DirecTV satellite subscribers will be able to tune in several XM Satellite Radio channels free beginning in November, XM announced Thursday, escalating the Washington company's war with New York rival Sirius Satellite Radio.
DirecTV is the nation's leading satellite service with more than 14 million customers. Starting on Nov. 15, they will receive 72 of XM's music and talk channels, including the adult-oriented "High Voltage" channel, which features shock jocks Opie & Anthony, fired from WNEW in New York for broadcasting a couple claiming to have sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Both XM and Sirius have understood that their success depends on potential customers experiencing satellite radio, to differentiate it from AM and FM.
XM (launched in 2001) and Sirius (2002) have worked to expand their footprints by cutting deals with rental-car agencies to install the radios, moving quickly to build home and portable receivers and adding the service to existing delivery systems, such as DirecTV, Dish Network and AirTran Airways, which carries XM channels on its aircraft.
"DirecTV offers a fantastic platform for people to experience some of the amazing content we offer on XM," Patricia Kesling, XM's senior vice president of marketing and operations, said in a news release. "We know from experience that when people get to sample XM, they want to become XM subscribers."
The DirecTV play is XM's counterpunch against Sirius, which has offered 65 of its channels to customers of DishNetwork, the nation's No. 2 satellite service, with more than 11 million customers. Dish, however, gives Sirius channels only to customers who buy the most expensive programming packages.
XM is heading toward the end of its first season broadcasting all Major League Baseball games, which the company says helped boost its subscriber base to more than 5 million.
Sirius's subscriber base of 1.8 million is likely to jump in the last quarter of this year and first quarter of 2006, as popular shock jock Howard Stern leaves over-the-air radio and begins his five-year, $500 million contract with Sirius. The service has a countdown to Stern's debut on its Web site.