Definitions

satellite receiver

XM Satellite Radio

XM Satellite Radio (XM) is one of two satellite radio (SDARS) services in the United States and Canada, operated by Sirius XM Radio. It provides pay-for-service radio, analogous to cable television. Its service included 73 different music channels, 39 news, sports, talk and entertainment channels, 21 regional traffic and weather channels and 23 play-by-play sports channels. XM channels are identified by Arbitron with the label "XM" (e.g. "XM32").

The company was founded in 1988 as American Mobile Radio Corporation. The satellite service was officially launched on September 25, 2001. On July 29, 2008, XM and former competitor Sirius Satellite Radio formally completed their merger, following FCC approval, forming Sirius XM Radio, Inc.

Services

While the satellite receiver radio service is its primary product, XM actually operates several audio and data services, and advertising.

Satellite radio

XM's primary business is satellite radio entertainment. XM carries music, news (both simulcast and syndicated programming), sports, talk radio, comedy (both stand-up and radio shows), and even radio drama. In addition, XM broadcasts local weather and traffic conditions in its larger markets. The channel lineup is available on-line.

To receive satellite radio programming, a customer is required to purchase a receiver. Prices range from less than $50 to over $200. With a service commitment, it's possible to get a simple receiver for free.

There are currently several types of receivers available to consumers:

  • Plug and Play receivers: The chief benefit of these units is flexibility. The receiver snaps in to a base unit, which provides power, antenna, and audio connections. Multiple base units can be installed in the home or car, and portable boom-box style units allow the plug and play receivers to be used outdoors. This is typically the least expensive option. Examples include the Xpress line, and the Delphi Skyfi.
  • In-dash receivers: these are integrated with a car's stereo system. Many factory stereo systems include XM or Sirius radio, and the more popular aftermarket stereo brands all have options to connect satellite radio receivers.
  • Desktop receivers and Home theater systems: Manufacturers are now offering several XM Ready systems. These use an external tuner which can connect to the head unit. These range from small clock-radio systems to powerful home theater receivers.
  • Portable personal systems: XM has offered portability kits for various receivers in the past. It also currently offers the Helix and Inno, which are self-contained and can play both live XM and recorded content with no external antennas.

XM also offers music downloads through XM+Napster for Windows users. This service is being integrated with XM Online and the new MP3 capable XM receivers, such as the Pioneer Inno or the Samsung Helix.

A subset of the XM programming can also be received on the DirecTV satellite network. To listen to XM on DirecTV, no XM subscription is required, but you must have a DirecTV subscription.

XM also offers many of its stations to its subscribers via the Internet. Most of its original programming is available, but the syndicated and simulcast channels are typically not included.

XM Radio Online

XM Radio Online, XM's internet radio product, offers many of XM's music stations and can be accessed from any Internet connected Windows or Macintosh computer. It is now included with XM Radio subscriptions, or available separately for US$7.99 a month to internet-only subscribers.

Weather and traffic

XM also provides data services such as weather information for pilots and weather spotters through its XM WX Satellite Weather datacasting service. This up to the minute weather information can be displayed in the cockpit of an aircraft equipped with a satellite weather receiver. Unlike weather radar, which relies on the aircraft's own equipment, the satellite service can give a pilot information about weather anywhere in the country. The downside is that the various weather streams (radar, cloud coverage, lightning, etc...) are transmitted every 5–15 minutes, meaning that the information is somewhat out-of-date by the time it is received. In-cockpit radar and lightning receivers return truly realtime information, but they can cost many thousands of dollars. Certain aircraft are also now integrating the XM radio service in to the aircraft's audio system, as well, allowing the pilot to listen to XM radio while flying.

XM also has dedicated traffic and weather channels that cover many major metropolitan areas. These channels play a continuous loop of local weather information and detailed traffic data.

Commercial adoption and partnerships

In 2005, AirTran Airways began putting XM Satellite Radio on their aircraft, while in January 2006, JetBlue Airways added XM Radio to their aircraft. United Airlines started carrying prerecorded XM content in March 2006. Zipcar, an urban car-sharing service in the United States, initially installed XM receivers in all of their vehicles available for daily or hourly rental. However, citing uncertainty in the satellite radio market, Zipcar announced on May 1, 2007 that all XM radios would be removed from its fleet in the following months.

