DirecTV Owner Swoops In To Save Sirius From Bankruptcy

Liberty Media, the owner of DirecTV, has swooped in at the last minute to save Sirius from certain bankruptcy. Liberty will invest a $530 million in the form of loans to the satellite radio company, $175 million of which will go to paying debt that comes due for Sirius today.

Sirius’s CEO said in a statement:

“We are pleased to have come to this agreement with Liberty Media, particularly in light of today’s challenging credit markets. Liberty’s investment is an important validation of what SIRIUS XM has already achieved and a vote of confidence in what we will achieve. This agreement enables Sirius XM to continue to develop the opportunities first outlined in the merger of Sirius and XM. By strengthening our capital structure and enhancing our financial flexibility, this investment allows us to continue providing the great content and innovative programming our subscribers know and love.”

The Washington Post says that Sirius has never turned a profit, despite 20 million subscribers and a payroll that includes expensive radio personalities such as Howard Stern, who is paid $100 million a year.

SIRIUS XM Radio and Liberty Media Reach Agreement for Investment (Press Release) [Sirius XM]

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  1. Silversmok3 says:

    And what does DirecTV get in return for this ‘generous gesture’?

    All this does is band-aid a gunshot wound.

  2. rpm773 says:

    Damn. Sirius/XM’s bankruptcy was the cornerstone to my strategy of haggling with them to keep the rates of my multi-radio contract at what they currently are, without having to sign up for a long-term contract.

    I’ll guess I’ll just have to resort to using yelling, swearing and gibberish on the phone.

  3. mac-phisto says:

    this is interesting…didn’t echostar (directv’s competitor) just buy up a ton of their bank debt (like $300 million)?

    what an unholy merger this could become…

  4. scoosdad says:

    Whoops, there goes Sirius/XM music on Dish Network’s satellite service, I guess.

  5. theblackdog says:

    Phew, so I won’t lose my NFL on Sirius.

  6. chrisjames says:

    Headlines From the Future:

    Sirius Bankrupt (Satellite radio still not worth it)

    Comcast Saves DirecTV (Sirius default seriously damaging)

    Kittens Extinct! (Satan instates “no-cuddlies” policy)

  7. allstarecho says:

    Now both Dish Network and Liberty Media (owner of DirecTV) own major parts of SiriusXM. Of course it’s a solid investment for them both, being satellite data (TV/internet) providers.. why wouldn’t they want the satellite radio business too? The satellites and bandwidth in space are worth much more than the $530 million.

    • rochec says:

      @allstarecho:

      Echostar bought up Sirius’ debt, they don’t actually own any of Sirius. Seems as if they were hoping for a bankruptcy filing as they would most likely come out own a large portion of Sirius, if not the majority. But without a bankruptcy filing all Echostar owns is some money owed to them.

    • scoosdad says:

      @allstarecho: Doubtful that those satellites could be repurposed on the fly (no pun intended) for other uses. My understanding is that they were built with a pretty specific purpose in mind, to deliver low bandwidth streaming audio as cheaply as possible.

      Geostationary satellites (parked in orbits in a specific spot above the equator) such as those carrying video, telephone, and data traffic are pretty flexible by design and can be reconfigured for a different mix of traffic on command from the ground, and they do that all the time. But Sirius’ satellites aren’t even in a fixed geostationary orbit; they crisscross the globe in oddball patterns from northwest to southeast, such that at a minimum, two of the three satellites are visible to the US and Canada at any time. That kind of orbital pattern with irregular coverage isn’t very useful for other uses but it’s good enough for Sirius’ purpose.

      XM’s two satellites are in geostationary orbits over the equator and might be able to be converted to data use but I’m not up on their specific technology.

      [www.space.com]

  8. WynneDryope says:

    Well suppose I better cancel my Sirius subscription.
    I refuse to pay a penny to DirecTV or the spawn of Satan that own them.
    It won’t be long before you have to rent the radios and subscribe for 2 years for the privilege.

    • jnews says:

      @WynneDryope: BTW, News Corp (ie, Fox, ie, Rupert Murdock) no longer owns any part of DirecTV, if that’s who you’re referring to. Liberty Media had quietly been buying shares in News Corp to the point where Murdoch got nervous, and he paid them off (selling them DirecTV in exchange for every share of news corp) to go away quietly.

      I agree though, that DirecTV’s switch from buy-your-own-equipment to you-must-rent-there-are-no-other-options was really obnoxious and I also dumped them for (among other things) that reason. If I’m going to pay a monthly rental fee to get HD, I might as well get cable.

      • Joeb5 says:

        @jnews:
        The mirroring fee and rent fee is the same so it is a wash.

        Also can direct tv use unused Sirius sat space for more HD?

        • scoosdad says:

          @Joeb5:

          Also can direct tv use unused Sirius sat space for more HD?

