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Sirius, XM formalize merger

updated 09:30 am EDT, Tue July 29, 2008

Sirius XM Radio Merge

Sirius and XM today formalized their FCC-approved merger, ending an approximately 16-month wait since the union was first proposed early last year. The combined entity will now be called Sirius XM Radio and has about 18.5 million total subscribers, turning it into the second-largest radio outlet in the US. The company says it will quickly live up to its promises announced at the start of the merger and will let subscribers to either Sirius or XM service subscribe a la carte, hand-picking channels rather than requiring a set block of stations.

Both will also soon integrate each other's programming; a "Best of Both" deal will allow the subscriber of one satellite radio service to listen to some stations from the other. There will also be more refined package options that include a lower-cost "Family Friendly" deal as well as music, talk, and sports options. Existing listeners can keep their own packages, Sirius XM says. All the plan changes are expected by the fall.

Hardware will at first remain limited to the particular network it was designed for, although the newly-formed company vows to keep that service active. It will eventually release dual-format radios and other devices that can tune into either Sirius or XM broadcasts.

As part of the approval, the deal sees the FCC impose regulatory conditions to prevent any abuse of Sirius XM's perceived monopoly over satellite radio. The company has agreed to a three-year price cap that may be extended if necessary, and must also set aside a block of channels for minority-run and non-commercial programming.

The merger is expected to touch on not just conventional radio but also portable media players and Internet streaming. A single company gains wider access to include its radio services in handhelds such as the Pioneer Inno or Sirius Stiletto 2 and also more rights to Internet streaming already available through some cellphones, including third-party apps for the iPhone.

by MacNN Staff



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