever one fits best right now, and don't worry too much. There may be programming changes in the future, but this is true whether a merger happens or not.

[BTW, I'm a Sirius subscriber and generally agree with all RavinDave says, except I'm not quite as bitter. For long car trips it still beats terrestrial radio. And there are several news channels now, including BBC (which is awesome).]
posted by blue mustard at 5:30 AM on December 12, 2006

"The price of XM stock is almost 4 or 5 times Sirius's"

That doesn't mean anything. You also need to know how many shares are out there. This is a year old but it was the first thing that came up on a google search. Says Sirius is (was) worth $8.9B (with 1.3 billion shares) and XM $7B (with 222 million shares).

Anyway, Blue Mustard is right. Even with a buyout/merger you'll almost certainly still be able to listen to your radio.
posted by jaysus chris at 6:15 AM on December 12, 2006

sandra_s, how can you say XM will take over Sirius? Isn't a merger, by definition, a consensual combination of entities? and you say you are not a fan-girl...

I have Sirius and I hope, for everyone's sake, that there is no merger. monopoly = higher prices.
posted by nineRED at 6:37 AM on December 12, 2006

I don't think a merger/buy-out is terribly likely in either direction, but if it did take place, it would almost certainly be Sirius buying XM. Sirius has a larger market cap (by 1.3 billion dollars) and slightly less debt (although they are both in debt up to their eyeballs).

It appears that Sirius has had much better growth in 2006, thanks primarily to Howard Stern, and now has only slightly fewer subscribers than XM. However, XM has much better control of the new car market, which is a huge benefit to them.

If they do merge, I don't think it would make any difference which one you owned. They would obviously support both groups of people in the merged company.
posted by Lame_username at 7:19 AM on December 12, 2006

Sirius has some exclusive content (Stern, NASCAR - in January, NFL, some college football/basketball, NBA), XM has some exclusive content (MLB, will have NHL exclusive next season). Both obviously have music channels but the music is identified/grouped/programmed differently. My wife has XM in her car, I have a Sirius boombox and a car kit. She loves XM, I love Sirius. I would recommend Sirius, she would recommend XM. We would also recommend spending some time at the display counter comparing the equipment and listening to the programming.

I think Sirius is gaining new subscribers at a faster rate and also has Internet subscriptions (not all the channels, but I do not pay extra). Howard likes to mention that they are launching a new satellite.

XM has online access, but I'm not familiar with the details.

As far as a merger, I remember being a satellite tv subscriber with Primestar which was swallowed by DirecTV. DirecTV installed new equipment at no cost.

I wouldn't base my decision of the future of a merger that may never happen.
posted by badger_flammable at 7:44 AM on December 12, 2006

XM has online access, but I'm not familiar with the details.

Like Sirius, not all the channels (pretty much any syndicated programming is out) and you don't pay extra.

Interestingly, they do have a few channels available only through the internet, though those playlists aren't as deep or updated as often as the OTA channels'.
posted by Opposite George at 8:04 AM on December 12, 2006

Best answer: Don't worry about whether they will merge, even if they do the lineups wouldn't change for a long time after that.

Financially speaking, XM has said they are on track to turn a profit by mid 07. Sirius has made so such announcement or set any expectations of profit. XM and Sirius both have increasing subscriber numbers, but Sirius just announced they expect fewer new subs by the end of the year. There is also an issue with the fact that Sirius activates it's radios with service when the cars ship to dealers, thus there are unsold cars on dealership lots that Sirius counts as subscribers.

You might want to look at the actual radios and compare the two on that basis. XM has generally smaller more portable players than Sirius (see the Inno) but if you looking to simply put something in your car, this doesn't matter as much.

Based solely on idle speculation, I do not expect Sirius to by out XM, nor do I expect XM to buy sirius. There is simply no reason to do this. Furthermore, as Opie and Anthony become syndicated to other markets on FM radio, it is likely that will cause some people to sign up for XM to get the full broadcast of that show, rather than simply the truncated FM portion. In other words, I think the Stern effect has passed (Sirius's current ad campaign does not feature Stern) but XM may be on the verge from benefiting from the OA syndication deal.

The sub numbers at the end of this quarter will be very interesting.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:25 AM on December 12, 2006

By my search, it's been at least a year since we've had this debate.