          Not unless your satellite dish (which has to be pointed precisely at the satellite and not move a fraction of an inch off that alignment) has an automatic tracking mechanism installed on it. Sirius’ satellites aren’t in a fixed geostationary orbit; they are in constant motion in the sky and appear and disappear from view. See my post above: scoosdad

  9. jimconsumer says:

    OK, hang on. They have $20M subscribers at, what, $10/month? So they are paying HALF of their subscription revenue to Howard Stern? Holy fuck, no wonder they are bankrupt. What a bunch of buffoons. Hey, I’m not saying anything about Stern – good for him if he can command that kind of money – but clearly, Sirius can’t afford him if his fee is half their subscription revenue. There’s no way Stern himself is bringing in half of their subscribers.

    • mouch says:

      @jimconsumer: Psst, they are paying ten dollars a month, not year. Do the math again.

    • philmin says:

      @jimconsumer:

      Your math is off there. Howard gets paid 100 mil a year. Your math estimates 2.4 billion in revenue a year. Not exactly half.

    • Skankingmike says:

      @jimconsumer: You’re also wrong about the Howard Stern Contract agreement.

      He gets 100 Mil for his show. He pays all his employees like private contractors to run his show. So Robin and the others all get their paycheck directly from him. So if he wants to give them say 1 mil or 1 dollar that’s his business.

      Most of his original contract stipulated stocks be issued rather than monetary payment, just like most people who go into a risky venture.

      I’m just hoping that maybe the stock will go up one day. I should have never bought this shit stock I’ve been calling it death stock for 5 years now and yet i bought it days before the merger thinking it’ll go up shortly after.

  10. MrBryan says:

    I thought most of Sterns contract was paid in stock?

  11. philmin says:

    I bought 100,000 shares last week between 5 and 6 cents. Now I’m about to sell 100,000.

  12. bentcorner says:

    It’s even worse than people think. Not only does Howard Stern make $100 million a year, he only does the show from Monday to Thursday. It’s in his contract that he gets every Friday off. He also gets a massive amount of vacation time. He’s off this whole week.

    And it cost more than $10 a month for a subscription. It is $13 a month for a basic Sirius subscription. I’m paying an extra $4 to get what they call the “Best of XM”. It has some (not all) of the channels available on XM. Even though the FCC changed the law and allowed the two companies to merge, they still treat Sirius and XM as two separate, money losing companies.

    The one thing that stopped most people from buying a satellite radio is they didn’t know which one to get. Sirius or XM was kind of like Beta or VHS, Blu-ray or HD-DVD. By merging the companies, they could have taken all the guess work out of it for the consumer. Instead, people still have to decided between Sirius or XM.

    They also have a third choice – don’t purchase either. More times than not, that’s the choice people make.

    • theblackdog says:

      @bentcorner: Well if they follow through with the dual radio (and special sub to get both Sirius and XM) that is rumored to come out this spring, then a choice won’t have to be made, people can have both.

    • mac-phisto says:

      @bentcorner: i thought what stopped people from getting satellite radio was the idea of paying for radio when you can get it for free.

      i signed up in 2002 b/c all the stations around me suck (news flash to any radio execs reading this: there’s no reason on earth to play “have a cigar” – or any other song, for that matter – twice an hour. stop. please.).

      i cancelled this past fall b/c they killed my favorite station: fungus 53. bought a cheap mp3 player for ~3 months worth of xm & i don’t miss it at all.

      • bentcorner says:

        @mac-phisto: I think what stopped most people was having to choose between the two. For instance, it’s not enough to be a sports fan. A person had to decide what they liked most, football or baseball.

      • HogwartsAlum says:

        @mac-phisto:

        That’s what stopped me from getting it. Although if the soundtrack channel I like was on it instead of just online, I would get it in my car. Then I could listen to my movie music while driving!

  13. josh1701 says:

    Stern himself does not earn $100M a year. In addition to his salary, it’s to pay for the programming and staff for his two channels.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Everyone seems to bring up the Stern contract when talking about this. Yes, he’s paid an absurd amount of money, but he has to cover the cost of running his show out of his paycheck. That’s the “total control” he was looking for. So it’s his decision if his show sucks, if it’s four days a week, if he hires anyone new — it’s all money out of his pocket.

  15. meechybee says:

    I think Stern is worth every penny. The $100 million is to his production company and although they’re only live four days a week, they broadcast at least six hours a day live — which is at least what they did on terrestrial. They’ve also demonstrated that they can bring in the subscribers (200,000 subscribers to 6 million before the merger) and produce original programming across two channels, 24/7.

    These articles never mention Oprah (who only broadcasts a half-hour a week of original programming) or Martha Stewart (who does roughly the same, with her daughter doing most of the work). I’ve had Sirius and/or XM for the good part of eight years and have never listened to either (even though I am their core demographic).

    • fatcop says:

      @meechybee: That’s Howie math for you. He is OBVIOUSLY responsible for 5.8 million subscribers on his own. There were ABSOLUTELY NO way whatsoever that ANY subscriptions signed up for any other reason.

      I’m still shocked to this day how the shittiest company managed to take over the best.

  16. 1stMarDiv says:

    I bought about 4,000 shares of Sirius/XM a few weeks ago for ten cents each. I had some money laying around and I figured that if they go bankrupt then no big deal. I hope they stick around.

