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This Week in Sirius XM Radio

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It was another eventful week for our favorite -- and only, really -- satellite-radio provider. Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI  ) made waves when CEO Mel Karmazin announced that he will leave the company in a few months. Shares of Sirius XM -- and, to a larger extent, Pandora (NYSE: P  ) -- then went on to feel the pinch on a new report indicating that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is getting closer to rolling out its own streaming service.

Farewell to Mel
Karmazin's contract was set to expire by the end of this year, so there was plenty of uncertainty surrounding his willingness to stick around. With Liberty Media (Nasdaq: LMCA  ) closing in on majority control of the media giant and CEO Greg Maffei making comments suggesting that Karmazin could be replaced, it was no sure thing that Karmazin would stick around.

"The business will not fail without Mel," Maffei said at an investor conference last month. "Graves are full of replaceable people."

At the time of the company's second-quarter call, Karmazin indicated that his employment situation would be clarified by the time the Q3 conference call came around. True to his word, Karmazin announced his resignation on Tuesday. He will leave come February at the end of his term and a brief transitory period in passing the CEO baton.

Clearly, Sirius XM will have a void. Karmazin was instrumental in getting the controversial Sirius and XM through antitrust regulators, and then he succeeded in cashing in on the synergies that have transformed the united company into a growing and profitable juggernaut.

Whom will Sirius XM turn to now?

Apple pumps up the volume
Shares of Pandora slumped by as much as 20% on Thursday before closing nearly 12% lower, after a Reuters article claiming that negotiations between Apple and the major record labels are heating up to secure licensing rights for a streaming service. Sirius XM's stock fell by a more acceptable 1.4% on the day.

Apple's entry is inevitable, and it shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The company revolutionized the music industry with its iTunes Music Store, but the sale of digital tracks and albums has been sluggish lately. Meanwhile, services including Pandora and Spotify are booming in popularity.

Pandora fell because Apple's entry is a clear swipe at its market-leading music-discovery website. Sirius XM took a hit because the company is set to roll out a similar offering later this year. Some cynics may also believe that if Apple does this right -- offering a cloud-based streaming service blending its rich iTunes artist catalog and its growing collection of podcasts -- it may be a substitute for premium satellite radio.

We'll see. The last time Apple tried to use iTunes Music Store to push something on consumers, it was Ping, the social-music sharing hub that flopped miserably.

Besides, it's not just Apple that's making waves as a tech giant with musical ambitions. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) -- a week after announcing Xbox Music -- went ahead and introduced SmartGlass on Tuesday. A major component of the "second screen" platform is that users who stream music through their Xbox consoles can use their tablets or smartphones to receive similar music recommendations.

The world of music is evolving, and Apple merely needs to catch up.

Tuesday morning don't be late
Finally, we're heading into Sirius XM's third-quarter report. There was nothing material breaking in the past week to give investors a hint about how things will play out on Tuesday morning.

Analysts see the satellte-radio star matching the $0.02-a-share profit it posted a year earlier. They also see revenue climbing nearly 14% to $865.6 million for the quarter. Clearly, there will be plenty to dive into next week.

Chasing satellites
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. Click here to check it out now.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz owns shares of Liberty Media. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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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  • Report this Comment On October 30, 2012, at 3:59 AM, DR1P wrote:

    "Tuesday morning don't be late"

    Go ahead and be late... it's been delayed until Thursday.

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Rick has been writing for Motley Fool since 1995 where he's a Consumer and Tech Stocks Specialist. Yes, that's a long time. He's been an analyst for Motley Fool Rule Breakers and a portfolio lead analyst for Motley Fool Supernova since each newsletter service's inception. He earned his BBA and MBA from the University of Miami, and he now lives a block from his alma mater.

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