updated 10:10 am EDT, Thu October 2, 2008
Sirius XM A La Carte
Sirius XM drew a quick close to speculation today by announcing the availability of the A La Carte and Best Of radio features promised with the merger of the two satellite radio stations. The former service debuts with the equally new Starmate 5 radio and lets users custom-pick their stations in blocks rather than having to accept Sirius XM's default options.
The personalized feature omits Internet radio accessibility from the mix and is also tiered depending on the level of features. A basic plan at $7 per month gives access to 50 stations but excludes live sports and premium channels, while an A La Carte Gold option at $15 per month doubles the choice to 100 and includes all the broadcasting available to normal service.
The Starmate 5 itself includes a simple monochrome display but, in addition to A La Carte, carries a 44-minute buffer for radio and the option of hopping to different channels when certain musicians, sports and news become available. It also has an FM transmitter to route sound to the car stereo without wiring and works with Sirius' docking system for in-home listening. It ships today for $130.
The Best Of feature now opens up "most" Sirius- and XM-only radios (including the Starmate 5) to a handful of stations from the opposite network, ensuring that subscribers of one don't have to switch for new content. Sirius listeners get access to XM's Opie and Anthony, Oprah Winfrey, live NBA/NHL/PGA sports and others; XM in turn receives Howard Stern's show, Martha Stewart, and coverage for NASCAR and NFL. Subscribers both pay the same $17 per month and receive the same channel access as a normal subscription.