Liberty Media which owns a controlling interest in DirecTV, the leading satellite television provider, has agreed to lend $530 million to struggling satellite radio provider Sirius XM. The loan comes on the eve of rumors that Sirius XM was going to file bankruptcy and amidst talks that competing satellite television investor Charlie Ergen from EchoStar (Dish Network) was going to buy out Sirius.
Sirius XM CEO, Mel Karmazin, has done a masterful job in finding companies who might need what he has in terms of programming and bandwidth and play them against each other. Where Karmazin has failed mightily is in the total destruction of the content of his vast network of audio channels with fewer choices, less programming and many of the most popular Sirius channels being "XM-ized". Karmazin's last bid to raise more money came from a recent announcement that Sirius XM would raise the subscription fees for its multi-receiver subscribers during the depths of the worst recession in 80 years.
This loan buys Sirius XM some time but in now way bails them out of their massive debt. The company needs to grow yet the core of its appeal - its content - is doing its best terrestrial radio imitation where executives cut costs and quickly ruin programming to save money while listeners (in this case paying customers) look to cell phones, iPods, pod casting and Internet radio for more unique and compelling programming. Satellite television providers do not follow this model as they have added more volume of channels, more sports in HD and overall more HD channels and have been rewarded with more and more paying subscribers moving over from cable to pay satellite HDTV.
Sirius XM's stock is up over 67 percent this morning to $0.18 per share with a 52 week high of just under $4.00 thus allowing Sirius XM some breathing room for a few months between debt payments and Charlie Ergen from EchoStar a tidy little profit on the large volume of stock he owns in the company.
It is still possible - some say probable - that Sirius XM will still file bankruptcy but this life line from Liberty Media could possibly be enough to stop the bleeding long enough to stabilize the patient to avoid a take-over or a Chapter 7 filing down the road.