XM Satellite Radio The two major satellite radio services are merging. But as with any merger where two content aggregators are concerned, what really matters is how the content packages are going to be integrated.
The always clued-in Harry McCracken of PC World has a most thoughtful take. Harry visualizes lots of potential, but is concerned about two things: will the merger bring a lessening of choices due to consolidation of channels, and how will device incompatibilities be handled.
The first challenge might be a bit easier. I know there will be lots of panicky talent agents for the talkers, deejays and thinkers (such as ex-NPR/American cultural treasure Bob Edwards) and others. The only solution will be a broad roster of legacy channels from both services. Not only the obvious ones, but the niche. If programs, personalities and channels are culled, they must be done with the understanding that niche audiences are the most loyal, and that niche program hosts are not necessarily the ones with agents that can claim the most gravitas.
If there are channels dropped for arbitrary reasons (such as non-empirical, rationale-justifying "research") and the management of this combined service is tone-deaf to protests, then pox on this outfit.
Now the devices. Here the issue could be less personality-driven and more tech.
Then there's the hardware question. Will all existing XM and Sirius devices--including all those receivers built into cars--work forever? If there's some period during which the services aren't completely merged, will new devices have to support both flavors of satellite radio? Is the combined company going to keep all of XM and Sirius's pricey satellites? I don't know enough about the technicalities of satellite communications to even hazard guesses here.
(XM, by the way, has usually been ahead of Sirius when it comes to the coolest hardware--so much so that I'm not worrying that a merger will be bad for the quality of satellite radio gadgets. I'm just assuming that future devices will draw more from the XM side of things than the Sirius one.)
Harry seems to feel that this new entity could work, if only because their main competition isn't each other, but iPods, TiVo, HD Radio, etc. And you know, he is probably right. Not all that long ago, in my hotel room, I booted up the laptop and listened to a radio channel available through my Comcast digital broadband. If I still had EV-DO, could have kept that channel on via my laptop in my car. And on a more recent trip, there were a selection of both popular and eclectic CDs.But satellite radio? Haven't gone there yet.
Compelling content from a merged service, though, and I just might.