You might say radio programming from this company comes from a higher plane. SIRIUS XM Radio operates satellite radio systems under the SIRIUS and XM brands that together boast more than 21 million subscribers. Each service offers more than 135 channels of CD-quality music, news, and talk shows; about 100 channels are available on both networks. Programming includes National Football League, Major League Baseball, and college games, as well as talk shows featuring hosts Howard Stern, Martha Stewart, and Oprah Winfrey. The company has equipment alliances with several automakers; it also sells satellite radio equipment through its website and through such retail outlets as Best Buy and Wal-Mart.
Subscription satellite radio has proven to be quite popular thanks to the wealth of programming options available beyond the limited content offered by advertising-supported terrestrial radio broadcasters. With its large subscriber base, SIRIUS XM has stolen away many listeners from traditional broadcast stations operated by major radio companies such as Clear Channel and Cumulus Media. Providing all that content, though, is quite expensive due to rights fees for sports and exclusive talk shows, as well as the satellite equipment needed to reach listeners across the country.
Historically focused on serving listeners in their cars, the company relies heavily on automobile makers offering its receivers as an option in new cars as well as aftermarket radio sales.
To diversify beyond the commuter market, the company offers Internet radio services and receivers made for the home entertainment market. It also augments its radio service with traffic and weather services.
The company avoided a serious financial crisis in 2009 when it was rescued from possible bankruptcy by Liberty Media. The media holding company controlled by John Malone provided SIRIUS XM with new funding that year to pay down debt and continue operations in exchange preferred stock convertible to a 40% stake.
The two satellite radio companies had agreed to merge in 2007, arguing throughout the long and arduous process of gaining regulatory approval that only by combining their operations could they survive and compete with terrestrial radio and the emerging Internet radio industry.The company, formerly known as Sirius Satellite Radio, and XM were granted the first (and only) digital audio satellite broadcasting licenses by the FCC in 1997. Ironically, to gain their broadcasting licenses the two companies had to agree to never merge.
In addition to its domestic radio services, SIRIUS XM has interests in the Canadian market. It owns 50% of SIRIUS Canada, a joint venture with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). SIRIUS Canada merged with Canadian Satellite Radio (XM Canada) in 2011, giving SIRIUS a solid foundation in the Canadian market. – less