The answer to your question is that the reason those columnists are being paid to write about this question is that nobody, including the fat kid who smells like cabbage, knows the answer. This is why the stock market is a dangerous way to get rich.
posted by cribcage at 8:41 AM on December 12, 2006

I'd like to see some facts about the "Stern effect" vs an O & A effect.
posted by badger_flammable at 9:17 AM on December 12, 2006

Response by poster: The answer to your question is that the reason those columnists are being paid to write about this question is that nobody, including the fat kid who smells like cabbage, knows the answer. This is why the stock market is a dangerous way to get rich.

That's not really an answer to any question I asked, cribcage, but thanks anyway.
posted by Dr. Lurker at 10:06 AM on December 12, 2006

Response by poster: So it looks as though the possibility of a merger shouldn't really be a concern in choosing one over the other, especially if there's no merger pending any time soon.

What about programming? Is it at all likely that if I make a decision based on the programming one provider offers over the other that this programming will change in the near future. This seems to be happening with sports, what about some of the news channels, npr, etc?
posted by Dr. Lurker at 10:06 AM on December 12, 2006

Re: Sirius being activated in cars sitting on dealers' lots.
Our new Sirius-ready car purchased last week was not fully-subscribed. It had a demo subscription with about 1/10th of the channel lineup available for listening. I had to call in to actually activate and get my free 3 months. (There's a bit of a story there.)
posted by xiojason at 11:01 AM on December 12, 2006

That's not really an answer to any question I asked...

You asked: "Is Sirius going to take over XM?"
posted by cribcage at 11:16 AM on December 12, 2006

Response by poster: You asked: "Is Sirius going to take over XM?"

Yep, but not why do columnists write columns on satellite radio, or why is investing in the stockmarket dangerous.
posted by Dr. Lurker at 11:39 AM on December 12, 2006

Right. And I replied, "Nobody knows." Which is, in fact, an answer to a question that you asked.
posted by cribcage at 11:48 AM on December 12, 2006

Just to clear up the Sirus vs. XM subscriber count issue:

This article and associated comments explain it pretty well. It used to be that Sirius recognized a new subscription (but not the revenue generated by a new subscription) when the car hit the dealer's lot. XM waited until the car was sold. Critics of Sirius's methodology complained that this resulted in an accelerated recognition of new subscribers. If you've been forced to sit through an inventory accounting lecture, you'll probably agree. The only good reason for doing that is to juice subscription numbers. I don't know if they still do things that way.

In B-school they teach you how to pore over financial statements and adjust for discrepancies like this to put companies' numbers on an equal footing - it's often said that financials don't tell you anywhere near as much about a company's health as footnotes do. In real life, analysts take a lot of short cuts, and some of them miss things like this.
posted by Opposite George at 3:48 PM on December 12, 2006

I've had Sirius for a few years now and have never had or heard of ANY of the problems that RavinDave mentioned.

You can get the hardware so cheap nowadays, why not just go with Sirius now, and if you don't like it, give XM a shot?
posted by drstein at 6:53 PM on December 12, 2006

drstein: I've had Sirius for a few years now and have never had or heard of ANY of the problems that RavinDave mentioned.


Since this thread is pretty much over, let's examine my points and you can "educate" me on my errors. Here is the current progressive lineup on SIRIUS LEFT:

The Wall Street Journal This Morning

WTF??? What POSSIBLE connection does the WSJ have with Leftwing talk? When am I gonna see "The Mother Jones" report on Talk Right? (Not bloody soon, I'll wager.)

The Bill Press Show

Okay. I'll give you this one. I like Bill press. Not exactly a firebrand, but reliable. Good, not great. And (of course) he's out of the way on early morning duty, so set your alarm clocks.

The Alex Bennett Show

Nope. He's doing a morning show. He's NOT doing a LIBERAL morning show. He avoids political issues like the plague; preferring to spend his time on DVD reviews and chitchat. He tosses in a gratuatous Bush slam at pre-scheduled intervals, so that he can be advertized as leftwing -- but it fools no one. And if someone calls him on a point, he folds like a two-dollar suitcase because his opinions are genuine -- they are perfunctory.

