Merging Media

by Gabe Bullard on July 30, 2008

Seventeen months after the courtship went public, satellite radio providers Sirius and XM have officially tied the knot. You probably heard the reports on Weekend Edition about the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approving the merger, despite opposition from several media outlets, including NPR.

The FCC ruled that because there are so many other ways to receive essentially the same product, the consolidation of two underperforming niche companies wouldn’t create a monopoly. Basically, one company can own an entire medium and it’s not a monopoly, so long as the medium’s media is digital content.

I won’t speculate on if the decision will ultimately be good or bad, but check out this Wired Magazine blog post about it.

The last line, “My hunch: someone took one look at streaming radio on an iPhone and the deal was done.” is pretty interesting. As an iPhone owner, I spent months anticipating the ability to stream media to my phone. At the launch of the 2.0 firmware, there were a few apps available that did just that. Most notably, Pandora, Last.fm, and AOL Radio. Each one has its benefits and pitfalls, but all of them are great for the times when I don’t want to listen to any of the music I own (and when I can’t tune in WFPK or WUOL).

There’s also an iPhone app available called ‘Remote’ that lets you control your computer’s music library from your phone as long as both devices are connected to the same network. It’s one step closer to letting you remotely dial up your home system and stream anything from your entire collection directly to your headphones.

If that happens, hard drive size will become insignificant. And since memory is expensive, the price for streaming devices will go down, and they’ll become more ubiquitous.

This comes back to the monopoly issue. If you can stream your own content, is that the same as listening to satellite programs? You can always listen to podcasts, but are those comparable to XM or Sirius shows? How does either stack up to broadcast?

There are crossovers, but there’s also exclusive content no matter how you do it, which do you prefer? I have to say that a free application to stream local stations to my phone would make the decision much easier. Is anyone reading this familiar with the iPhone SDK?

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