In 2006, the service "XM for Business" was launched on the DirecTV platform to provide 15 channels of interruption-free background music. This service replaces the Music Choice business audio service formerly offered by DirecTV. The XM for Business channels are in the upper 500s as of August 2006 and include an exclusive "Taste of Italy" channel. The channels are programmed separately from the consumer service, but share the same names, themes, and playlists. More importantly for the background music needs of business audio these channels do not feature any kind of interruption and do not feature radio hosts, imaging, or sounders.

Effective October 1, 2006, the 15 channels of interruption-free background music, formerly part of "XM for Business", were moved from satellite 101 to satellite 119 (DirecTV-7S at 119°W). Reception now requires a single 18" dish aimed at 119°W or a Phase3 oval dish with three LNBFs and a multi-satellite-capable receiver. Older, single LNB receivers may not be able to receive these stations.

In 2007, Air Canada began replacing its current generation of EnRoute radio with XM. As with United, this is prerecorded content.

Company timeline

Year Event(s)
1988
  • American Mobile Satellite Corp. is founded.

1991
  • American Mobile Radio/XM co-founder Lon Levin joins American Mobile Satellite Corp.

1992

1996

1997
  • May 16: American Mobile Satellite and WorldSpace officially change the name of American Mobile Radio to XM Satellite Radio. Later that month, Lon Levin, who was politically instrumental in the early years of establishing American Mobile Radio, becomes its President until 1998; he would remain on until 2005 in an influential VP role in charge of Government Regulatory.
  • October: XM Satellite Radio obtains one of only two satellite digital audio radio service licenses offered by the Federal Communications Commission. Together with CD Radio (SIRIUS), the two successfully beat out Primosphere Limited Partnership and Digital Satellite Broadcasting Corporation as licensees.

1998

1999
  • June: Clear Channel Communications, DirecTV, General Motors, and a private investment group invest US$250 million in XM Satellite Radio convertible debt. Both Clear Channel and DirecTV agree to develop services for XM.
  • June 7: with GM's investment in XM, they enter into a 12-year "Distribution Agreement" between XM and GM subsdiary, OnStar Corporation. The agreement calls for exclusive installation of XM Satellite Radio into GM vehicles from November 12, 2001 until November 2013. OnStar must meet specific escalating installation rates each year, while XM must make extensive payments to OnStar for the installation and sale of XM in their vehicles, while sharing revenue earned from these radios with OnStar – as well as payments on the exclusivity agreement.
  • July 7, American Mobile Satellite, still XM's parent company, uses approximately US$75 million of the proceeds from the private investment to reacquire the 20% interest WorldSpace holds. In October, XM Satellite Radio issues 10,241,000 shares of Class A common stock at an IPO price of US$12.00 per share. American Mobile Satellite remains the majority holder of the public company.

2000
  • April: American Mobile Satellite Corp. changes its name to Motient. In July, American Honda join several private investors in a US$235 million preferred stock investment in the company.

2001
  • September 25: XM Satellite Radio service launches, first in San Diego and Dallas/Fort Worth, and spreads across the United States. The initial lineup includes 71 music channels and 29 other channels consisting of sports, talk, children's programming, entertainment and news. The original launch date of September 12 is pushed back after the World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist attacks.
  • October: with Motient heading into bankruptcy, they spin off their non-XM satellite division into a joint operation with TMI Communications and Company, L.P., a wholly owned subsidiary of BCE Inc. of Canada; the new venture is known as the Mobile Satellite Ventures.
  • November: with Motient in bankruptcy, they sell off their controlling interest in XM to Hughes Electronics, Singapore Telecommunications and Baron Capital Partners. This ends Motient's interest in XM and begins XM's history as a stand-alone company. Hughes Electronics would go on to combine this new interest in with the interest already held by their subsidiary, DirecTV.
  • November 12: XM Satellite Radio marks the official launch of full nationwide service.
  • December 31: XM Satellite Radio ends the year with 27,733 subscribers.

2002
  • September 3: XM Satellite Radio adds Playboy Radio, an adult entertainment premium channel, available for an additional $2.99 per month.
  • December 31: XM Satellite Radio ends the year with 347,159 subscribers.

