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Satellite Radio Merger Will Mean Higher Prices

The AP reports: XM and Sirius to combine; hurdles loom, and says:

It’s too early to say what the deal will mean for subscription prices. The merger could bring down the cost of providing service, but at the same time give the company more pricing power as the only U.S. satellite radio provider.

No, it’s not at all too early to say what this means. Of course it will bring higher prices.

Neither company has turned a profit yet. No matter what the combined entity — which will almost surely be approved by a federal government that doesn’t enforce antitrust anymore — can save in costs, it’s guaranteed to hike prices at some point.

The question, then, is whether that matters. It does, but not in the long run.

The audio business is rapidly shifting to something that falls in between radio and old-fashioned record players or CDs. We are moving around with the music we want to hear, and listening to Internet radio at home. About the only thing missing is the live information we need or want right now.

One of the few things I listen to on the radio is traffic reports. Even there I’ve moved most of my listening to the service, where I dial 511 on my mobile phone and instruct it, using voice commands to give me traffic conditions on the freeway I’m about to use.

What’s left? Live news that I really, really want to hear, such as major breaking news.

I still have antitrust qualms about this merger, but not the kind I’d have had a year or two ago. The Net and audio progress makes the issue much less troubling than it was.

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