A couple of key points are left unclear in Mel Karmazin’s a la carte programming option, which he announced this week at the National Press Club.
Namely: when you would need a new receiver, and details of premium channels.
“No consumer will pay more than what they do today,” Mel said, “and packages will enable them to pay less. No radio will be obsolete what’s in the market today.”
All true; however in some cases the consumer would need a new radio.
For example, if a subscriber has one service and chooses to add some channels from the other service, as Mel says, they’ll be able to do that using an Internet user interface. So if you stick with all the channels from one service, after the merger, you won’t need a new radio. However if you want to replace some channels with programming from the other service, you’d need a new radio.
The satcasters hope to have both the programming packages and the new radios available within a year of merger approval, Mel said.
An interesting question is whether regulators will have the teeth to enforce all this later.
Sirius has no plans to offer a la carte options if the merger doesn’t go through, Mel said.
And what constitutes a premium channel isn’t clear. There’s no mention of premium channels on either of the Web sites for the satellite radio companies. The announcement states: “Pick your own 50 [channels] from all but Premium” with an option to add a channel for 25 cents each or add Super Premium Packages of $3 or $6 each in one of the a la carte options.
Perhaps the companies would decide what is considered to be a premium channel later.