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Sirius Unveils New Pricing Plans, But Cost Benefits Unclear

Newly merged Sirius XM Radio unveiled today a dizzying range of new pricing plans for its programming, as part of an agreement with the Federal Communications Commission to approve their merger.

While consumers are given more choices, it's not always clear they are getting cost benefits from the nation's sole satellite radio operator.

First, the company announced that current XM subscribers can pay $4.04 more to their monthly subscriptions to get the most popular Sirius programs including two Howard Stern channels, Martha Stewart Living Radio, NFL Radio and NASCAR Radio. That means these subscribers can use the radios they own today to get that content for a monthly subscription price of $16.99.

The same plan, "The Best of Sirius," applies to current Sirius subscribers, who will pay an identical monthly fee for choice XM channels that include Oprah & Friends, The Virus show with Opie and Anthony, and XM Public Radio with Bob Edwards.

If you want to get all XM and Sirius radio content, however, you will have to wait half a year more to buy new interoperable radios that will support all channels and programming.

The company also announced new a la carte programming options, which it promised the FCC it would do. The idea of a la carte programming is for consumers to pick and choose what channels they want without having to be forced into bundled package deals that include channels they won't listen to.

The basic a la carte program includes 50 basic channels of your choosing for $6.99 a month. The "Gold" a la carte program includes 100 channels for $14.99 a month.
But if you are a big Howard Stern fan you'll still have to pay the basic $6.99 fee and an additional $6 for Howard -- the equivalent of a current monthly subscription for all channels on Sirius. To put it plainly, even if you only want steak with no fixins you may end up paying for the same buffet price anyway.

Spokesman Patrick Riley said the basic a la carte program could appeal to many people. My mother for instance. She only listens to Korean language radio on the AM terrestrial dial and with this package, she can listen to The Korean Channel/JBC-JoongAng Ilbo, a program for Korean music, talk and variety entertainment. But that means my mom will have to buy the SIRIUS Starmate 5 radio equipped for a la carte programming for $129.99 at Best Buy and other retailers or on Sirius' Web site. Then she'll have to pay $6.99 a month for 49 channels she'll likely never listen to. That's $137 right off the bat. Hmmm... don't see mom going for it.

By Cecilia Kang  |  October 2, 2008; 1:47 PM ET  | Category:  Cecilia Kang
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at first glance I don't think this is a good deal for Sirius subscribers. XM folks get the NFL games with their 'upgrade' but we don't get MLB games with ours.

My question/concern is about the family plan - first subscription is 12/month, second & third is 7/month. I currently have 2 subscriptions (both Sirius), can I activate my built-in car radio (XM) for $7?

Posted by: cj | October 3, 2008 2:00 PM

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