So what happens to all that expensive and unique programming Sirius (NSDQ: SIRI) and XM (NSDQ: XMSR) amassed during the highly competitive pre-merger days? The companies promised the merged Sirius XM would offer subscribers choice of content, ways to combine the two and access via existing satellite radios. Today, they started to deliver — but at a cost and with some big gaps, including online access for a la carte subs:
— “Best of Both”: For $16.99 monthly, roughly $4 more than current fees for each separately, XM subs can add a “Best of Sirius” pack with Howard Stern, Martha Stewart Living Radio, NFL, NASCAR and *Playboy* Radio. Sirius subs can add the “Best of XM” with Oprah Winfrey, Opie and Anthony, XM Public Radio, “select” games from NBA, NHL and NCAA, and the PGA Tour. Most should be able to add the packages with their existing radios. A “family friendly” version is $14.95. Internet radio is included; upgrades to CD-quality sound are $2.99 a month. Want Grateful Dead Radio or the Boss on XM? Out of luck.
— A la carte: But a la carte options require a new radio. The first of those (Sirius Starmate 5) went on sale today for a suggested $129. And a la carte is limited: no live games or games — and no internet radio. Plans start at $6.99 for 50 channels from Sirius with an extra $0.25 per premium channel per month. A la carte plus Howard Stern runs $12.95. Adding sports starts at $11.99 or, in an odd bit of pricing, you can get Howard and sports for $12.95. Prices for Sirius-only a la carte are capped at $12.95 for a la carte no matter how many channels are selected. Premium channels include the Grateful Dead Channel, E Street Radio, Elvis, Siriusly Sinatra, Martha Stewart and the Fox News Channel. A Gold version with 100 channels, no premium charges and some XM options runs $14.99.
At first glance, a la carte seems more for new users who don’t have investments in equipment. As for “best of” — all depends on your definition of best.