Sirius XM Radio
The satellite radio giant launched a Led Zeppelin channel over the weekend, playing songs from the iconic rock quartet in its commercial-free format between now and the end of December. The channel's rollout coincides with this month's release of a boxed set of the band's albums on vinyl-replica CDs.
Sirius and XM do this all of the time, of course. Artist-specific channels come and go. However, Led Zeppelin Radio is different: It will broadcast on both Sirius and XM. Duplicating content is an easy way to save on programming costs.
This isn't the first time that Sirius XM has used its new post-merger bargaining power to create programming that will play on both XM and Sirius receivers. The company struck a deal with sports-talk radio host Chris "Mad Dog" Russo this summer for a show that airs on both networks.
However, the Zep's channel debuts as the company is trying to get subscribers to each service to pay a premium to receive top content from the rival network, under the new "Best of Both" plan. The more Sirius and XM begin sounding the same, the less likely anyone will be to pay extra for both Sirius and XM.
Turn the page, plant a tree
Naturally, Sirius XM knows where to draw the line. It won't be offering Howard Stern for free on XM, or Oprah Winfrey for free on Sirius. However, creating too much overlap in talk content and musical play lists can be detrimental in setting the XM and Sirius brands apart.
That brings me back to a line in Led Zeppelin's signature "Stairway to Heaven."
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on.
Consumers have been paying $12.95 a month for access to XM or Sirius, but the goal now is to get subscribers to pay $4 more to receive a cross-section of the best content from the other channel. Upgrading a subscription-based plan is tricky. Netflix
XM and Sirius would love to milk $4 more a month from their $13-a-month members, but that's a high price to pay, given the limited amount of time that many subscribers spend in their cars. Satellite television providers like DirecTV
Hope springs eternal
Another hurdle in the company's plans to get subscribers to pay more is concern over the company's viability as a business.
If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now,
It's just a spring clean for the May queen.
Ah, the May queen. Sirius has to pay back $350 million in XM bank debt in May. It also has a $300 million convertible tab due three months earlier, and a larger $400 million repayment by year's end. With more than $1 billion in repayments next year, the market seems to believe that the "spring clean" at Sirius XM will come in the form of filing for bankruptcy protection. That would likely wipe out its shareholders, but Sirius and XM would continue to broadcast during the reorganization.
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Closed stores are a problem for Sirius XM. Its receivers haven't been selling briskly at the retail level, leaving the company to rely on incentivized auto manufacturers to push the factory-installed receivers. It also doesn't help that consumer electronics chains like Circuit City
The carmaker shift is fine, until you realize that General Motors
The last laugh
With shares of Sirius XM down to $0.31 each, it's easy to assume the worst. In fact, I have. However, it's also easy to see the desperate bullish argument come together at this very inopportune moment for the company.
A consumer-facing company will do anything it can to avoid bankruptcy, to keep subscribers around. Survival will likely mean massive share dilution, but there is still upside to a company that was worth substantially more as a stand-alone company with a fraction of today's 18.6 million subscribers.
It's that glimmer of bullish hope that leaves me with one last "Stairway to Heaven" nugget:.
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.
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