Monday, February 28, 2005

XM Wants To Bleed A Little Less; That Means You Pay More

For those of you who asked the question of how XM satellite radio can provide 150-plus channels of programming for just $9.95 a month, XM now has an answer: It can't.
As of April 1, the rate jumps to $12.95 a month, matching rival Sirius. To cushion the blow, XM's also going to provide access to 70 channels online -- something they now charge $3.99 a month for -- and unleash morning bad boys Opie and Anthony on all subscribers without having to pony up an extra $1.99 a month.
The last development is rather curious. When Howard Stern announced last year that he'd move to Sirius starting in 2006, he said he had also spoken with XM, but didn't want to be on a premium channel. From the outset, Sirius had said Stern would be available to all.
So is XM now giving its 3.6 million subscribers more value or has O&A bombed as a pay attraction? Nobody's saying out loud. But even though XM stock is trading north of $32, more than six times the value of Sirius shares, it's clear that both companies are still bleeding red ink by the bucket-full and that the current business model had to be a goner.
Still, for anyone who's spent any amount time listening to satellite, even $12.95 is a small price to pay for a stunning array of music -- all of it commercial free -- to go with a wide spectrum of news and talk.
For those of you who have long been disenfranchised from terrestrial radio because of its stultifying playlists, unimaginative programming and incessant commercials, XM is Shangri-La. You won't go back. Perish the thought.
I often find myself listening to four or five of XM's rock channels where they don't just play deep cuts, they're practically tunneling underground to find tracks you can't hear anywhere else. It's amazing when they get on a cut you may not have heard since college, although not as amazing as actually remembering the words 20-plus years later.
It's radio like it oughta be and except for a few particularly inspired nights I spent as a college DJ, likely never was. To get that feeling back, $12.95 is a bargain.

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