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Stern Helps Sirius Top XM In Subs During Q4

Riding on the popularity of its new radio personality Howard Stern, Sirius Satellite Radio said it exceeded XM’s total net new subscribers for the fourth quarter.

According to the latest subscriber figures just released, XM Satellite Radio is the overwhelming market leader with twice the number of Sirius subscribers, totaling six million to Sirius’s 3.3 million. But for the quarter ended December 31, Sirius added 1.4 million subscribers compared to XM’s addition of almost 900,000, exceeding XM quarterly subscriber additions for the first time.

A Sirius spokesman credited the “Stern effect” for the successful quarter, noting, “There is no doubt that Stern was driving force behind this.” Sirius also said its new S50 portable MP3/Sirius headset player is “flying off the shelves,” according to a spokesman.

XM Satellite Radio announced on the eve of International CES it added a total of 2.7 million new subscribers in 2005, while Sirius said it added 2.17 million subscribers for the year.

For 2006, XM said its key product strategy will be to “push portables,” including three new MP3/XM players and a new low-priced portable called the Sportscaster. The new MP3/XM players — including the Pioneer Inno and Samung Helix, with live streaming XM on the go ($399 each), and the Nexus 25 and Nexus 50, at $199 and $249 with stored XM music capability “allow XM to play in the new digital audio device category, where consumers are expected to purchase over 25 million digital audio players in 2006,” said sales and marketing senior VP Dan Murphy.

Sirius said it will offer a portable with live streaming Sirius programming on the go during the year. Its current S50 offers only stored Sirius content.

XM is also pursuing the low end of the portable market with a new $59.99 mini XM Sportscaster receiver that can work with a headset with built-in antenna device to be distributed by Belkin under the XM brand. The mini XM receiver making its debut here, has a built-in wireless FM modulator so that it can work with any car radio. It ships with a car kit and an optional home kit will be available.