Even in its infancy, satellite radio has inflamed passions. Terrestrial radio outfits such as Clear Channel Communications
However, as Rick Aristotle Munarriz has argued, Sirius and XM shouldn't necessarily be seen as mortal enemies. Sure, both companies play up the rivalry. And given that each is trying to sign exclusive deals, they are bound to lock horns once and a while. Still, Sirius' and XM's strategies are essentially the same -- offer a wide variety of content to attract a broad spectrum of listeners.
A couple of recent developments at Sirius brought this point into sharp relief. With its signing of Howard Stern last year, Sirius seemed to be playing to an edgier crowd. But the company's most recent hire belies this notion. Last week, the firm announced that it had signed veteran DJ Cousin Brucie. Brucie, who has worked in New York radio for 40 years, was picked up by Sirius after his former employer, an oldies station, decided to change its format. Interestingly enough, the move came just days after Stern himself labeled Brucie a dinosaur for his old-school style. Clearly, Sirius wants to appeal to more than just Howard Stern listeners.
Then on Monday, the New York-based outfit announced that it will deploy a new technology known as hierarchical modulation to increase the capacity of its network by 25%. The goal is to boost its broadcast channels, since Sirius, with 120 channels, lags XM's 150 options. Ultimately more channels mean more unique programming, which translates into a wider audience.
Over the long run, the quality of content will still count, but the satellite duopoly will be characterized by shades of gray rather than black and white. Sirius and XM have a big potential audience to divide between them. Investors should remember that the competition between the two doesn't have to be a zero-sum game.
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Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.