UChic Pop Rocks: Paying for Radio? Were They Sirius?

The latest sector in need of a bail-out? Satellite radio.

Satellite XM Radio announced on Wednesday that it has hired bankruptcy advisors in case of filing for Chapter 11. The satellite radio conglomerate, the only name in satellite radio since Sirius and XM merged last year, is $3.25 billion in debt.

But satellite shock jocks aren’t asking for any sort of government bail-out— in fact, they’ve eschewed the help they have been offered, a “several hundred million dollar” deal from satellite TV company EchoStar Corp. which would give the TV company control of Sirius XM and its satellite network. A deal with DirecTV is also on the table. But the radio company seems to be favoring the bankruptcy route, hoping to refinance its debt and keep alive without a buy-out.

While Sirius XM is obviously another victim of the ever-sliding economy, it seems that satellite radio was a chancy endeavor to begin with. I, along with many others, have always remained incredulous with the idea that people will pay for radio. Sure, sound quality is allegedly better and sharper, but it’s not like HDTV where the difference in crispness is plain to see. Regular FM and AM radio have been doing their jobs just fine, still providing people with entertaining gab, the latest music (plus the oldies— and who doesn’t love oldies) and even some stimulating, intellectual content (also known as NPR.)

What does satellite radio offer me that I’m not already getting? Howard Stern and Martha Stewart. Sign me up! Right. So maybe this satellite radio thing was not such a great investment. But the suits are arguing about ownership and debt without questioning the actual viability of satellite radio as a profitable business. It seems like any person in their right mind could tell them that people just won’t pay for something they already get for free. But with billions of dollars (and the wonder that is Howard Stern) on the line, it looks like Sirius XM is going to fight to survive.

Good news for those 20 million silly people who actually pay for their radio. As for me? I couldn’t care— or pay— any less.

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