Merged Satellite Radio Companies Would Offer Channel Choice

WASHINGTON (AP) - Executives at the nation's two satellite radio companies released details of pricing plans Monday that would allow customers to choose which channels they want to receive if the two firms are permitted to merge.

XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio announced the merger, then valued at $4.7 billion, last February. The combination of these two companies requires approval from antitrust regulators and the Federal Communications Commission.

The pricing plans announced Monday range from $6.99 per month for 50 channels from one company to $16.99 per month where customers could keep their existing service, plus "choose from the best" of channels that are offered on the other service.

That means a customer could listen to Major League Baseball games on XM and tune in to National Football League games on Sirius on the same radio.

Currently, the price of a monthly subscription for both companies is $12.95 and there is no channel choice, or "a la carte" option.

"The efficiencies of this merger will allow the combined companies to save hundreds of millions of dollars a year and give us the opportunity to increase the number of programming options available to subscribers," said Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin Sirius in a press release.

Sirius and XM also said that subscribers would be able to receive programming from both services on their existing radios following a merger.

A combination of Sirius and XM faces steep regulatory challenges, however. When the companies received their licenses from the FCC to begin offering subscription radio service via satellite, they agreed not to merge.

Since then, they argue, the market for audio entertainment has broadened with the addition of new digital radio and downloadable music on portable devices like iPods.

Consumer groups and the National Association of Broadcasters oppose the proposed merger. The two companies hope to close the deal later this year.