  17. Blueskylaw says:

    DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

    Sirius XM Radio Inc. (SIRI) and its chief executive, Mel Karmazin, gained a new lease on life Tuesday with Liberty Media Corp. and its controlling shareholder and chairman, John Malone, as the new landlord.
    Liberty agreed to invest $530 million in the form of high-interest loans – including $250 million on Tuesday – to Sirius XM in exchange for stock and seats on the company’s board.
    In doing so, Malone blocked rival satellite mogul Charles Ergen from taking control of satellite radio and gained his own path toward a strategic partnership with the company. Shares of Sirius XM lived to trade another day but remain underneath a crushing debt load, a lack of profitability and slowing subscriber growth.
    “With this investment, Liberty is making a statement that it doesn’t intend to let Sirius go bankrupt and they will help the company meet its debt obligations in some way, shape or form,” said Frederick Moran, analyst with the Stanford Group.
    “Karmazin has rescued Sirius XM from the verge of bankruptcy and its shareholders now have a second chance to salvage some value in their stock, but the company still faces meaningful, fundamental hurdles in terms of growth and profit creation,” Moran said.
    Sirius XM’s shares traded up 6 cents after the deal was announced Tuesday morning to 17 cents. The stock has lost 97% of its value in the last year on rising concerns about its debt load.
    Sirius XM warned investors last week that it faced a possible bankruptcy filing as early as Tuesday if it couldn’t reach a deal to meet its mounting debt obligations, including bonds that mature Tuesday and are majority-owned by Ergen, who was also negotiating with Sirius XM over a deal for control of the company, according to the Wall Street Journal.
    While Ergen failed in his bid to control the satellite radio industry, he presumably logged a handsome profit on his bond holdings in Sirius XM as bankruptcy fears faded on Tuesday. The company faces more debt maturities in May and December, but those bonds rallied Tuesday amid renewed confidence that it will meet its obligations.

  18. donjumpsuit says:

    Once again, for those that are confused, Sirius pays Howard Stern $100 million a year for 2 channels of content and a budget, inclusive of which is his salary. He also has to pay all his employees of his two stations, and his news team from this budget.

  19. astroglide says:

    i always thought to best way to increase xm/sirus subscribers was to offer it at a deep discount to DirecTV subscribers. I would probably opt-in at $5 a month for it, which DirecTV could now easily do. They’d get less per customer, but a huge increase in enrollment might offset that.

  20. maevealleine says:

    I always knew, that in a short amount of time, that satellite radio would be an epic fail.

  21. DustoMan says:

    Alternate Headline:
    “DirecTV Owner Swoops In To Save Sirius From Echostar”

  22. plustax says:

    Here’s a question, I’ve had XM from almost the start and I have not listened to terrestrial radio in years. I hate commercials, I hate the “so called” variety local radio provides. I’m in Southern California, so every few months I hear about another English radio station going Mexican regional (Indie 103.1). (I wouldn’t mind Spanish since the family is from Puerto Rico, I’m not a fan of accordion mariachi bands that they play all day or Emo Spanish Rock)

    Anyway, I also have an Iphone with applications that seem to allow me to use my Iphone as a radio like XM. If I figure out how to get my Iphone music playing through my car radio speakers can you think of any reason why I would need XM anymore. I don’t listen to Howard Stern or those guys and I pay for the Iphone service anyway, so what’s the point for paying for XM. What do you think?

    • ReginaPhalange says:

      @plustax:

      If your car stereo has an aux-in jack then you can use that, or you can try an FM transmitter for it. Then, just peruse the app store for Internet radio apps and/or listen to your own music. I have an iPhone but I still keep Sirius for live Howard…though most people would probably cancel in my position.

      • quail says:

        @ReginaPhalange: Slacker radio has an option to download hours worth of station music to an iTouch and their own Slacker Portable Radio. I’m actually thinking about it since I mostly listen to podcasts anymore and I’m not willing to shill out money for HD radio yet.

        And yea, the Dallas/Ft. Worth area has had hordes of stations convert to Spanish. What I heard is that the English ones jumped ship to the HD wave lengths.

  23. Meathamper says:

    And I hoped that Eminem would shut his trap on air… dammit.

  24. quail says:

    Watch them still go through bankruptcy after a few months in order to break those crazy talent contracts they have. Their best option for surviving is to go back to the basics and keep only the moderately priced guys.

  25. supergaijin says:

    “OK, hang on. They have $20M subscribers at, what, $10/month? So they are paying HALF of their subscription revenue to Howard Stern? Holy fuck, no wonder they are bankrupt. What a bunch of buffoons. “

    Try checking your math before you sling fancy words like “buffoon.”

    Stern’s TWO channels are allocated 100M/YEAR. $10/mo is probably a good average per sub since many pay only $7-8 month and some pay the rack rate of $13.95-$16.95.

    So 20million x $10/mo = $200MILLION a MONTH

    200million x 12 months = 2.4 BILLION a year.

    So Stern is getting 1/24th of the current (wildly) approximate income per year. His two channels are EASILY worth 4% of the gross cash – no buffoons necessary to figure that out.