The Thom Hartmann Show

A half-point. Hartmann is a genuine Leftwing show of very high quality. So, how does SIRIUS handle its (arguably) best progressive show? THEY GIVE HIM (1) HOUR and then incredibly CUT OFF THE FINAL HOURS to make room for their in-house bafoon, Lynn Samuels. They rebroadcast the remainder of Hartmann's show late-late-late at night. Just frickin' brilliant.

The Lynn Samuels Show

Nope. She's a shrill imbecile who (like Bennett) is conducting a regular show and tossing in a few token GOP slams for effect. No substance. No real thought. She spents 99% of her on-air time dishing gossip about whatever celebrity is in the headlines. And THIS obnoxious harpy gets the lion's share of prime listening real-estate!

The Ed Schultz Ed

MAYBE a half-point. Shultz is a mercenary he found a niche in a market glutted with Conservatives. Had the situation been reversed, he'd be doing Rightwing talk. How do we know? Because he can't make it through an entire show without chirping: "Now, Libbies don't like it when I say this, but blah-blah-blah." He wears it as a badge of honor how much he disagrees with most Leftists. Now, that's fine in itself -- but you can't showcase him on the most important timeslot and call him a leading voice of progressive thought when he himself seems embarassed by the title.

The Stephanie Miller Show

Okay ... I love Stephanie Miller, and her show properly belongs on Talk Left -- even though it's not really meant to be a serious show talking in depth about current events. They do some brilliant comedy, but no one don't go there for information ... they go there for laughs.


So, we have 2 or 3 genuine liberal shows balanced against (3) conservative talkshows on ABC (Mark Davis, Sean Hannity, Larry Elder); and (9) bobbleheads on Sirius Patriot (an insulting name, implying that only conservatives are patriostic); and (6) on FOX Talk ... and it becomes obvious that you have no clue what you're babbling about drstein.

As for music ... I wasn't just blowin' smoke. I had (at one time) considered getting a SIRIUS subscription for the reception area of the Managed Health Care center where my mother lives. But I soon realized that virtually none of the music offered would appeal to them (the EZ Listening is no different than their current Musak). Maybe the classical station -- but where is the Big Band? Swing? Where can I find Sinatra, Mel Torme, Tommy Dorsey, or Rosemary Clooney (beyond an occassional shot here and there scattered elsewhere). But I have no trouble finding the same crap I get on local AM radio.

As for the Sports, it's no great secret that SIRIUS has been hobbled by bandwidth problems. This is the reason they were forced to take-over other stations in order to run their full sports schedule. Even for sports fans, their was a headache (hunting down which channel your game was on), but for fans of a given show to have it taken over so they could run some inconsequential game in its bandwidth was a repeated insult (XM, and I'm no fan of theirs, was at least smart enough to keep them on their own channels). My experience with this is what finally convinced me to drop SIRIUS. That was only a year ago. I find it hard to believe that they have solved that problem in the meanwhile.

If you REALLY think my complaints are imaginary, I invite you to read the SIRIUS-Backstage message forum and learn how wrong you are.
posted by RavinDave at 12:25 AM on December 13, 2006

Well, RavinDave, my comments saying what I really felt were removed, so I'll rephrase: I think that you're full of cow chips, and no, I am not wrong or babbling. Your rambling comments on Sirus backstage sum it up - Sirius Left isn't liberal enough for you. I'm in the SF Bay Area, and there's squat for 'liberal radio' around here.

Sirius has been up front about the pre-empting, too.

But enough with you, because you're a waste of time and are off-topic. As I mentioned to the original poster, the services are cheap enough nowadays that you can easily try out both of them. Or, you can listen to Sirius online as a free trial.
posted by drstein at 6:20 PM on December 14, 2006

"Maybe the classical station -- but where is the Big Band? Swing? Where can I find Sinatra, Mel Torme, Tommy Dorsey, or Rosemary Clooney (beyond an occassional shot here and there scattered elsewhere)."

There is a Standards channel. That's basically what they play. I wish there was a specifically-Swing channel but no such luck.

Regarding the progressive stuff, Sirius used to have Air America and sold a bunch of subs because of it... then it moved to XM.
posted by litlnemo at 8:12 PM on December 15, 2006

FCC chief says "no."
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:08 AM on January 18, 2007

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