2003

  • January: with the launch and rollout taking longer and more costly than expected, the company undergoes a large and complicated re-capitalization plan. The plan involves XM exchanging US$300 million in old debt for new debt, while deferring interest for 3-years on the notes; as well as restructuring the payment obligations on the General Motors installation agreement, issuing a convertible bond to GM, issuing a warrant for shares to GM, and establishing a revolving credit facility with GM; and finally the plan included new funding coming from a placement of over US$300 million in 10% convertible bonds to a group of private investors.
  • June: Veteran award-winning radio producer Joe Bevilacqua's radio theater extravaganza, The Comedy-O-Rama Hour, premieres on XM163 Sonic Theater Channel. Celebrity guests include Al Franken, Lewis Black, Shelley Berman, Bob Edwards, Nancy Cartwright and June Foray.
  • July: the company has nearly 700,000 subscribers.
  • December 31: XM Satellite Radio ends the year with 1,360,228 subscribers.

2004

  • January through March: With the sale of Hughes Electronics from General Motors to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., DirecTV's interest in XM Satellite Radio is sold off on the market.
  • February 2: XM Radio announces 100% commercial free music lineup.
  • March 1: XM Radio launched Instant Traffic and Weather Channels for major metropolitan markets in the United States.
  • August 11: XM Radio subscriber base breaks the 2.5 million mark. The company partners with automakers General Motors, Honda, Isuzu, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen, and SAAB) to offer in-dash XM receivers on an OEM basis. The Acura TL is the first luxury automobile to offer XM radio as "standard" in every vehicle.
  • October 4: "Shock" jocks Opie and Anthony begin broadcasting on a premium ($1.99/month extra) XM Satellite Radio station. Also, former National Public Radio host Bob Edwards broadcasts the first Bob Edwards Show on XM Public Radio, channel 133.
  • October 20: XM announces an 11-year, US$650 million deal with Major League Baseball to broadcast games live nationwide and become the Official Satellite Radio provider of Major League Baseball. The agreement grants XM the rights to use the MLB silhouetted batter logo and the collective marks of all major league clubs. As part of the deal, XM creates a 24/7 MLB channel called "Home Plate". The deal starts with the 2005 season and runs through the 2012, with a 3-year option that MLB can pick up.
  • October 26: XM presents its first XM2go portable XM receiver: The Delphi MyFi.
  • December 31: XM Satellite Radio ends the year with 3,229,124 subscribers.

2005

  • January 5: XM introduces two new XM2go models: Pioneer's AirWare and the Tao from Giant International.
  • February 28: XM's third satellite, Rhythm, is launched successfully.
  • April 1: XM announces that it has added 540,000 subscribers in Q1 2005, pushing their total subscriber base to 3.77 million.
  • April 11: XM announces that a deal has been reached to be the official satellite radio network of Air America Radio.
  • May 16: XM announces that subscribership has topped 4 million. This indicates exponential growth for the company. In five weeks time, they added 230,000 subscribers — almost 50% of the subscribers added during the previous quarter.
  • May 28: the Wall Street Journal reports that XM has awarded the contract for the XM 5 spacecraft to Space Systems/Loral.
  • June 7: XM partners with Audible.com to offer downloadable audio show archives of The Opie and Anthony Show, as well as The Bob Edwards Show.
  • July 1: XM announces it has added more than 640,000 subscribers in Q2 2005, pushing their total subscriber base over 4.4 million.
  • August 1: XM announces the addition of popular radio hosts Ron and Fez.
  • August 1: XM announces a three-year partnership with the United States Tennis Association to broadcast the US Open tournament through 2007, as well as weekly reports from other US Open Series events.
  • September 12: Ron and Fez join Opie and Anthony on High Voltage XM 202.
  • September 13: XM announces a 10-year US$100 million deal to carry National Hockey League broadcasts beginning with the 2005-06 season, initially sharing the coverage with SIRIUS but gaining satellite-radio exclusivity from 2007 onward.
  • September 27: XM announces it has surpassed 5 million subscribers.
  • October 3: XM announces that they have added more than 617,000 new net subscribers during Q3 2005.
  • October 3: XM Satellite Radio launches channel "Take 5" (XM 155). The channel is geared toward Women's Programming and features replays of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Tyra Banks Show, syndicated and original programming, as well as programming from the Food Network and HGTV. Additionally, XM Radio drops two of its Talk and Entertainment channels: MTV and VH1. XM adds 617,000 subscribers in Q3 2005, pushing the total subscriber base to over 5.03 million.
  • October 18: XM announces it will begin carrying Fox News Talk in January 2006.
  • November 15: DirecTV begins broadcasting 72 channels as part of their audio programming. This includes music channels, "Home Plate" (XM 175), and "High Voltage" (XM 202) but no news or sports channels.
  • November 17:, XM launches their new Fall lineup of channels: "unSigned", "Air Musique", "Sur La Route", "Laugh Attack", "Canada 360", "Quoi de Neuf", "Franc Parler", and "Home Ice".
  • November 29: XM launches service in Canada.
  • December 29: XM and VoiceBox Technologies join forces to provide conversational voice-driven XM experience to auto market.
  • December 31: XM Satellite Radio ends the year with 5,932,957 subscribers.

