Sirius Goes Pedestrian, Intros Portable Media Player

Satellite radio broadcaster Sirius Thursday said it would be continuing its battle for supremacy against its rival, XM Satellite Radio Holdings, by introducing a portable media player this fall. The move also brings the satellite radio player into the pedestrian media marketplace dominated by Apple's iPod.

The Sirius S50 will be able to receive and store up to 50 hours of content, play MP3 and WMA media files, and provide access to live content when attached to a docking station.

Set to go on sale in retail stories in October, the unit's suggested retail prince will be $359.99.

A note by Merrill Lynch evaluating the Sirius S50's potential for success released late Thursday noted that, as the device would still require docking to access live content, it "serves more like a plug-and-play + recorder (and) in our opinion, S50 is an intermediate product before SIRI rolls out a truly portable device capable of receiving and recording live programming anywhere."

"We're an entrainment company, so content is prime and we want to preserve the quality of the programming," said Jim Collins, Vice President for Corporate Communications at Sirius. "As this is satellite radio, not analogue radio, you do have some limitations, but we felt that 50 hours of recordable capability went a long way to satisfying demand."

The Merrill Lynch note also stated that Merrill Lynch had determined that "SIRI has a competitive advantage over XM with its marquee content...Increasing product awareness and lower subsidy costs associated with new chipsets help to reduce the price points of these products, stimulating market demand and eventually paving the way to free cash flow positive."

Although XM is the older of the two satellite radio companies, according to a report last month by California-based Kagan Research, Sirius has been steadily gaining ground--with its listener share climbing from 11 percent in 2003 to 26 percent in 2004, and expected to edge near 33 percent by the end of this year.

XM currently has a total of over 150 Digital Channels, with 67 commercial-free music channels included in the total, while Sirius has over 130 Digital Channels in total, including 65 commercial-free music channels.

The same report also cited new programming, agreements with the automotive industry, and a relatively low turnover and drop-out rate for subscribers as factors that have helped to help lift the number of satellite radio subscriptions to 46.8 million--and yearly revenue to $7.6 billion--by 2014.

XM appears to be set to achieve positive cash flow by 2007, Kagan said, while Sirius will likely take until 2008 to do so.

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