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Just as I was wondering if Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI  ) failing to pre-announce subscriber numbers was a bad omen for the third quarter, the satellite radio giant was cranking it out.

Sirius XM revealed yesterday afternoon that it tacked on a better-than-expected 445,921 net subscribers during the last three months. Things are going so well, that the company now expects to close out the year with 1.8 million more subs than it had when the year began.

Let's put this number into its historical perspective.

After closing out 2011 with 1.7 net additions, Sirius XM called for 1.3 million net subscribers in 2012. Why would Sirius XM be projecting decelerating growth? Well, a 12% hike in the service's monthly rate that kicked in back in January was going to make it challenging to retain listeners and attract new ones.

Those fears were short-lived. Three months from the original 1.3 million call in February, Sirius XM was up to 1.5 million as its 2012 target. Churn was holding steady. Existing accounts were sticking around, and new activations weren't flinching at the higher price. Two months after that, another strong showing pushed that figure to 1.6 million.

Now we're at 1.8 million additions, and that means that the media giant will exceed last year's 1.7 million net new subscribers despite higher rates.

This is pretty big news in the world of premium satellite entertainment. Satellite television giants DIRECTV (Nasdaq: DTV  ) and DISH Network (Nasdaq: DISH  ) suffered net declines during the second quarter. It wasn't too long ago that Sirius XM bears were arguing that Sirius XM was overvalued relative to DIRECTV and DISH. Sure, that's certainly true on sales and earnings multiples, but which one is essentially a monopoly with control over its programming costs? Which one is growing its audience sequentially?

Sirius XM couldn't have planned this any better. The stock barreled through to a new four-year high yesterday on the news. The timing works, as Liberty Media (Nasdaq: LMCA  ) is looking to cash in on its nearly 50% stake in the company. Pandora (NYSE: P  ) is also trying to get rates lowered for online streams, something that may be a factor once Sirius XM introduces its own Pandora-like service later this quarter.

Once again, nice timing, Sirius XM.

Running of the bulls
I recently put out a premium report on Sirius XM Radio, detailing the challenges and opportunities that await investors that are both long and short the dynamic media giant. A year of updates is also included with the report at no additional cost. Just click here to get started.

Rick Aristotle Munarriz owns shares of Liberty Media. The Motley Fool has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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