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Satellite Radio

Rural King

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Satellite Radio is a rather young industry and two firms are currently in existence within the US to provide content to subscribers. Currently those are XM Radio and Sirius Radio, both of whom are trying to get Federal approval for a merger to create one stable provider with a large enough base of consumers to be viable.

I have Sirius and simply love it. The wide variety of news, talk, sports, and wide breadth of music stations make it well worth the subscription for me. The only drawback is that XM has the baseball contract and I would like that service as its the sport I follow most.

I hear XM provides a great service as well, although it does not have some of the big names and draws as Sirius has, namely Howard Stern, Bubba the Love Sponge, NASCAR, etc., while having baseball and some other content as drawing points. Which leads to the main point of the argument I hear for a merger, that combining XM and Sirius into one firm would allow for a better service package to be provided to a base of customers who otherwise would have to buy two services.

I think the merger is perfectly fine as they compete against other media outlets constantly, namely terrestrial radio. Plus, if one firm failed the other would gain a natural monopoly anyway. I also think a merger would help stregthen the industry's long term ability to expand and become a better service provider.

So who else has Sirius or XM? What are your feelings towards the service, the future of the industry, and are you for or against allowing the merger? Etc.

-Note: I used the search function for similar topics and did not see any. If they do exist feel free to notify me and I will merge this thread into that one or take my discussion there.-

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When I purchased my car in 2004 it came standard with XM along with a free three month trial of the service. When it came up to renew that trial they gave me a discount of around $77 for a year's worth of service, unfortunately they really didn't win me over during that year. It was excellent to start out with, but I found I was paying $77 for a service that kept playing the same songs over and over and over. I wanted XM to hear some new music in my selected genre and that simply wasn't happening.

Perhaps things have changed with XM and they are now playing a wider selection of music that I have tastes for, but I don't think it is worth paying full price for (what is it, $160 a year or so?). I'll tell you what I DO pay for and that is Yahoo Music Unlimited. I can listen to a music station commercial free that is tailored to my particular tastes. I tell it what I like, rate the artist, song and album on a scale and it uses those ratings to give me the music I really enjoy. XM can't do that, AND it is more expensive. When I'm in the car these days my wife and I pretty much are loyal NPR listeners so we rarely listen to music unless it comes from my iPod.

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i've had xm for about a year now, mainly as a companion on what has become a pretty 'BJ & the Bear'-esque routine of cross-country driving trips - several per year. 105,000k on a two year-old car thus far.

i like xm a lot, although i doubt the programming differs significantly from sirius' offerings. as you note, the big names and special-interest sports / talk programming is what differentiates the two services.

i chose xm over sirius solely because of the weekly 'theme time radio hour' show emceed by bob dylan. for me, that's proven to have been a good call - i love the way he assumes the role of a classic radio DJ, thoughtfully selecting music of every imaginable background for its relevance to each show's theme: coffee one week, time the next, mothers, driving, luck, etc. he's such a great cypher of americana and he liberally shares a lifetime's store of avid pop culture treasure-hunting with his listeners.

other than that, i could probably be happy with either service. satellite's cheap, it's varied, and the music programming (on xm, anyway) is thoughtfully esoteric on most channels - repeats are very, very rare.

i'm ambivalent about a merger; i'm not terribly well-informed on what the long-term implications might be, beyond those you mention in your post.

the one complaint i have - and this is a shot in the dark, since i haven't investigated the true source of the problem - is the monotonously average sound quality of xm, both in my car and at home. perhaps a dedicated EQ could create some dynamic space that just isn't there right now. it may be that my xm receiver unit is inferior to another manufacturer's, or it could just be that i have too great a faith in the ability of an all-digital signal to offer a broader aural frequency spectrum than my xm has given me thus far. when driving, it is a shock to toggle from even a mediocre-quality mp3 or aac file on my ipod; to go from the ipod to the satellite (they both use identical line-level inputs into my car stereo, so that's not an issue.) there's no hiss or noise artifacts with the satellite signal; it's just mono-1950s-radio-flat-sounding, compared with the ipod (or cd player, or even a good FM signal).

but i like the service and would miss it if i were without it, especially during my current phase of long and frequent road trips.

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...I found I was paying $77 for a service that kept playing the same songs over and over and over. I wanted XM to hear some new music in my selected genre and that simply wasn't happening.

. . .

Perhaps things have changed with XM and they are now playing a wider selection of music that I have tastes for...

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I've had XM now for a couple of years. Overall I like having satellite radio. XM has the MLB contract right now, so it helped a little bit when I was in college in quasi-New York listening to the Red Sox.

The signal for some reason doesn't like to pick up on back roads, with obstruction by trees and/or boulders off on the side. Nor did it work well when I was living in a brick and steel apartment building a couple years back... even when I had the antenna in a southwest facing window. But when you're out on the open highway, it should work fine.

