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XM Unveils Launch Plans

New York, N.Y.–XM Satellite Radio took the wraps off its launch plans for the new 100 channel digital satellite radio service which will kick off in two markets Sept. 12, accompanied by a $100 million advertising campaign for the total launch.

At a news conference here, president and CEO Hugh Panero said XM will commercially begin service and sales in Dallas/Fort Worth and San Diego, expanding the rollout to the entire Southwest in mid-October, with nationwide sales to begin in November. A total of 5,000 retail storefronts are expected to participate in the launch this year, including 1600 independent stores.

XM also finally revealed its exact programming line up to consist of 71 music channels (over 30 of which are commercial free) and 29 news, talk, sports and entertainment channels.

The media campaign (totaling the size of Sony PlayStation’s annual budget at $100 million) will kick off Aug. 10 in approximately 3,000 movie theaters (or 19,000 screens nationwide) with a 60-second spot featuring B.B. King, Snoop Dogg and David Bowie. Seven different 30-second TV spots, some with the same artists, will also air as part of the $45 million campaign earmarked for fourth quarter this year. The campaign centers on the theme, ‘Radio to the Power of X’ and was developed by TBWA/Chiat/Day. It will also include radio, print and in store merchandising.

Panero claimed that XM ‘Intends to change radio the way cable and DBS changed television, by providing compelling entertainment choices to consumers.’ Its programming lineup will include six ‘decades’ channels (from the 40s to the 90s), five country channels, 15 hits channels, as well as 10 rock, seven urban, six jazz and blues, five Latin, seven world, and four classical music channels. The lineup also includes two children’s channels, 12 news channels, five sports channels, three-comedy and nine variety channels.

Panero said that he expects the company will sell between 60,000 and 75,000 subscriptions this year. ‘Our radio manufacturers are prepared to ship 40 to 50,000 radios per month and can ramp up to 80,000 a month quickly if necessary,’ he added. Ninety five percent of radio sales this year are expected to come from the aftermarket and the remainder in OEM radios offered by Cadillac. Next year, OEM sales will expand as General Motors offers the radios through more car divisions, he continued.

XM also announced new programming agreements with E! Entertainment, Fox News and CNN Headline News.