XM gets rival with switch-on

Sirius charges more, offers 60 commercial-fre channels of music

NEW YORK — After much fanfare and months of delay, Sirius Satellite Radio was scheduled to go live nationwide today, flipping the switch on its all-digital radio network and giving subscribers access to the company’s 100 channels of music, sports and talk programming.

Sirius has a lot of catching up to do; main rival XM has been broadcasting across the U.S. since November and already boasts almost 100,000 subss. But senior VP Joe Capobianco maintains that the race to conquer the sat radio market is still in its infancy.

Ground floor

“It’s really a green-field opportunity out there right now, and I think we’ll look back over time and see this as just the beginning,” he said. Besides, he added, “It actually has helped us to have XM out there singing the praises of satellite radio.”

Sirius has attempted to differentiate itself from XM by positioning itself as a “premier service” — its subscription fee is $12.95 per month, compared to XM’s $9.95. Its sales reps point out that Sirius has 60 channels of commercial-free music, while some XM channels do sport ads. XM also rebroadcasts some terrestrial signals as part of its package, whereas Sirius does not.

Capobianco said Sirius has shipped 60,000 radios to retail outlets across the country in anticipation of the launch, and the company expects to up that number to 300,000 by the end of the year.

Investors were optimistic Friday: Sirius’ shares jumped 15% to $3.77 in anticipation of the switch-on.

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