What It Does:
Allows you to listen to over 180 radio channels in your car, at home, on the beach or over the Internet. These channels are specific to satellite radio, though some programming will overlap with conventional broadcast radio. Channels cover music, sports, news, comedy, kids, relationships, and talk subjects. Sirius and XM are the two providers and there are differences in their programming, so check both lineups (they have recently merged so
these differences may disappear over time).
What’s To Like:
With Satellite radio in your car, there is no issue about driving out of range of a station. You literally can go from Bangor, Maine, to San Diego, California, and listen to the same station all the way across the country. Whether you are in your car or at home, the other satellite advantage is that channels have pretty consistent programming 24/7. For example, if you are in your car at 2 p.m., BBC World News will be on—you don’t have to wait for the 5 p.m. news hour. Sports programming has a national orientation. For example, XM has all the NFL games.
So, if you live in Boston but are a Packers fan, you can get the Green Bay-Chicago game. This works for baseball, basketball, and college sports, too, although XM and Sirius have specific sports that they handle. The music channels are attractive for those who like programming outside the mainstream. For example, there is a Metropolitan Opera channel. You probably can’t get narrow-casting like that over the air anywhere.
Because XM and Sirius were locked in death battle competition until this year, they each have their own specialties. For example, XM has Major League Baseball but doesn’t have NPR. Sirius has NPR but not MLB. Since that is a service issue, not a hardware issue, it may change over time and simply require buying new services.
Starts at about $40 for a car add-on. Installation in you car may be extra (but check promotions). Home radios and boomboxes are $100–$150. Handheld portables are $150–$300. Internet service doesn’t require any additional hardware. The Sirius service costs $6.99 a la carte (you pick 50 channels) and runs up to $16.99 per month for everything (including some XM channels). XM pricing is similar except that the a la carte option is not available. Also available as a factory installed option in many new cars.