Friday, February 23, 2007

Yell avoid art radio valley

By now you've probably heard that the two major satellite radio providers XM and Sirius are planning to merge. I predicted this a couple of years ago, but I'm not here toot my own horn. I want to show why the merger doesn't violate any anti-trust regulations, and should be allowed to proceed.

USA Today had conflicting editorials regarding the merger, including this scathing attack by private media consultant Jimmy Schaeffler: Reject their request

It seems like Schaeffler's only legitimate gripe is that neither XM nor Sirius has demonstrated profitability, possibly due to poor business planning. He takes the attack too far however:

Moreover, it is disingenuous, if not ludicrous, to suggest that XM and Sirius face financial woes because of threats from Internet radio, iPods or alternative music platforms.

Well, I don't think anybody is arguing that the companies' financial woes stem entirely from competition from Internet radio and iPods, so your disingenuous straw man is easily squashed. However, I think the argument in itself is disingenuous, because he is making the case that satellite radio is a market unto itself, and faces no competition from outside sources. This is clearly false.

I got Sirius with my new Jeep last year, including a 1-year trial subscription. I won't be renewing when the trial period ends, mainly due to the fact I can bring my iPod in the car with me and listen to whatever I want. Other reasons include workable free radio options in the Denver area, and cheap factory dashboard displays on all Chrysler cars.

XM and Sirius may have been built upon poor business models, but that's not the only reason for their lack of success thus far. The main obstacles to their profitability have been competition between the companies, as well as from iPods, terrestrial and HD radio, the internet and wi-fi, and even digital cable. They also have to pay the government for use of their airwaves, about $90 million each, a fee not levied upon terrestrial radio broadcasters.

The bottom line is, this merger can only benefit both companies and their subscribers. The competition between XM and Sirius wasn't helping anyone, so why not give them a chance to provide comprehensive radio coverage, in order to compete fairly in their own market. If they can't do a good job as a provider, then we as consumers don't have to buy their product because we have plenty of other options. It's really that simple.

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