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Wall Street happy with XM price hike

Radio rate raise makes it Sirius rival

NEW YORK — XM Satellite Radio said Monday it is upping its basic monthly subscription rate to match smaller rival Sirius.

Move means subs won’t have to pay extra to hear shock jocks Opie & Anthony, XM’s answer to Howard Stern, who will take his show to Sirius early next year.

Rate hike went over well on Wall Street, where XM shares soared almost 15%. Sirius also saw gains.

That’s because analysts believe the new XM price plan is a more realistic business model for a nascent industry that’s signed some eye-popping programming deals of late.

Beginning April 2, XM customers will pay $12.95 a month, up from $9.99; Sirius already charges subs $12.95.

XM subs won’t have to pay an extra $1.99 a month anymore for a premium talk channel that’s home to Opie & Anthony, or an additional $3.99 a month for the Internet service XM Radio Online.

XM plays ball

XM recently inked a $650 million programming pact with Major League Baseball, while Sirius agreed to pay $500 million to sign Howard Stern, who will take his show to Sirius in early 2006.

Sirius, which has always charged $12.99 per month, declined to comment on whether the company would consider raising its monthly rate. Unlike XM, Sirius doesn’t have any premium channels or services that carry a separate charge.

XM’s price change won’t affect the Family Plan, which allows subs to add up to four additional subscriptions for $6.99 per month.

Current XM basic subscribers will be offered the chance to lock in the $9.99 rate if they prepay for a year. Offer is good until April 2.

XM has more than 3.2 million customers; Sirius has 1.1 million.

In trading Monday, XM shares were up $4.23 to close at $32.96. Sirius shares were up 42¢, or 8%, to close at $5.57.

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