Monday, February 19, 2007

A High-Flying Merger

Today marked the announcement of the much anticipated merger agreement between satellite radio service providers, XM and Sirius. Under the agreement, Sirius will acquire rival XM for $4.6-Billion in stock. Neither company has yet to turn a profit, and a combination makes a lot of sense. Still, the merger will face opposition by other interests, such as terrestrial radio stations and others who fear a monopoly in satellite radio. The satellite providers say that there is no monopoly, in that they compete with every audio device out there, from iPods to CDs to standard radio.

I am mixed on this one, as I fear subscription prices will rise without the competition between the two; yet both of them are burning through a lot of money competing against each other. Such fears kept the proposed merger of Dish Network and DirecTV from gaining government approval a few years ago, resulting in the breakup of the deal.

So far, I have resisted the siren-call of satellite radio. Still, I would enjoy the variety of programming available on satellite, but I don't really want to pay another $12.95 every month. Terrestrial radio has gotten very homogenized and boring. I used to love listening to distant AM radio stations via atmospheric skip at night, a hobby called "DX-ing". When you hear the same syndicated program on another station that is now owned by Clear Channel Communications, it takes a lot of the fun from the effort.

Once the dust settles, I may yet succumb to the lure of satellite radio. I was once an early adopter. I have had satellite TV for ten years, owned a VCR shortly after they came out, and had a cell phone when they had a handset attached to a backpack-style unit by a cord. I have paid dearly over the years for the privilege of getting technology when it is still new. Circumstances and changing priorities have cured me of that. Things I would like, but are not a priority include not only satellite radio, but High Definition Television, a cell phone that does more than just make calls, and a car GPS navigation system. There was a time in my life when if these things were available, I would have had them. Now, I enjoy my standard definition TV, my plain old flip phone, and listen to AM radio going to work.

I still have satellite TV though. I cannot see going back to the way it was when I was a kid . . . three channels, all in beautiful black and white!

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