By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 1:16 am
Sirius XM, the spawn the of the merger that was supposed to save satellite radio, isn’t doing so hot. According to the New York Times, it’s on the brink of bankruptcy and could file for Chapter 11 protection any moment now. If it does so, service shouldn’t be affected, but those pricey contracts with personalities such as Howard Stern and businesses such as Major League Baseball might be. In other words, the very content that’s supposed to make satellite radio worth the bucks could be at risk.
As I wrote when Sirius XM recently raised some of its fees, I was once a hardcore XM fan, and still find much to like in the service–but I have the sneaking feeling that I’ll eventually do my radio listening in the car via my iPhone or another smartphone. And “eventually” may not be all that far away. Especially if the bankruptcy or further aftershocks from the merger impacts any of the programming I’m paying for. (I still can’t figure out why both the pre-merger XM and Sirius carried Harry Shearer’s Le Show…but the combined enterprise doesn’t.)
Meanwhile, satellite radio’s fragile condition would seem to be more evidence that sending satellites into the skies to beam stuff back to earth is so hugely expensive a proposition that it’s hard to turn it into a business. (Earlier examples: Boeing’s short-lived Connexion airplane broadband and Iridium’s satellite phone service.) Although I guess it’s possible that Sirius XM’s woes have less to do with outer space and more to do with money that stayed right here on earth–and went into the pockets of Howard Stern, Martha Stewart, Oprah, and pals.