Within three months of the merger, SIRIUS XM Radio has committed to getting a "BEST OF" option available to consumers. Unlike true A-La-Carte programming, "BEST OF" will work on all existing services with legacy receivers on both the Sirius as well as the XM system. The "BEST OF" programming is simply the broadcasting of content that used to be available on only one network onto the other network using existing technology and systems.
Howard Stern will likely be the biggest "BEST OF" draw. Stern, used to only be available on Sirius, and for those that bought a car that only installed XM, were either forced to buy a Sirius retail device and get a full subscription to Sirius on top of their XM subscription, or to simply do without him.
These consumers now have an inexpensive and viable option that allows them to access Howard's channels without the cost of new equipment, without cluttering up the dashboard, and without paying a full $12.95 per month for the second service. For an additional $4.04 per month, XM subscribers will not only get Howard Stern, but several other "BEST OF" channels from the Sirius line-up.
The "BEST OF" concept goes both ways. Sirius subscribers will have access to XM's best for the same $4.04 per month. Many consumers feel that the sports programming will cross over as part of this package. I do not believe this to be the case, at least not on an "every game" basis. Negotiations with the major sports outlets likely still need to be conducted to deal with the new concept of a merger. Look for "BEST OF" to include exclusive content that is controlled by each respective entity.
For this reason alone, I think Howard Stern will be the biggest impact of the 'BEST OF" line-up. Think of it as another extension of The Stern Effect. Personally I see a bigger demand for XM subscribers to get Sirius content than Sirius subscribers to get XM, but the ONLY REASON I see this is Howard Stern. People who like music on XM or Sirius like it for a reason. There is no hurry or need to get even more music. It is the exclusive content that matters, and for the most part, the King of Exclusive content is Stern.
XM boasts 9.5 million subscribers. If only 1% were to opt in for the "BEST OF" programming, that would translate to an additional $384,000 in revenue each month. Not a huge sum, but that is assuming what is likely a worst a case scenario at only a 1% crossover. Get 10% to opt in and the revenue jumps up to $3,800,000 of additional revenue each month.
Is there a demand for Stern? Retail numbers, and web statistics would indicate that there is. The biggest numbers this site has ever seen are attributable to stories about Howard or someone from his show. An article I wrote titled "The Stern Effect" garnered web hits that have not been replicated by this site ever since, and that is inclusive of the day the merger was approved by the FCC.
Pick any number you want, but understand this. The 9.5 million subscribers to XM are a captive audience who will be well aware that The King of All Media will be available for what translates to a nominal fee, and every XM subscriber that grabs the "BEST OF" will add revenue to the satellite radio picture.
As yet things are still pretty quite. This is the calm before the storm. Once SIRIUS XM Radio cuts loose with the marketing, Stern will be unstoppable in his promotion efforts. For him, this crop of XM subscribers represents more subscribers to his own Howard TV brand. Whether you like him or not, he is a marketing machine, and he understands this business. Stern sees opportunity here, and he will seize it.
Position - Long SIRI