2006

  • January 2: XM begins broadcasting Fox News Talk as the channel launches. The channel includes commentators Bill O'Reilly, Tony Snow, John Gibson, and Alan Colmes.
  • January 4: XM announces it has surpassed 6 million subscribers.
  • January 9: XM wins top honors at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas for their two new portable units that offer live programming on-the-go. The new radios are the XM Pioneer Inno and Samsung Helix. They expect to be released during the end of March or beginning of April.
  • February 9: XM announces they have signed a US$55 million three-year deal with Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions. A new channel called "Oprah and Friends" will launch in September, which will be programmed by Winfrey and originate in the Harpo Studios in Chicago. The channel will feature programs hosted by a team of personalities who appear on her television show including Gayle King, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Marianne Williamson, Dr. Robin Smith, Bob Greene and Nate Berkus. As part of the agreement, Oprah will appear in a weekly 30-minute program along with friend Gayle King. The program will air 39-weeks a year and feature taped phone conversations between Winfrey and King.
  • March 1: XM launches channels "49 Big Tracks", "84 XM Chill", and "173 WLW" giving them 69 commercial free music channels, with the addition of WLW, a news talk channel.
  • March 10: XM announces that the music stations programmed by Clear Channel ("21 Kiss XM", "22 Mix XM", "11 XM Nashville", and "24 XM Sunny") will begin airing some commercials beginning in April. This was a decision made by Clear Channel. In response, XM promises to add its own commercial-free versions of these channels in the near future.
  • April 17: XM Launches 8 new Commercial Free Music Channels. The channels are, "XM 17 - U.S. Country" (commercial-free alternative to "Nashville"), "XM 26 - Flight 26" (commercial-free alternative to "MIX"), "XM 30 - XM Hitlist" (commercial-free alternative to "KISS"), "XM 34 - enLighten", "XM 42 - XM Liquid Metal" (brought back to the satellites after being an online-exclusive for over a year), "XM 68 - The Heat"(Formally "The Eye"), "XM 78 - Escape" (commercial-free alternative to "Sunny") and "XM 91 - Viva." On the same date, DirecTV changed its channel lineup to focus in on XM's commercial-free music too, which resulted in the removal of two XM talk channels, the addition of 4 new music channels and the replacement of the four Clear Channel programmed music channels that began airing commercials. Removed from DirecTV were XM's MLB channel "Home Plate" (DTV Channel 878) and "High Voltage" (DTV Channel 879). Added were "The Heat" (Formally "The Eye") (DTV Channel 825), "enLighten" (DTV Channel 828), "The Torch" (DTV Channel 829), "Liquid Metal" (DTV Channel 841) and "Viva" (DTV Channel 876). Replaced were "Nashville" (DTV Channel 809), "Kiss" (DTV Channel 817), "Mix" (DTV Channel 818), and "Sunny" (DTV Channel 820); DirecTV replaced those channels with the aforementioned new commercial-free versions programmed directly by XM, "U.S. Country," "XM Hitlist," "Flight 26," and "Escape", respectively. Also, XM Changed Names For Some Of Its Stations, XM 68 "the Eye" Became "The Heat", XM 32 "The Fish" Became "The Message" And XM 90 "Allegra" Became "Fuego".
  • April 22: Thanks to the fans of the Opie and Anthony show (The O&A Pests) DirectTV adds XM 202 "High Voltage" (Dtv Channel 879) back to the channel lineup
  • April 24: XM Satellite Radio officially announces the long rumored deal that Opie and Anthony would be syndicated back to terrestrial radio through CBS Radio. Joel Hollander, current showrunner at CBS Radio, was there for the announcement as was XM programming VP Eric Logan.
  • April 26: Opie and Anthony's reformatted show debuts on 7 CBS Radio affiliates: New York City's WFNY-FM, Cleveland's WXRK (tape delayed, 3-6 PM), Boston's WBCN, West Palm Beach's WPBZ, Philadelphia's WYSP, Dallas' KLLI, and Pittsburgh's WRKZ. Their show has been segmented so that 6 AM - 9 AM is broadcast on both XM and CBS, and 9 AM - 11 AM is XM exclusive.
  • July 24: Nate Davis was made the president and chief operating officer.
  • August 15: XM begins playing chronologically every song to ever make the pop charts. This is expected to last well over a month. This playback is called "IT" The music is played on each decade channel. The music from the 1940s is played on the 40's on 4, then starting with music from January 1950 the music is played on the 50's on 5, and so on.
  • Around August 26: XM Flight 26 is pulled from AOL Radio on the Mac platform. No explanation as to why this occurred, yet AOL Radio's homepage lists it in the Top 11 (despite the stream not appearing in the AOL program, which lists ten streams under "Top 11" instead of eleven).
  • September 3: MSNBC - XM 130 is dropped from the XM news channel lineup. No explanation is given by XM, who made the decision to discontinue the news channel's feed.
  • September 6: XM announces a Pink version of the Pioneer Inno, available exclusively at Circuit City (at first). US$30 from each unit sold goes to support the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation's fight against breast cancer.
  • September 25: "Oprah and Friends" radio officially launched on XM channel 156.
  • October 30: The XM-4 "Blues" satellite was launched atop a Zenit 3SL rocket.
  • December 18: XM announces they began broadcasting through XM-4 "Blues" on Friday, bringing the active satellites to XM-3 "Rhythm" and XM-4 "Blues" with original satellites XM-1 "Rock" and XM-2 "Roll" as in-orbit spares for the near-term.

