Last year, when Sirius and XM first discussed their brave new merged programming, the companies said users would have to get new hardware to access it. Now that the FCC has approved the merger, though, there’s new information — consumers will get their beloved satellite signals just fine with no changes needed at all.
Rick Lee of GM’s OnStar division confirmed that all 8.5 million GM vehicles with XM Satellite Radio will continue to receive their signal as they always have. The same is true of Sirius Satellite Radio-equipped vehicles, as well as all aftermarket systems.
That means pricing for current subscribers to either system will stay the same, and they’ll continue to get the same channels they do now. What will change is that both groups of subscribers will be able to upgrade to new packages that include premium channels from the other service, added to their existing channels. So XM users will get Howard Stern and Sirius users will get Oprah — which sounds like a fair trade — for a higher package fee. Otherwise, rates will remain unchanged for current content. The “Best of Both Worlds” packages will be available in about three months.
Now, not all is rosy in this new deal.
While there will be more packages to choose from for both groups of current subscribers, which we detail below, the much-touted a la carte options of either 50 or 150 channels will not work with existing hardware from either company. The FCC has mandated that aftermarket units able to utilize this new system must be on the market in nine months. In short, getting to pick your favorite 10 Sirius stations and 40 XM stations, or vice versa, won’t be a reality for many anytime soon.
Lee said new hardware that’s compatible with the a la carte system would most likely make it into GM products for the 2011 model year, because most 2010s have already been planned. We’d expect a similar time frame for other manufacturers as well.