With no '06 deal in place, XM may be sole Fox News carrier

Sirius Satellite Radio may be debuting Howard Stern after the New Year, but will it also have Fox News Channel?

Fox News pulled shows by two of its signature hosts — lefty Alan Colmes and conservative Tony Snow — Monday after Sirius allowed their contracts to expire.

Now, after six months of failed talks, the deal to carry Fox News Channel itself is set to expire Jan. 1, just as Sirius is hoping to move radios with the help of Howard Stern hype.

The situation has become so dire that Sirius topper Mel Karmazin walked across West 48th Street from Sirius’ headquarters to News Corp. HQ to meet with Fox topper Roger Ailes in person.

“It’s causing them a great deal of grief at a time when they are trying to sell radios for Christmas,” Fox Radio senior VP Kevin Magee said.

Fox has become one of the more popular offerings on pay radio, and Ailes is said to want a carriage fee that reflects that popularity. Fox also wants a deal with Sirius to include carriage of Fox News Talk, a channel with Bill O’Reilly, Neil Cavuto, Snow, Colmes and others, as well as news updates from Fox News Radio.

XM Satellite Radio inked a deal to carry both six months ago, and as if to tout their corporate harmony, the two have been taking out joint ads in the trades, as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Daily News.

“Thinking of buying a satellite radio for Christmas?” an ad read. “XM is the only satellite radio provider committed to carrying Fox News Channel in ’06.”

But Karmazin said he’s wary of paying a big license fee to Fox for content that’s not exclusive.

“If we can do a deal at a price that makes good sense for us, we’d love to do it, and if we can’t, then we have other news offerings that we will provide the listeners,” Karmazin told anchor Bill Griffeth on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” last week.

But by not inking Fox, he’s giving competitor XM a de facto satellite exclusive on Fox content for the price of a non-exclusive deal — a stumble for a cagey media vet like Karmazin.

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