2007

  • January 18: The Federal Communications Commission rules that licensing regulations would prohibit a possible merger of XM and rival Sirius Satellite Radio. Recent remarks by top officials within both companies have hinted at a possible move to join forces to stave off billion-dollar losses associated with increased competition between the two services.
  • February 13: XM sells the transponders on XM-4 to Wells Fargo Bank in a leaseback agreement. This amounts to taking out a mortgage on the transponders; while the bank will own them, XM actually uses them and has the right to buy them back at any time. At the end of the lease period, XM will also have the option to buy them back.
  • February 19: XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. and Sirius Satellite Radio announce they will merge, creating a satellite radio giant. See XM/Sirius merger.
  • April 26: XM announces 1Q07 results, as well as surpassing eight million subscribers. The company also claims that they have an additional US$319 million in positive cashflow, giving them total available liquidity of US$719 million.
  • May 15: XM suspends talk show hosts Opie & Anthony for 30 days over comments made on their program by a homeless man called "Homeless Charlie" on the previous day.
  • May 21-May 22: XM experiences an outage that deprives many subscribers of service for almost twenty-four hours. The outage affected the satellite XM-3 ("Rhythm", or "SAT1" on receivers) along with terrestrial repeaters. XM blames the situation on a "software glitch".
  • July 24: XM announces that CEO Hugh Panero will leave the company in August, with current President and COO Nate Davis stepping in to serve as President and interim CEO.
  • August 1: XM launches XM-X, featuring rebroadcasts of many XM-exclusive shows, on XM 2. The first day's programming consists of episodes of Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour.
  • August 5: XM upgrades its Neural Audio processing mechanism to improve sound quality across its music channel selection.
  • November 8: XM launches XM59 - XM LED - The Led Zeppelin Channel. .

2008

  • March 7: XM Discontinues the XM LED channel. (According to the channel's website, it is taking a break for the summer)
  • March 24: The United States Department of Justice declines to block the merger of XM and Sirius Satellite Radio after thirteen months of review.
  • July 25: The FCC approves the XM-Sirius merger.
  • August 16: Xm channel 51 "Mandatory Metallica" launches. The channel will be available from August 16 through September 30. The channel will play music from the entire Metallica catalog, including rare live recordings from the band's personal concert archives, extensive interviews with the band and more.

