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XM and Sirius finally merge channel listings

November 13, 2008|Steve Carney | Carney is a freelance writer.

For more than six years, satellite radio fans always had to make their choices: XM or Sirius, Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Buffett or Tom Petty.

On Wednesday -- four months after XM and Sirius merged -- the combined company consolidated its channel listings, so now Sirius subscribers can hear exclusive shows by Dylan and Petty, previously played only on XM. And once-envious XM listeners can now hear entire channels devoted to Buffett, Springsteen and Elvis Presley, the latter beamed straight from Graceland.

Streamlining had been expected since the merger. Now both services feature 69 commercial-free music channels, but even with the changes, the lineups are not identical: Sirius does not feature XM's folk-music and old-school R&B channels, for instance.

But with the axing of some redundant channels, the merger is not without its casualties. For example, the company eliminated Fred, Ethel and Lucy, XM's trio of channels that divvied up alternative music from the '80s, '90s and today. Fans of those stations will now get Sirius' versions, instead. Likewise, the separate channels on Sirius devoted to music of the '50s, '60s and '70s have been replaced by their XM counterparts.

In October, Sirius XM began offering "best of" packages. For $4 more than the standard $12.95 per month fee, XM subscribers can add Howard Stern, the NFL, NASCAR, Martha Stewart and Playboy Radio from Sirius. For the same price, Sirius subscribers can get exclusive XM programming, including Oprah Winfrey & Friends, the PGA Tour and NHL games.

Sirius and XM remain separate services, however, because subscribers with XM radios can only get content beamed from the XM satellites, and vice versa. New, consolidated receivers are months or years off, company officials say.

The satellite radio era began Sept. 25, 2001, when XM launched its service; Sirius debuted nine months later. The combined company now has about 19 million subscribers. Both companies have lost money since their inception. And though Sirius XM Radio reported it hoped to break even next year, the company said Tuesday it had lost $4.8 billion in the third quarter of 2008.

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