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XM Radio

Local company banks on the future of Net radio.

Radio hasn’t faced big technological changes since the invention of FM 40 years ago. But upstart XM Radio, a D.C.-based satellite radio company, is hoping to do to radio what cable did to network television. Hugh Panero, president and CEO of XM, gave us his optimistic view of the future of radio.

Tell us a little about XM Radio.

XM’s programming lineup features 100 coast-to-coast digital channels: 71 music channels, more than 30 of them commercial-free, from hip-hop to opera, classical to country, bluegrass to blues; and 29 channels of sports, talk, children’s and entertainment. XM also brings to the car, for the first time on radio, the same diverse selection of 24-hour news sources available in the home on cable and DirecTV.

Who started XM and why?

XM Satellite Radio Inc., based in Washington, D.C., was founded as American Mobile Radio Corp. in 1992 and obtained one of two satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) licenses from the FCC in October 1997.

What kind of a response have you had so far to your service?

Response to XM has been enthusiastic, from consumers to retailers to the media. XM is the fastest-selling new audio product in the last 20 years. XM was named 2001 “Product of the Year” by Fortune, an “Invention of the Year” by Time and won Popular Science’s 2001 “Best of What’s New” Grand Award in the electronics category.

Are your customers local to DC, or can anyone nationwide take advantage?

XM just announced it had signed up more than 136,500 subscribers as of June 30. We have subscribers in every state in the continental United States.

What effect (if any) has the economic slowdown had on the satellite radio business?

XM has been executing its business plan and just exceeded most Wall Street subscriber expectations for the third consecutive quarter.

How many employees work for XM?

About 450. Our headquarters and broadcast studio complex is located in Washington, D.C., where we have over 150,000 square feet of space. We also have studios in New York City and at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn. Our technology and innovations center is located in Boca Raton, Fla.

What sets you apart from your competition in this industry?

XM is 100 living, breathing radio stations; we are not an audio service. XM has about 200 programming staff that develop more than 1500 hours of live programming every week. XM has exclusive agreements with brands like MTV, VH1, NASCAR, and USA Today.

Who are your typical customers?

We have programming that caters to all age groups and demographics; we are a mass-market product and attract a wide subscriber base. Any American who listens to radio is a potential customer.

Is there anything else about XM that we should know?

General Motors in November rolled out factory-installed Delphi-Delco XM radios in Cadillac Deville and Seville models, and is expanding to a total of 25 Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Oldsmobile and Pontiac models this year. Isuzu dealers are offering XM radios to their customers. XM will also be an option this coming fall on six Infiniti and Nissan 2003 models and future Audi and Volkswagen models. Leading manufacturers such as Sony, Alpine and Pioneer offer a broad array of XM radios that easily enable any existing car stereo system.

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