Technology

XM provides digital programming directly from two high-powered satellites in geostationary orbit above the equator: XM Rhythm at 115° west longitude and XM Blues at 85° west longitude in addition to a network of ground-based repeaters. The combination of two satellites and a ground-based repeater network is designed to provide gap-free coverage anywhere within the contiguous U.S., the southern tip of Alaska, and in the southern part of Canada. The signal can also be received in the Caribbean Islands and most of Mexico (reports have stated that areas north of Acapulco are able to receive a steady signal), however XM is not yet licensed for reception by paid subscribers living in these areas.

The original satellites, XM-1 ("Rock") and XM-2 ("Roll") suffer from a generic design fault on the Boeing 702 series of satellites (fogging of the solar panels), which means that their lifetimes will be shortened to approximately six years instead of the design goal of 15 years. To compensate for this flaw, XM-3 ("Rhythm") was launched ahead of its planned schedule on February 28, 2005 and moved into XM-1's previous location of 85° WL. XM-1 was then moved to be co-located with XM-2 at 115° WL, where each satellite operated only one transponder (thus broadcasting half the bandwidth each) to conserve energy and cut the power consumption in half while XM-4 ("Blues") was readied for launch. Subsequently, XM launched ground-spare XM-4 ("Blues") ahead of schedule on October 30, 2006 into the 115° WL location to complete the satellite replacement program. On December 15, 2006 XM-1 was then powered down and drifted back to its original location at 85° WL, where it will remain as a backup to XM-3. XM-2 as well was powered down and remains as a backup to XM-4. This makes the current active satellites as XM-3 "Rhythm" and XM-4 "Blues" with two in-orbit spares.

On June 7, 2005, Space Systems/Loral announced that it had been awarded a contract for XM-5. XM-5 will feature two large unfurlable antennas. Sirius' Radiosat 5, also to be built by Loral, will have a similar single large antenna.

In American and Canadian metropolitan areas, XM and its Canadian Licensee known as Canadian Satellite Radio (CSR), own and operate a network of approximately 900 terrestrial repeater stations, meant to compensate for satellite signal blockage by buildings, tunnels, and bridges. In the United States XM owns and operates approximately 800 repeater sites covering 60 markets; in Canada CSR is installing approximately 80 to 100 repeaters that will be owned and operated by CSR in the 16 largest Canadian cities. The actual number of repeater sites varies as the signal is regularly tested and monitored for optimal performance. The actual number of sites in the United States has dropped from the original 1,000 installed when the service first launched in 2001. The repeaters transmit in the same frequency band as the satellites. A typical city contains 20 or more terrestrial stations. Typically the receiver owner is unaware when a terrestrial station is being used, unless he or she checks antenna information from the receiver being used. Due to a FCC filing in October 2006, the latest list of XM's US terrestrial repeater network was made available to the public.

The XM signal uses 12.5 MHz of the S band: 2332.5 to 2345.0 MHz. XM provides 128 kilobits per second of its bandwidth to OnStar Corporation for use with XM-enabled GM vehicles, regardless of whether their owners are XM subscribers. American Honda also retains the right to some of the company's bandwidth to transmit messages to Acura vehicles via a service known as AcuraLink.

XM NavTraffic, an optional service, transmits coded traffic information directly to vehicle navigation systems using TMC technology.

Audio channels on XM are digitally compressed using the aacPlus (HE-AAC) codec from Coding Technologies for most channels, and the AMBE codec from Digital Voice Systems for some voice channels, including all of the Traffic and Weather channels.

The XM radio signal is broadcast on 6 separate radio carriers within the 12.5 MHz allocation. The entire content of the radio service, including both data and audio content, is represented by only two carriers. The other 4 carriers carry duplicates of the same content to achieve redundancy through signal diversity. The data on each carrier is encoded using time-delayed and error-correction schemes to enhance availability. Effectively the total radio spectrum used for content is a little over 4 MHz.

Each two-carrier group broadcasts 100 8-kilobit-per-second streams in approximately 4 MHz of radio spectrum. These streams are combined using a patented process to form a variable number of channels using a variety of bitrates. Bandwidth is separated into segments of 4-kilobit-per-second virtual "streams" which are combined to form audio and data "channels" of varying bitrates from 4 to 64 kilobits-per-second.

