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Old 12-21-2005, 08:52 PM   #1
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Default Sirius Outselling XM in Boston (from Boston Globe, 12/21)

Fans following Stern to his new Sirius home
Shock jock's move to satellite radio spurs holiday-sales boom, stores say
By Keith Reed, Globe Staff | December 21, 2005

Cabbage Patch Kids, Furby, the Xbox 360. Add Howard Stern to the list of Christmas gifts with a following that made them difficult, if not impossible, to find at the height of their popularity.

The aging, crass shock jock who ruled mornings on FM radio in Boston and elsewhere until last Friday, takes his act to Sirius Satellite Radio, the number-two player in the subscription radio business, on Jan. 9. Judging by the shelves at some local retailers, he's taking a lot of Boston fans with him.

Several store managers said Sirius receivers, which cost between $50 and $300, come with a $12.95 monthly fee, and have to be plugged into a car or home stereo, are among their hottest sellers this holiday season. Stern fans and their gift-buying relatives are cleaning out shelves as quickly as they are stocked with new units.

''This is driving our revenue right now," said Anthony Perry, a manager at Best Buy in the Fenway neighborhood. ''If we could stock a million of these, I'm sure we'd sell a million," added general manager Gary Oliveira.

Satellite radio launched in the United States in 2001, when Sirius' only competitor, XM Satellite Radio Inc., went on the air. Instead of listening to free radio stations subject to Federal Communications Commission decency rules, filled with commercials and marked by formulaic, repetitive playlists, satellite subscribers pay for commercial-free no-holds barred programs. Unlike traditional radio stations, which have a limited listening area, satellite stations are available anywhere in the country.

Sirius and XM offer more than 100 channels of music, news, and talk and rely heavily on celebrity hosts to drive subscriptions. XM's latest TV ads feature rapper Snoop Dogg dropping in on Ellen DeGeneres in the company's studios. Both host XM shows.

Sirius' roster includes an entire channel named for rapper Eminem, and the company benefited immediately from landing Stern.

''We attribute a lot of that to the Stern effect," said Jim Collins, a Sirius spokesman.

Stern could end up benefiting both companies, neither of which has ever had a host with such a big audience, said Stuart Kagel, an analyst with Janco Partners, a Greenwood Village, Colo., investment firm.

''The awareness of satellite radio is way above where it was before," Stern signed with Sirius, he said. Kagel's most recent report on Sirius projects an estimated 39 million satellite radio subscribers in the United States by 2010.

Its popularity is already growing. Of a shipment of 48 of Sirius' least expensive receivers the Fenway Best Buy received last week, only three of the $49.99 radios remained yesterday afternoon.

As Perry was describing how quickly the radios are selling, another manager snatched one off the shelf for a customer who placed an order on the Internet and rushed in to pick it up.

Several shoppers called the store to see if Sirius radios were available at any local Best Buy stores. Few were, Perry told them. But next to the two remaining Sirius receivers were more than two dozen XM radios.

''Right now, Sirius is selling way more than XM," Perry said.

Nathaniel Brown, an XM spokesman, said the shelf could have been full of XM receivers because Best Buy got a new delivery, not because Sirius was outselling them. XM, he said, has more than twice as many subscribers as Sirius.

Sirius has 2.2 million subscribers to XM's 5 million, according to the companies' most recent quarterly reports. XM has said it expects to end 2005 with 6 million subscribers while Sirius is aiming for more than 3 million.

Sirius' sales jumped after the company unveiled its $500 million contract with Stern last October. The self-crowned ''King of All Media," whose on-air cohorts include ''Will the Farter," ''Gary the Retard," and strippers, signed with Sirius after battling with the FCC and his former employer, Infinity Broadcasting, now known as CBS Radio.

Stern was hit with several hefty fines under the FCC's indecency rules, but the agency does not regulate satellite radio.

Brown swiped at Sirius for spending so much on one host, calling the Stern deal an indicator that its programming is narrower than XM's.

''They have taken a half-billion dollar gamble on one personality. That becomes the heart of your programming, while XM is focused on being as broad-based as possible," he said.

Stern's show had the second-best ratings of all morning radio shows in Boston during the last full ratings period it was on the air, according to Arbitron Inc., which measures audiences for the industry. Between June 30 and Sept. 30, 7.3 percent of Boston's radio listeners were tuned into his show during any 15-minute period it was on.

If sales at the RadioShack on American Legion Highway in Roslindale are any indication, many of those listeners plan to follow Stern onto satellite. Store manager Evenold Guillonaicre said he's been selling about 10 Sirius receivers a day since Thanksgiving, more than double what he used to sell. Most customers are looking for Stern.

''Before we had to tell them what Sirius Radio was, but now they know," Guillonaicre said. ''Some of the customers ask me, 'Did you know Howard stern was going to be on it?' "

Bryan Fleming of Cambridge knew. The 32-year-old's brother-in-law, a Stern fan, has hinted for weeks that he wants a Sirius receiver and Fleming made the Fenway Best Buy his second stop on the hunt for one.

After browsing one store and putting off the purchase, he came into Best Buy, where what was left over didn't appeal to him. Another stop would be necessary.

Looking ahead to the next store, he said, ''I don't know if they'll have any in stock."
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Old 12-21-2005, 09:19 PM   #2
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Umm...where does it say that Sirius is outselling XM in Boston? Perhaps at one Best Buy store, but there's no way to know whether or not it holds for the rest of the Boston area...
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