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Radio satcasters fly high with subscribers

Sirius, XM gaining momentum

HOLLYWOOD — It was a happy holiday for satellite radio, as Sirius and XM both beat their year-end subscriber projections with holiday sales figures revealed Monday.

Industry leader XM exceeded its target of 3.1 million subs, while competitor Sirius finally broke the 1 million mark.

The two fiercely competitive companies announced their holiday sales Monday morning in a bid to immediately trumpet successes.

XM more than doubled its subs in 2004, having started the year with 1.3 million, while Sirius nearly quadrupled in size from 260,000 a year ago.

After initially appealing to techies and music aficionados, sat radio has ramped up significantly in public awareness recently after signing major deals such as Sirius’ five-year, $500 million contract with Howard Stern and XM’s 10 year, $650 million deal for Major League Baseball.

Companies are hopeful their new momentum will help lead to major sub additions when baseball and Stern launch in the next year, helping them stem losses that have regularly exceeded $100 million per quarter.

Analysts were pleased at the healthy growth from both companies, but investors had largely expected both companies to meet or slightly exceed their goals for the year. Sirius stock closed up 2% at $8.10 Monday, while XM shares were down slightly at $39.73.