XM preprocesses audio content using Neural Audio processors that are optimized for the AACplus codec, including spectral band replication (SBR). Audio is stored digitally in Dalet audio library systems using an industry-standard MPEG-1 Layer II at 384 kbit/s, sometimes known as Musicam. The audio is further processed by the Neural Audio processors on the way to broadcast.

XM channels XM Pops and Fine Tuning are broadcast in 5.1 surround sound audio quality. The technology, titled XM HD Surround, is the result of a partnership between XM and Neural Audio Corporation which provides content with six discrete channels of digital audio. XM Live also broadcasts in this format for certain concerts and studio performances. XM manufacturing partners such as Denon, Onkyo, Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc., and Yamaha have introduced home audio systems capable of playing XM HD Surround.

Controlling interest

The company's May 2004 proxy statement notes that four directors are subject to director designation agreements with GM, American Honda, the chairman, and the CEO. Four additional directors are investors, and two are not affiliated with any significant stockholders.

At that time, GM owned 8.6% of the Class A common stock (a voting percentage of less than 1%) and Honda owned 13% (with a voting percentage of 3.6%).

Unless they unanimously agree otherwise, control of the company remains with the preferred shareholder and noteholders of the company, including Hughes Electronics, GM, Honda, and several private investment groups.

Clear Channel programming agreement

As part of terrestrial radio giant Clear Channel Communications' early investment into XM in 1998, the companies entered into agreements which provided for certain programming and director designation arrangements as long as Clear Channel retained the full amount of its original investment in XM. One positive consequence of this was that XM had (and still has) exclusive programming rights to all Clear Channel content, including popular national shows like Glenn Beck and Coast to Coast AM. In June 2003, Clear Channel entered into a forward sales agreement relating to its ownership of XM. During the third quarter of 2005, Clear Channel and XM arbitrated the impact of this agreement on the Operational Assistance Agreement and the Director Designation Agreement The Arbitration Panel decided that the Operational Assistance Agreement would remain in effect, including Clear Channel's right to receive a revenue share of commercial advertising on programming it provides to XM, but declined to enforce the Director Designation Agreement. Per the original agreement, Clear Channel has the right to program 409.6 kbit/s of XM bandwidth, including forcing XM to include commercial advertising. The plans for this bandwidth included the existing four music channels (XM11 Nashville!, XM21 KISS, XM22 Mix, XM24 Sunny) existing talk channel programming (XM142 Fox Sports Radio, XM152 Extreme XM, XM165 Talk Radio), and the eventual launch of XM173 WLW, re-launch of XM161 WSIX-FM, XM154 National Lampoon Comedy Radio, XM233 ReachMD, and XM158 America's Talk. Clear Channel also controlled XM166 America Right, but through a series of show swaps, managed to rid themselves of most non-Clear Channel content and returned the channel to XM Radio. Plans to introduce new regional based talk channels, which would have featured a local 2-3 minute newscast for each area of the country, were canceled. The amount of advertising on the music channels amounts up to 4 minutes per hour, similar to the amount of advertising XM included before going commercial free. Clear Channel advertising on XM is handled by its subsidiary, Premiere Radio Networks.

Seen as a blow to XM's 100% commercial-free music channel status, XM Executive Vice President of Programming Eric Logan released a programming announcement to XM subscribers on the company's website that reiterated XM's commitment to commercial-free music while noting that XM still had the most commercial-free music and that more commercial-free music channels will be added in the near future to ensure that XM will still have more commercial-free music than competitor Sirius Satellite Radio. On April 17, 2006, XM launched US Country (XM17), Flight 26 (XM26), XM Hitlist (XM30) and Escape (XM78) to provide commercial free music in the formats of the Clear Channel programmed music channels which were going to begin airing commercials. In response, Sirius has advertised that they are the only satellite radio provider that has 100% commercial-free music channels. Both XM and Sirius air commercials on their news, talk, and sports channels.

The Clear Channel forward sales agreement with Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc was terminated on August 2, 2006. The termination resulted in Clear Channel Investments, Inc. paying Bear Stearns a total of $83.1 million, which was the value of Clear Channel's stake in XM. The accreted value of the debt was $92.9 million, and the fair value of the collar was an asset of $6.0 million, which resulted in a net gain of $3.8 million for Clear Channel.