Unfortunately, my car predates satellite radio, so my stock stereo wouldn't be XM ready, meaning I have to run XM in the car on FM modulation. So either you have to upgrade your car stereo to an aftermarket to get something XM ready ... or, you have to grind it out like me. In rural areas, you shouldn't have problems. In the New York to Boston corridor, where nearly every other radio slot is filled by some station... it's horrible. It seems like when I get within 5-7 miles of I-287 (New York) or Route 128 (Boston) I have no chance to get the XM to play over any frequency. And seemingly any trip over 50 miles means I have to change the station to get away from interference with another station. But as said, if you live in a rural area with not many stations to interfere... not a problem.

I have heard Sirius, but not enough of it ... especially recently, to make a call on whether or not their playlist is better. I will say this on XM though...

- Some stations have very shallow playlists: Big Tracks 49, newer classic rock hits, is a favorite of mine but it seemingly plays a lot of Robert Plant and a few other guys in heavier rotation when there's so much more they could have picked from to not repeat as much. I've also noticed the reggaeton station is essentially the same 10-15 songs over and over again.

- The decade stations tend to play deeper cuts with some hits mixed in. The 80s station plays a lot of obscure stuff which can get annoying. The 90s station plays a lot of hip-hop and urban R&B, but edited (not a fan of that).

- There's a lot of rock styles. Something like 14-15 stations. Only a couple of hits stations too. I haven't explored too much beyond 40 (Deep Cuts), 42 (Metal), 46 (Classic Rock), 49 (New Classic), and 54 (90s alt). But hey, prob something you'd like.

- The hip-hop stations have become jokes. The old school station (65 Rhyme) plays late 80s stuff and early 90s stuff, with the occassional 2Pac song. NWA and early/mid-90s East Coast (Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas, Wu Tang) is very rare. The modern hip-hop stuff (66 Raw) is a different playlist from what you'd find on conventional hip-hop stations and uncensored. Problem is, they still play crap. If you're looking for anything conscious, or not some generic Southern rambling... avoid like the plague except for this show Subsoniq during the week sometime. 67 and 68 are the other two hip hop stations, essentially the same thing as what you'd hear on terrestrial.

- I'll notice some song being played on one station, that is played on another station within the previous 20 minutes. Or sometimes at the same time. It's most common between 22, 23, 25, and 26... the adult contemporary stations. Sometimes it'll be 8 or 9 overlapping with something in the early-mid 20s. It can get annoying, and happens more often than you'd think.

Good things about XM: genres you wouldn't hear on terrestrial radio. I listen to trance and progressive, they got a station for that. There's a station for metal. A station for just 80s music. Something for pretty much anyone. I have heard Sirius is a little better for music. But, XM stations have the occasional shows which makes up for it. Like special guest DJs who do playlists (esp. common in the hip-hop and dance stations). It has baseball and hockey and some college sports. It had the World Cup last year, dunno if they will again in 2010. It got Live Earth, if anyone wanted to listen to that a few months back.

Overall I like, but some things are kinda bad about it.

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I've had Sirius for 2 years now, and other than MLB, it has everything I could want. The Howard Stern Channels are possibly the best programmed stations on Earth. Other than NPR, I find regular radio unlistenable now. Satellite has better music (pick a genre, any genre), better talk (Left, Right, Sports, women, men, gay, take your pick, it has it all), and Sirius has NFL, NBA, NASCAR, and some NHL games.

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Driving 1500 miles per week +, I have come to consider satellite radio as a necessity. I enjoy NPR and BBC broadcasts as well as the sports broadcasting. I have Sirius, almost went with XM due to MLB, but have been fairly satisfied.

My biggest gripes, if you done have an satellite ready radio in your car or an auxillary audio jack, the FM modulation on the recent receivers are terrible. I constantly have to change the station in my personal car due to poor sound quality. However, my company car has an auxillary jack, and the sound is crystal clear.

Some of the stations, mainly the Top Hits, Dance stations, and new country are bad to have short playlists that get repeated way to many times during a 24 hour period.

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I have Sirius from the fact that I am a subscriber and that Dish Network also streams all of its music channels on it's satellite TV service.

I can't imagine driving in a car without it as FM radio has gotten so bad I just can't listen to it anymore, and it is nothing but endless commercials anyway. We have also had XM by nature of a GM vehicle that we owned for a while, and while I liked it, I prefer the programming on Sirius.

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I have to agree with the gripes about the poor sound quality that can occur if you have to use the FM transmitter. A solution I found for the Sirius FM transmitter was a booster than I acquired out an older Sirius kit from a friend, if you can find such a booster it can improve the tranmission and sound quality quite a bit. I'm not sure if XM has a similar booster, but it might be worth looking for any one on XM.

I also agree its a pain in some areas trying to pick up a dead channel and sometimes annoying to have to change the FM setting on long road trips multiple times. However, considering how much enjoyment I get out satellite radio those issues seem rather minor.

Oddly enough the one area where I could not pick up any dead channels for my satellite radio FM transmitter to work was Clingman's Dome on the TN/NC border. It makes sense, but was unexpected.

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When I upgraded phone two months ago, AT&T gave me a free week trial of XM Radio on my phone. Unfortunately, it didn't have all the stations I was hoping for but a decent amount to at least keep me entertained. I've had XM/Sirius in a few rental cars and always enjoyed the classic rock and jazz stations. I saw a Chrysler commercial yesterday advertising something called "Sirius Backseat TV," a satellite television network for kids.

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