Sprint Adding Sirius Satellite Radio to Mobile Service

Adding yet another wrinkle to the emerging music-on-mobile-phones trend, satellite radio provider Sirius has announced a partnership to provide some of its streaming programming directly to Sprint users.

Sirius and Sprint said they struck a deal to make select programming available to certain phones, with channels that stream new hits, classic rock, hip-hop, country, blues and other types of music among the first to be tested.

Neither the financial terms of the deal nor the pricing for the service were revealed.

Natural Combination

In fact, few details of any type were given, with the companies saying additional specifics would be released later this year. The service is expected to be available nationwide once it is launched.

“Our exceptional programming is the primary force behind the rapidly growing success of Sirius, and we are excited about this venture with Sprint,” Scott Greenstein, president of Entertainment and Sports at Sirius, said. “One of our goals is to make this unique content available to as many Sprint PCS Vision customers as we can, over as many multimedia devices as possible.”

“Cell phone companies are experiencing stronger competition as their marketplace matures and we will see more of these kind of deals as the companies find ways to differentiate themselves,” telecom analyst Jeff Kagan told the E-Commerce Times. “Sprint has traditionally thought ahead with their technology and phones and that gives them a competitive advantage for these customers, at least until the competitors also offer the services.”

In fact, the partnership might be an instance where both sides could see equal benefit, with Sirius growing the audience for the programming — in which it has invested heavily — and Sprint gaining one strong reason for subscribers to remain loyal. “Both Sprint and Sirius see this as a natural combination and we can expect more of them,” Kagan added.

Portability Issue

Sirius and its main competitor, XM Satellite, have forged numerous partnerships to find new outlets for their programming, focusing mainly on adding the Internet to their existing distribution channels in automobiles and through portable receivers.

The issue of portability has been one on which the satellite companies have spent a great deal of time and money, looking at everything from “wearable” receivers built into clothing to discussion between both XM and Sirius and Apple over making iPods that can receive the satellite feed directly.

However, most analysts now consider such efforts a bridge to a time in the very near future when converged devices do everything, with a single device replacing the mobile phone, the PDA, the digital camera and the MP3 player.

“Having fewer devices makes our lives easier,” Kagan said.

The satellite radio companies will likely face competition in streaming to mobile devices from Web-based companies. RealNetworks, for instance, has had considerable success with its streaming music products, noted Inside Digital Media analyst Phil Leigh.

Leigh said RealNetworks’ Radio Plus feature and similar offerings from Yahoo’s MusicNow and others can be considered well-positioned for extension onto mobile devices as more Web services are pushed to hand-held devices.

In fact, mobile streaming music might provide a better bet from a business perspective than Internet-based radio, Leigh added. Since the Web’s early days, many users came to expect free streams of radio broadcasts, a situation that made it difficult for subscription models to gain traction at first.

Carrier Charge

On hand-held devices, however, mobile carriers can charge for the right to access the service, providing a recurring source of revenue that will make the market appealing.

Kagan believes satellite radio will appeal to many consumers, since it offers uninterrupted streaming music — and, eventually, news and talk — and will likely be adopted by users who are not interested in paying for downloads of songs.

Still, analysts acknowledge that it’s far from clear which model for delivering music to mobile devices will win out in the end and most believe users will enjoy several different options for listening to tunes on their phones.

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