Let's drive over just a few of the recent developments.
- XM agreed to dramatically up the interest rate paid on its convertible notes due next year -- from 1.75% to 10% -- to avoid having to redeem the $400 million in notes if its merger with Sirius is successful.
- A group is asking the FCC to look into the Sirius backseat video product, in which the company earmarks a chunk of its spectrum to deliver three video channels to premium-paying subscribers.
- Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone firmware update on Friday now finds free, ad-supported online radio operator AOL Radio -- the Web-broadcasting joint venture between Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX ) AOL and CBS (NYSE: CBS ) -- and music discovery site Pandora among the companies offering iPhone users free Internet radio access, with more native applications likely to follow.
- FCC head Kevin Martin threw a wrench into the already delayed approval process, suggesting that some of his fellow commissioners have merger concerns and are likely to want additional concessions tied to greenlighting the Sirius-XM deal.
Did I mention that all of these developments happened on Friday?
One can always argue that the developments aren't as troublesome as they may appear. The convertibles move may make life more expensive for Sirius-XM post-merger, but it buys Sirius time to refinance that portion of the debt. The backseat-video press release may have been timed well, but Sirius has been offering the video-streaming service since last year. Apple's 2.0 update for iPhone and iPod touch devices is a threat, but it's actually one less reason for the FCC to consider a Sirius-XM combination a monopoly. As for more FCC uncertainty as the deal barrels toward the 17-month mark, its own hesitation only continues to taint the bipartisan commission.
In short, the flurry of satellite radio news essentially amounts to hollow press releases, refi extensions, and more dirt on the FCC's grave.
So is it a black Friday for Sirius-XM? No. The hue would be most accurate as a shiny gray.
Other items on the Sirius-XM dial: