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Sirius XM Launches Its App; More Quietly, Tells Subscribers Rates Are Going Up Thanks to Royalties

Two developments of note from the satellite camp this week

Two items from Sirius XM draw my eye this week:

The latest press release from the satellite company tells me that consumers now can get Oprah Radio, Opie & Anthony, Bob Dylan and much other Sirius XM content via iPhone and iPod now that the company launched the Sirius XM App, which provides 120 channels of content.

This is a smart, indeed obvious, move; and it can only help the company as it tries to fight the new recent declines in listenership. (It’ll be interesting to see what the next quarter’s subscriber numbers are.)

Some of its top programming, though, won’t be available via iPhone/iPods, including Howard Stern, MLB Play-by-Play, NFL Play-by-Play and Sirius NASCAR Radio. No doubt those contracts are more restrictive and/or Sirius XM doesn’t want to be too generous with its best stuff without extracting all possible revenue from it. On the other hand, Sirius XM is promising iPod users exclusive, Internet-only showcase channels of their own.

The company pointed reporters to a demo video of the application being used.

The application lets users buy a song they heard on Sirius XM while it is being played or tag it for later purchase on the iTunes Store. A “Lookaround” function lets the user see the current channel plus what is playing on other available channels.

The app is free, though the content is not; users of iPhone and iPod touch with an Internet subscription to Sirius or XM can access it. The company also will offer the ability for new users to sample content through a temporary online pass.

Another, separate development not touted in a press release told XM subscribers that their rates are going up when they next renew, thanks to royalty costs to the recording industry.

“Beginning on July 29, 2009, a ‘U.S. Music Royalty Fee’ of $1.98/month for primary subscriptions and $.97/month for multi-receiver subscriptions will be effective upon your next renewal. This fee will be used directly to offset increased payments from XM to the recording industry,” states the e-mail, which came under the subject line “Important Information About Your XM Account.” It was signed by Sirius XM Chief Service Officer Joe Zarella.

Music royalty rights, the company told subscribers, “have recently increased dramatically, principally as a result of a decision made by the Copyright Royalty Board, which is designated by the Library of Congress to set royalty rates for sound recordings. … Unfortunately, we cannot control the Copyright Royalty Board’s rate increase, but we can offer you ways to save on your subscription. The longer your subscription, the more you save!”

It offered subscribers one or more free months for renewals of various terms.