"XMas in August"; Satellite Radio's Chart Success

XMas in August: XM Satellite Radio held its annual "XMas in August" new product show in Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall on August 9. Trumpeting the XM-related products that will be available for the 2005 holiday shopping season, the satellite radio provider announced strategic relationships with Altec Lansing and Belkin Corporation, as well as newer, smaller receivers from longtime partners Audiovox and Delphi. A Samsung-sourced MP3-enabled receiver with Napster capabilities was also announced.

Altec Lansing will develop and market two powered speaker systems for XM2go receivers: the $149.95 iMX2, a one-piece, portable, battery-powered system designed for "on the go" use; and the $99.95 XM3020, a powered system designed for desktop use. The new products join the MX5021/Roady Home Listening System, a three-piece powered audio system introduced earlier this year.

Belkin will offer a wide range of accessories, including rechargeable battery kits, headphones, antennas, and vehicle kits.

Audiovox's $99.99 XM Express is billed as the smallest satellite radio to offer a five-line display screen. The tiny unit has a built-in FM transmitter, which wirelessly transmits XM reception to "any one of 100 FM radio frequencies." A wide assortment of accessories, such as vehicle kits, micro antennas, cassette adaptors, and power adaptors will be available, presumably from Belkin.

Samsung will offer two flash-memory devices with XM reception capabilities via XM's Connect-and-Play programs, which allow the consumer to add an XM antenna and subscribe to the network's program for a modest up-charge over the cost of the MP3 player itself. In addition to listening to their own MP3-encoded music, listeners can "mark" songs they are interested in as they hear them on XM, and when they connect the player to its docking station, they can download them legally through the "XM + Napster" service. Details on how the program will work (and what the players will cost) will presumably be forthcoming before its fourth quarter 2005 debut.

XM and Sirius hit the Billboard charts: In other satellite radio news, both XM and Sirius Satellite Radio will be contributing airplay data to Billboard's pop music charts beginning August 19. This is widely seen to mark mainstream recognition of the growing influence of the satellite broadcasters, but it seems an almost tautological distinction since the only channels contributing data are XM's 20 on 20 (channel 20) and Sirius' Hits-1 (channel 1), which are, as the names suggest, already charts-driven channels. Considering that both services stress the wide variety of music offered on their networks, it's ironic that they are both so chuffed to be contributing such a narrow focus to the charts mentality they purport to offer respite from.

We'd be more interested in a chart that shows the songs the two networks are playing that you can't hear anywhere else—but maybe that's just us.