This Week in Sirius XM Radio

It was another eventful week for the only satellite-radio provider. Shares of Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI  ) retreated during a rough week, slipping 5% as the market in general took a step back.

There wasn't a lot of news directly out of the media giant, though there were plenty of related stories of interest as an analyst firm boosted its price target on Sirius XM, Liberty Media (Nasdaq: LMCA  ) reported quarterly results, and Pandora (NYSE: P  ) moved to lower its stiff royalty rates by going after songwriters.

Let's take a closer look.

$3.75 is the new $3
Barrington Research issued a bullish note on Sirius XM on Monday, raising its price target on the shares from $3 to $3.75. The encouraging thesis is that Sirius XM's guidance appears conservative at a time when the fundamentals are strong. Barrington is also encouraged by the likelihood that Sirius XM will begin aggressive buybacks of its shares once the Liberty Media control issue is resolved. In addition, according to Barrington, there's a lower probability that Sirius XM will initiate a dividend.

Give me Liberty
Liberty Media posted quarterly results on Tuesday morning. The results were solid, but what's pertinent were CEO Greg Maffei's comments on Sirius XM and Mel Karmazin's eventual replacement.

Maffei points out that Liberty Media now has an effective 49.2% stake in Sirius XM valued at roughly $9 billion. If the SEC allows Liberty Media to achieve de jure control of the satellite-radio provider with a majority stake, it will make the move to bump its position above 50%.

Maffei is pleased with Sirius XM's strong third-quarter results and its raised guidance. As for Karmazin, Maffei is the head of the three-person board committee tasked with leading the executive search for Sirius XM's next CEO.

"I think there's a deep management team to sustain the success of Sirius XM," he said during Tuesday's conference call, conceding that the committee is exploring both internal and external candidates for the job that will open up when Karmazin leaves at the end of January.

Pandora fights Sirius XM's battle
It's not cheap to run a streaming service, and if Pandora is inconsistently profitable as the market leader, what kind of shot do the rest of the upstarts have?

In a move to improve its cost structure, Pandora is suing ASCAP. Pandora wants to pay smaller fees to the royalty-collecting organization for songwriters. After shelling out half of last year's revenue in royalties, Pandora wants an arrangement closer to what traditional radio companies are paying. Clear Channel (NASDAQOTH: CCMO  ) , for example, pays 1.7% of its gross revenue, and Clear Channel is also the company behind Pandora rival iHeartRadio.

Sirius XM had also complained about its rates in the past, but this bears watching as it gears up to roll out its own Pandora-like service next month. Anything that any company can do to get performance royalties lower will be in Sirius XM's best interest, even if it's now passing those fees on to subscribers.

Ho-ho holidays
You know how it seems as if stores keep putting out their Christmas decorations earlier and earlier every year? Well, let's toss Sirius XM into the mix.

The company offered up details on the seven commercial-free channels that will take subscribers through the season. This is noteworthy is because two of the channels will begin broadcasting as early as Tuesday.

Bah, humbug!

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. Click here to check it out now.


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