XM vs RIAA

In 2006, XM Satellite Radio was sued by the RIAA over XM's new portable devices the Inno and Helix. The RIAA claims these devices are equivalent to a downloading service, whereas XM contends the devices are protected under the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act. In July, XM requested that a federal judge dismiss the case. It should be noted that XM's subscribers can only save songs they hear on the radio, and cannot request a specific song to be downloaded, or program their radios to record specific artists. XM's portable devices allow the consumer to record a portion of their broadcast much like a VCR, DVR, or cassette player would allow. The content a subscriber records is only available while the subscriber still has an active account with XM Satellite Radio. Once the account is terminated the recorded content will become inaccessible. Also, If a subscriber fails to listen to a total of 8 hours of programming a month the recorded content will not be accessible. Recorded content can only be accessed on the portable device, it can not be transferred to a home computer or separate digital music player.

The idea is not new: TimeTrax Technologies Corporation developed an application to record songs to MP3 and tag them with the artist and title information directly from the XM network. In 2005 XM attempted to thwart this practice by discontinuing the required XM PCR radio. TimeTrax responded by quickly rolling out adaptive interfaces to allow almost any XM subscriber to use their tuner to build music libraries directly from XM broadcasts. There is speculation that these fumbles by XM and its attitude towards the Time Trax technology may have been the warning shot of major troubles between the RIAA and XM.

On January 19, 2007, a district judge ruled that the RIAA could proceed with the lawsuit, rejecting XM's defense that the conduct alleged in the complaint--if proved by the RIAA--would be immune under the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992.

PCR and DirectPCR

At the heart of the TimeTrax controversy was the XM PCR: a computer-controlled XM Receiver. Unlike the other receivers, which could be used in the car or home stereo, the XM PCR required a computer to run. A software application on the computer acted as the radio's controls and display, which led to a flurry of third party developers, who wanted to make a PCR replacement. Many of them received Cease and Desist letters from the XM company. Once the PCR was discontinued, for the reasons listed above, people found that the XM Direct, a receiver intended to be used in satellite-ready car stereos, can be connected to a computer with a very simple adapter cable. Some people have dubbed the entire kit, with receiver, cable, and software, the Direct PCR. While the original PCR software does not control the XM Direct receiver, several community developers have continued to develop PCR replacement software.

Merger with Sirius Satellite Radio

On February 19, 2007, XM announced a merger deal with Sirius Satellite Radio. The merger will combine the two radio services and create a single Satellite Radio network in the United States and Canada.

The United States Department of Justice announced on March 24, 2008 that it had closed its investigation of the merger because it "concluded that the evidence does not demonstrate that the proposed merger of XM and Sirius was likely to substantially lessen competition."

On June 16, 2008, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told the Washington Post that he had decided to approve the XM-Sirius Merger after the companies agreed in the previous week to concessions intended to prevent the new company from raising prices or stifling competition. Martin issued an order to approve the merger, according to The Wall Street Journal - setting the stage for a final vote which could have occurred any time after his recommendation was circulated.

The XM-Sirius Merger gained its final governmental approval from the Federal Communications Commission late July 25, 2008, with Martin and commissioners Robert M. McDowell and deciding vote Deborah Taylor Tate voting in the affirmative. As a term of the merger, the combined company will be fined almost $20 million for failing to create and market interchangeable radios capable of receiving signals from both companies prior to the merger.

XM in Canada

In November 2004, Canadian Satellite Radio filed an application with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to bring the XM service to Canada. Along with Sirius Canada and the consortium of CHUM Limited and Astral Media, CSR was one of three applications for national subscription radio services submitted to the CRTC.

On June 16, 2005, the CRTC approved all three applications. The decisions were appealed to the Canadian federal cabinet by a number of broadcasting, labour, and arts and culture organizations, including the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, CHUM Limited, and the National Campus and Community Radio Association. The groups objected to the satellite radio applicants' approach to and reduced levels of Canadian Content and French-language programming, along with the exclusion of Canadian non-commercial broadcasting. After a lengthy debate, Cabinet rejected the appeals on September 9, 2005.

XM's Canadian channels appeared on US receivers on November 17, 2005. On November 29, 2005, XM Canada officially launched.

See also

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