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Sirius, XM technology would take years to merge

Rafay Ansar



Mel Karmazin, CEO of Sirius XM Radio Inc., said Monday that unified satellite radio networks and receivers are still in the distant future.

Karmazin made his first public appearance in Detroit since the merger of the Sirius and XM satellite radio companies was completed in July. He was the kickoff keynote speaker at the Convergence 2008 conference, hosted by Chrysler LLC. The conference focuses on vehicle electronics and customer needs.

In a question-and-answer session, Karmazin said the merger of XM and Sirius hasn’t resulted in a merger of satellite capability. Merging XM and Sirius technology and installing it in new vehicles could take as long as 15 years because of the new chips required and automakers’ lead time.

But the company is offering new efficiencies for its 19 million subscribers that will distinguish one brand from another. During their rivalry in recent years, Sirius and XM signed exclusive contracts with different automakers and brands.

“Building on the success of our audio entertainment and technology infrastructure, we can bring the relationship to a strategic level by partnering with OEMs to position new-vehicle launches with differentiating Sirius XM features, such as Sirius Traffic with Chrysler, XM Traffic and real-time weather with Honda, Sirius Backseat TV with Chrysler and Sirius Travel Link with Ford,” Karmazin said.

Karmazin, the former president of media giant Viacom Inc. and the former CEO of CBS Corp., focused his remarks on meeting customer wants and needs with the range of entertainment programming that Sirius XM offers.

With the value of Sirius XM stock down 75 percent since the merger, Karmazin needs the auto industry to help build new business.

“There’s all kind of content out there. At the end of the day, I think that the consumer is in a great position because people are going to listen to what it is that interests them,” he said.

“We are laserlike-focused on making sure that there is nobody out there that’s going to come close to having the content that we do.”

Karmazin, known for being a champion of shock jock Howard Stern, said satellite radio enables parents to block unwanted programming at a lower price with family-friendly packages.

Karmazin said Sirius XM will not expand into Europe and Asia. If another company wanted to use the Sirius XM model for content and delivery, he said, he hoped the company would be willing to pay cash for Sirius XM’s consulting and advice.
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