How can you tell when you're being given the hard sell? If it's an unsolicited broker calling you up, it's the point where he asks you if you would like higher returns by taking on lower risk. If it's a time-share presentation, it's when the sales rep tells you she believes that new member prices are about to go up. If it's a duopoly trying to sway you into believing that a merger isn't a monopoly, it's when XM Satellite Radio
Yesterday it was the NAACP publicly backing the deal, just hours after a press release was issued showing a former FCC commissioner supporting the combination of the two satellite radio service providers.
Or we can go two days back, to when Sirius announced that Tennessee congressman Steve Cohen would be hosting an on-air Elvis Presley tribute to celebrate the third anniversary of Elvis Radio on Sirius. Can XM and Sirius lobby hard enough to have every influential politician on those premium airwaves?
Or go back to Monday, when Americans for Tax Reform and the 60 Plus Association voiced their support of XM and Sirius hooking up. I don't know about you, but nothing inspires me more than knowing that folks bent on reforming our country's tax code think it's a good thing to have Oprah Winfrey and Howard Stern on the same satellite radio dial.
More than words
If you don't have time to read through softball press releases, XM and Sirius will bring the hard sell to your PC. XMMerger.com and SiriusMerger.com are nearly identical sites, urging visitors to contact the FCC with their pro-merger thoughts.
Too slick? Too corporate? Maybe last week's blessing from the African Methodist Episcopal Church -- 150,000 members strong -- will sway you.
At some point, you feel XM and Sirius are trying so hard that this deal can't possibly be in your best interest. You start feeling used. You begin looking for surgeon general warnings on the label. You wonder if you're the butt of their joke and whether a trap door is waiting to suck you under, cursing you with being the next name in a pro-merger press release.
Check that, right into the penalty box
So what's the press release that stands out in an eclectic crowd of cheerleaders? That has to be XM's release touting its contract renewal with the NHL yesterday.
"XM to Become Exclusive Satellite Radio Carrier of NHL," reads the headline. I'm not asking you to consider the allure of radio broadcasts of a physical sport like hockey, which demands to be seen rather than simply heard. What I find to be hilarious here is that there are only two satellite radio providers. The fact that XM has the NHL means that Sirius does not. This is the old-school type of press release the companies used to put out when they were at war. Is this a sign that XM realizes the merger is coming undone?
To be frank, I think it's a good thing for XM. It shows it's not simply phoning it in, waiting for Sirius to rescue its lethargic subscriber count growth. I would rather see this kind of posturing than all of the kiss-up press releases, arguing that the deal should happen because cheaper price plans will be available. If I'm a shareholder, I don't want to hear that. With what is gradually becoming a limited audience, the last thing I want to hear about is the opportunity for existing subscribers to pay even less.
If I'm sensitive to the hard sell, I'm looking to hang up on the broker or peel away from the time-share office. At the very least, I'm looking for a press release I can read without feeling like I have to call in a hazmat team to cleanse me once I'm done.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a subscriber to both Sirius and XM. He does not own shares in any company mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.
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