Satellite radio in limbo as merger stalls

Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:25am EST
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By Paul Bond

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Sirius Satellite Radio CEO Mel Karmazin has more than just a stalled merger with XM Satellite on his mind. He's also wondering what it's going to cost to keep his star talker, Howard Stern, on board.

"Great content costs money," Karmazin reminded analysts Tuesday during a conference call to discuss quarterly earnings.

"If Howard is on the call and listening, if he would like to extend his deal at less money, we would be interested in that," Karmazin told the analysts. "But from my history with him, I don't think that is apt to happen."

Stern costs Sirius $500 million for five years, and he's in his third year already. Add to that the billions Sirius spent on rights to the NFL, NBA, NASCAR and other content, not to mention the building and launching of expensive satellites, and its easy to see why Sirius wants so desperately to merge with XM, though regulators have yet to approve that plan.

In fact, the termination date for the merger deal is Saturday, though Karmazin said Tuesday that he expects the boards of both companies to meet before then to extend the deadline. XM will no doubt update analysts Thursday when it reports financial results.

Karmazin was once optimistic that the merger would be complete at the end of 2007, even while referring to it on occasion as "an uphill battle."

Not only has Karmazin's timetable been thrashed, but the one-year anniversary of the deal struck on February 19, 2007, also has passed, a significant milestone given that more than 200 mergers have been completed since then, each taking an average 110 days to complete.

Still, the bureaucrats aren't in any hurry. In fact, 10 months into the process, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked the Justice Department not to "rush through" an approval, if there is to be one.   Continued...

<p>Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. Chief Executive Mel Karmazin answers questions during the Reuters Media Summit in New York November 30, 2006.REUTERS/Brendan McDermid</p>