Satellite radio merger would benefit sports fans
There's a good chance the world of satellite radio in Canada will become a lot smaller very soon, which means it could become a lot bigger. And that would be good news for those who prefer to get their sports extra-terrestrially rather than through the old terrestrial radio system.
While both Sirius Canada and XM Radio Canada won't divulge anything more than their intentions to do what's best for their respective companies, sources say they will soon follow the path of their American counterparts and merge into one gigantic satellite radio company.
When it happens, sports fans will no longer have to choose between brands. Right now, a hard-core hockey fan has to decide whether he wants NHL play-by-play as offered by XM or the NHL talk supplied by Sirius. If you want to hear both NFL and NHL games, you either have to buy both or decide which one is more important to you.
That could all change with a merger that many say makes a lot more economic sense than operating two systems in a country one-tenth the population of one that couldn't support both.
Right now, XM seems more open to a marriage.
``The reality is that there have been discussions," said XM Canada president and CEO Michael Moskowitz . ``We will ultimately do what’s right for our shareholders.
``I think there are tremendous synergies … to help drive profitability, but we need to do the right thing.
We can succeed alone, but we believe there are synergies that could enhance this."
XM is the Phil Mickelson to Sirius' Tiger Woods, without all the girlfriends. While XM has about 500,000 subscribers in Canada, Sirius has more than 800,000.
That may explain why Sirius is a little less enthusiastic about a union, at least for publication.
``Our overall subscription base is considerably larger than XM’s and our shareholders and our board are pretty pleased with our success to date," said Sirius Canada president and CEO Mark Redmond. ``We’re just going to continue running our business until we see that there are opportunities to increase shareholder value, whatever that potential may be."
Sports, of course, constitute a small part of a satellite radio world driven mainly by music. But it plays a large role.
Redmond says its sweaty offerings, from football to NASCAR to general sports talk, ranks in the top third of what subscribers want. Moskowitz says XM's NHL games and hockey talk are consistently among the top 10 draws for customers.
A merger could kill some of those Canadian-based sports channels -- after all, what's the point of a merger without some trimming? -- but there will still be plenty to go around. If there's a downside to a possible merger, it's that prices could go up.
They did in the U.S. and, generally, less competition usually dictates a larger price tag. Still, for sports fans a merger could be a victory.
OTHER STUFF: XM has added former NHLer Darren McCarty to its hockey talk roster. He'll appear weekly on the afternoon Power Play show. ... The National Film Board is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the classic hockey film The Sweater by Roch Carrier and Sheldon Cohen. You can watch it at nfb.ca, or see it here.