Sirius XM satellite radio – the only satellite radio operator in the U.S., thanks to the merger between the former rivals in 2008 – today increased its forecast for 2012 net subscriber gains from 1.6 million to 1.8 million, thanks to better-than-expected new car sales this year. Two-thirds of all new cars today are equipped with factory-installed satellite radio. Following the close of the third quarter, the company had a record 23.4 million subscribers in its fold, including yours truly.
As an inadvertent early adopter of satellite radio (the then-new 2004 Honda Accord EX-L V6 that I purchased in fall 2003 was one of the first Accords with factory XM radio), I remember XM celebrating its millionth subscriber. At that time, long before the merger, and even long before Howard Stern signed with Sirius, Sirius had about a half million subscribers.
Both satellite radio companies endured their share of growing pains over the years. Initially competing against one another for talent, the companies were burning cash at a ridiculous pace.
Eventually, after a regulatory review that stretched into the years rather than months, the former rivals merged and stopped competing against one another for content and merged back-office operations such as management and billing. Some duplicate content was eliminated (for instance, the combined company only needed one 60s channel), which also saved money. Plus, the subscriber base steadily grew, and Howard Stern’s second contract was much smaller than his first.
Though there’s just one satellite radio company anymore, the satellites in use by Sirius and by XM are different. So they can streamline all they want on earth, but a car with a built-in XM receiver cannot receive signals from a legacy Sirius satellite, and vice versa. I’m frankly kind of surprised that Sirius hasn’t
Bonus Pro Tip:Nobody should pay the asking price for satellite radio. It’s absurdly expensive. I called to cancel NavTraffic service on my Cadillac CTS and decided to bluff and say I was cancelling my entire account since I wasn’t using the service in that car often (with frequent press cars, that part is a true statement). In order to maintain their subscription numbers (which Wall Street no doubt closely tracks, probably more than almost any metric, aside from hopefully revenue per sub), they offered me a year for roughly $65, which is about half of the asking price. I fully intend to “cancel” (ahem) in a year and get a similar deal.
Though satellite radio is healthier than it’s ever been, there have never been more choices for in-car entertainment. iPhones, iPods, Pandora, Rdio, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, and others are all vying for some quality time with your ears in the car. Or, you could just go with a radio-delete option and listen to your engine. Perhaps not a bad choice if your transportation appliance is a Boss 302.