A lot of of chatter was generated when the team behind StarPlayr announced it was dumping its project to bring Sirius XM content to the iPhone and iPod Touch. Naturally, is was presumed that one of the main reasons for Apple’s decision — though logic is seemingly not always a consideration when Apple rejects apps — was a Sirius XM streaming app already in the works from the Satellite Radio provider itself. Sure enough this morning’s earnings call was the forum the struggling company chose to announce a forthcoming app. Forgetting the company posted a Q4 loss of $245.8 million, Sirius XM’s radio streaming app for the iPhone and iPod Touch will be released sometime in Q2 and judging by recent changes in the company’s subscription options, expect it to cost money one way or another.
Well, satellite radio lovers, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that the positive stipulations to the Sirius XM merger deal will finally begin to bear fruit and a variety of new programming packages will be available. The bad news is that many current subscribers will see their fees increased. First and foremost, the basic subscription fee for the current programming package will not budge – as the providers stated during the merger battle, the core subscription will stay fixed at $12.95 per month with lump sum discounts intact. The primary change is one that will affect subscribers with multiple radios, as additional subscriptions will jump from $6.99 per month to $8.99 per month. The variety of new packages and a la carte plans revealed during the merger deal will be available as well however, ranging in price from $6.99 per month to $16.99 per month. Let’s have a look at all of the offerings:
- Sirius Everything (basic subscription): $12.95
- Best of Both (Sirius Everything plus Best of XM): $16.99
- A La Carte (50 Sirius channels a la carte): $6.99
- A La Carte Gold (100 Sirius and/or XM channels a la carte): $14.99
- Mostly Music: $9.99
- News, Sports and Talk: $9.99
- Family-Friendly: $11.95
- Family-Friendly plus Best of XM: $14.99
Plans that combine Sirius and XM programming will of course require a new radio. The other big change is the removal of the free internet streaming option. Currently, paying subscribers can enjoy free low-quality streaming over the internet or pay $2.99 for a high-quality 128k stream. The former will now be removed and all subscribers must pay $2.99 to enjoy programming via the internet. Of course that’s not a bad deal at all; a year of streaming will run $35.88 which is comparable to both Pandora and Last.fm ($36 each), and 25% cheaper than Slacker. These changes will take place on March 11 and users are invited to prepay for service prior to that date in order to be locked in at the current pricing for up to three more years. What say you satellite radio subscribers – happy, sad or indifferent?
It seems like a lifetime ago that Sirius and XM first announced the intentions to merge and form a single satellite radio powerhouse. Subscribers were generally overjoyed by the possibilities; twice the content, a la carte options, the promise that current subscription rates would not increase, etc. It sounded like everyone would be a winner. There was just one problem though… Terrestrial radio and its “relationship” with the FCC. We won’t go into this mockery of government yet again, but suffice it to say that there were some pretty big hurdles that had to be ovecome. Here we are almost 18 months later however, and the merger has finally been approved! Of course there are some conditions to the $3.3 billion deal, first and foremost is the fact that the companies will have to cough up $20 million in fines to the FCC right out of the gate. These fines are a result of FCC claims that several radio models and signal-boosting towers violate FCC regulations. Ok fine, moving on. The other notable stipulation is one that we can’t say we disapprove of:
The companies must cap prices for three years after joining and allow consumers to choose the channels they want and pay less for packages of channels.
Work on a la carte-friendly radios is already underway although it sounds like despite claims made by several on-air personalities, current radio models may not be capable of receiving both Sirius and XM streams. As much of a shame as that would be, we’ll have to wait for some formal announcements before it can be confirmed or denied. Whatever the case may be, last night’s announcement was a big step forward and only time will tell how it plays out.