Sat-Radio Merger on the Way?

It has been widely reported that Kevin Martin, Chairman of the FCC, has announced his support for the proposed merger of the XM and Sirius satellite radio services. This is not a story directly about HDTV, but it is an important data point as we rush through a rapidly changing landscape of entertainment delivery systems. We need to understand the forces at work in the XM/Sirius situation if we’re to be ready for some of the surprises that may lie just over the technology horizon.

The complaint against the merger was that it is anti-competitive. The argument for it was that there’s not enough market for the two separate services to survive, and besides, the “competition” is no longer just local radio stations. The competition now includes Web radio and iTunes and all sorts of portable entertainment devices. Apparently the FCC has worked out arrangements for new models that could receive signals from both services (at least until they combine under one broadcast system).

And this could turn out to be a story about HDTV after all. Sirius Backseat TV already offers video programming three family networks that can be captured by mobile receivers, and it only costs $7 a month on top of your regular subscription. This could be the beginning of competition for mobile TV transmissions, which also are likely to collide with WiMax services that can deliver broadband Internet connections to mobile devices, making IPTV available wherever you go. So we will do well to pay attention to the Sirius and XM merger developments as they unfold.