- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2007

The nation’s two largest satellite radio providers, XM and Sirius, have announced that they will merge in a deal worth $13 billion.

On the surface, this would be fantastic news for sports fans, many of whom have held off subscribing to satellite radio because the sports content has been split between the two providers. Unless you have a trailer of disposable income, you’ve been unlikely to pay for two satellite radio services. After the merger, you won’t have to.

Here’s a list of who currently has what in terms of sports content:

XM

-Major League Baseball

-College football’s BCS

-Indy Car Series Racing

Sirius

-NFL

-NBA

-NASCAR

-NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship

The two providers have been sharing the NHL, but XM signed a deal to have all games exclusively beginning with the 2007-08 season.

The relationships with college conferences and teams are little more complicated, but XM is generally the place for the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-10, while Sirius has the Big 12, SEC and Big East.

So clearly, with the sports landscape split so evenly, fans have been a little frustrated. A merger would likely solve this problem. In fact, the split of the sports services is probably one motivation behind the deal.

Whether or not the rates for service to the merged company stay the same is unclear. Obviously, with only one satellite provider instead of two, there would not be not as much competition to keep monthly fees down, which is why regulators will likely use an electron microscope to review the deal.

If the deal goes through, it will be important to watch whether live sports broadcasts will continue to be included in the normal subscriptions to these services. In the press release announcing the merger, the two companies said they are now “committed to consumer choice, including offering consumers the ability to pick and choose the channels and content they want on a more a la carte basis.” In other words, you pay for want you want.

The idea of al la carte pricing has been mentioned as a possibility in the cable industry, and it’s generally seen as a pro-consumer philosophy. But if subscribers are asked to pay a separate fee for several different pieces of sports content, that might not go over well.

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