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Now that the uproar of my NFL report has finally died down, I can now take it easy and prepare for the big holiday titles to come out. Starting off with GTA: San Andreas (which will be out on the 26th), and then with MGS 3 and Halo 2 in November, followed by the launch of Nintendo's DS, this holiday will definitely be one to look out for.

However this week, I do want to deviate from writing about games and follow up on a commentary I did back in April. When I wrote "Gaming to a Different Tune," I mentioned that I became a subscriber to a satellite radio provider named Sirius. As the months passed, I was the subject of ridicule, being asked why I went with Sirius as opposed to their competitor: the more recognizable XM. Even our esteemed publisher, Nate Wooley, gave me heck for getting Sirius, and claiming that it would be out of business in a year.

However, I stood my ground. After all, I was dealing with an alternative to the repetition and censorship that commercial radio (hereafter referred to as CORPORATE radio), and with the exception of the Howard Stern show, there was nothing else to counter the monotony.

Going Sirius provided me the choice to listen to what I wanted, and even better, I now had full access to every game that was being broadcast in the NHL. That way, if Sportstalk 980 (a Washington DC based sports station owned by evil corporate god Clear Channel) wanted to broadcast their beloved Wizards instead of the Caps, I can listen to the better game on Sirius. Even better, thanks to an exclusive agreement with the NFL, I can now listen to every 49er game that is broadcast, just the thing when Fox 5 decides to black them out with replays of 3rd Rock from the Sun.

Getting back to Clear Channel, they are without a doubt the epitome of what corporate radio is all about. In Washington, DC alone, they own eight stations, all of which I will admit are of sub-par quality. In addition, it is also Clear Channel that was most responsible for censoring the previously mentioned Howard Stern, as his show was pulled from six of his markets. Who owned those stations? That's right, Clear Channel by means of their so-called "Responsible Broadcast Initiative" (source: Clear Channel press release dated April 8, 2004). In addition, another shock jack from Tampa, Florida named Bubba the Love Sponge was also dropped by Clear Channel in early March; one of the stations he was broadcast on, was on of all things, XM Satellite Radio. (source: Clear Channel press release dated March 5, 2004).

Now is it me, or was satellite radio supposed to be the last source of freedom for shock jocks? After all, this is the same satellite radio that is immune to FCC regulations and eventual fines since it is offered to paid customers rather than over public airwaves. I guess that doesn't apply to XM as they cut Bubba the Love Sponge from their talk station, but when you look at XM's corporate ladder, you'll find something quite interesting: one of their strategic partners is"you guessed it"CLEAR CHANNEL! (source, www.xmradio.com, Strategic Partners Page).

Now if Clear Channel is so obsessed with providing "responsible broadcasts," I still want to know why it is that XM made an announcement of signing Howard Stern wannabes Opie and Anthony as part of their service? In my opinion, Opie and Anthony are not only wannabes, but they are nowhere near as funny as Stern. Another thing I hated more about O & A is one of their sidekicks, a big mouthed idiot named Jim Norton who does nothing but complain about everything. I'd rather listen to Howard talking with either Artie or Bababooey than listen to Norton whine and moan.

In fact, DC listeners did not want to hear that either. When Opie and Anthony were syndicated back in 2001, they took over the time slot owned by local favorites Don and Mike. However, as Don and Mike constantly held the number one Arbitron rating for that time slot, O & A's takeover plunged the timeslot to 17th place (source: www.amiannoying.com, Opie and Anthony listing). In fact, if it weren't for their infamous St. Patrick's Cathedral stunt, which eventually got them fired, even Don and Mike might not have been able to help WJFK recover.

But the fact that XM signed these two just puzzles me, but after doing more research on XM's marketing ploy, I realized why they preferred XM over Sirius: they would be able to make extra money for it. Since XM favors the concept of "premium programming," special programming that requires customers to pay more to listen; they can offer O & A for another $1.99 a month, where Sirius would most likely have put them on their basic package where they belong. In a sense, Opie and Anthony sold out.

Then again, it's not just O & A that you will have to pay for. XM is charging for just about everything. Many people are poisoned to the fact that XM only costs $9.99 per month, compared to Sirius' $12.95, but when they see the extras they have to pay for, they will think twice about it:

XM (per month):

Basic Service: $9.99

High Voltage (Opie and Anthony): $1.99

Playboy Radio: $2.99 plus $4.99 transaction fee

Online Listening Service: $3.99 ($7.99 for non-XM Subscribers)

Total: $18.96 per month!

I'm sorry, XM. Charging listeners double to listen to everything they wanted to listen to in the first place is a big rip off. The $12.95 a month that Sirius offers is much more tempting after looking at all these options, and it's about to get even better. As mentioned earlier, Sirius is now in an agreement with the National Football League, providing not only a 24-hour dedicated NFL station, but broadcasts of EVERY NFL game from BOTH teams. Want to listen to SF vs. ARI? Cardinals fans have their own broadcast while 49ers fans have theirs. XM subscribers would expect to pay a few dollars more to listen, right? Sirius listeners laugh at the idea because it's part of the basic package.

While that is a good thing, the next bit of news will bite XM in the rear. While they might get the first laugh by signing Opie and Anthony, they are not laughing anymore because last Wednesday, Howard Stern himself made the announcement that all Sirius fans wanted to hear since the FCC hearings earlier this year: he has signed a 5 year, $500 million contract to broadcast exclusively on Sirius beginning January 1, 2006 (the day his Viacom contract ends).

According to Sirius, Stern will produce "his show, his way." That means, no more delay buttons, no more fines, and yes, no more FCC and Clear Channel to deal with. In fact, Stern himself said "Clear Channel, you son of a *expletive*, I will bury you!" (source: "Shockjock Stern to go Satellite, www.cbsnews.com).

As I said, this is big news for not just Howard Stern fans, but for Sirius in general. With only 600,000 subscribers compared to XM's 2 million, Sirius was in need of their "killer app," and now they have two: the NFL and Howard Stern. Stern alone will be responsible for tons of new subscribers. Remember that when he was signed by K-Rock, they were also a fledgling station that Stern single handedly brought to glory (source A&E Biography: Howard Stern, Radio Rebel). Now it is up to him to do the same thing with Sirius, and with 12 million listeners on his radio show currently, that should not be much of a challenge at all.

However, the best part of the deal is the overall cost. As I mentioned earlier, to get everything that XM offers, it would cost $18.96 per month. Sirius, however, provides a much cheaper alternative:

SIRIUS SATELLITE RADIO (per month):

Basic Service: $12.95 per month (as low as $9.99 a part of a yearly pre-payment)

NFL Radio: FREE (part of basic service)

Howard Stern: FREE (part of basic service)

Online Listening Service: FREE AGAIN (everything is part of the basic service)

Total: $12.95 per month (or $9.99/month on a yearly pre-payment).

In the end, Sirius provides the better deal, only sweetened more with the additions of the NFL and Howard Stern. How retailers and consumers can be so blind and not notice a good deal is beyond belief, but then again, I'm sure XM is paying retailers off to plug their service, but once Howard Stern starts broadcasting, Sirius will end up getting the last laugh.

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