When satellite radio providers Sirius and XM merged almost half a decade ago, consumers and regulators feared that the combined company would begin to act like a fearsome monopoly with a stranglehold on the entire satellite radio market. Not quite. They’re still acting as separate companies working together to confuse the hell out of their customers. Emily’s family are longtime XM subscribers who bought a car with a Sirius receiver, assuming that since it’s all the same company, the services are interchangeable. No, not even close.
My family has had an XM radio subscription since XM first started including a radio receiver in all GM cars. When we bought our first new car that came with satellite radio automatically installed, we were thrilled. We were loyal GM purchasers, so the Sirius/XM merger of 2007 didn’t affect us a whole lot. However, my father did not support the government bailout of GM, so when it came time to purchase his new car this past summer, he went with a Ford. Ford automobiles, when they come with satellite radio, come with Sirius receivers, not XM receivers. No big deal, it’s the same company, right? WRONG.
When he tried to add his new radio to our existing XM account, he was told that since his car was a Sirius receiver and we had an XM account, he would need to start a new Sirius account and could not have all of our cars listed under the same account. Funny enough, I had been told the same thing about a new Volkswagen a few months earlier, but when I called back to add my car to the new Sirius account my father had to create, I was told that in fact, my car had an XM receiver (despite what I had been told months earlier) and that I actually could have been receiving satellite radio that entire time.
It was fine until baseball season came along, and my dad realized that he could no longer receive the MLB play-by-play channels on his new Sirius radio that he could listen to in his old car through the XM receiver. Why? According to the customer service people, because those are only available through XM packages, not Sirius packages. So he downloaded the SiriusXM radio app for his Android phone and tried to access our XM account there and play those channels over the radio. No luck. Why? Because the app is only good for Sirius packages, and even though we had an XM account, packages that are only valid through XM receivers cannot be played over the SiriusXM smartphone app.
In my thoughts, these technological difficulty issues should have been figured out five years ago when the two companies decided to merge. It’s the same company, but you have to have two separate accounts if you have both an XM receiver and a Sirius receiver. You have people who are absolutely willing to pay for the premium SiriusXM packages, but they can only access them over XM radios–if they have Sirius, they’re out of luck. If this is the same company, why can it not provide equal service to all of its customers?
Emily went on to complain that the make of car a person prefers dictates which of the evil twin satellite radio companies they’ll be stuck with for the life of the car, but that’s not really true. If you don’t mind carrying around a separate radio receiver or having an aftermarket stereo installed in your vehicle, you can have one or the other quite easily. It’s not as convenient, but at least you get to hear baseball games.