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Howard Stern Prompts Sirius To Double Subscription Forecast

Sirius Satellite Radio has nearly doubled its subscription forecast for the end of 2006, mostly because of Howard Stern.
Sirius Satellite Radio has nearly doubled its subscription forecast for the end of 2006, mostly because of Howard Stern.

Before signing Stern, who began his five-year contract this week, Sirius projected about 2 million subscribers by the end of 2005 and 3.6 million by the end of 2006. Now, the satellite radio provider is forecasting 6 million subscribers by the end of this year, as it faces off against a competitor that has signed its own heavy-hitters, including Bob Dylan, NASCAR, Wynton Marsalis and Snoop Dogg.

More than 3.3 million subscribers had signed up to get Sirius by the end of 2005, a significant jump since October 2004, when the Stern contract was announced and SIRIUS had reported approximately 662,000 subscribers.

"Clearly there's been phenomenal growth here, and a lot of that can be attributed to Howard," Jim Collins, head of Sirius' Media Relations said Thursday.

He wouldn't comment on subscription activity this week. Collins said other big names, like Martha Stewart, are drawing a high number of subscribers as well.

Sirius features Christian talk radio and has lured Playboy away from XM. XM is promoting Good Morning America. XM has deals with General Motors, Honda, Toyota, and more. Sirius has them with Ford, DaimlerChrysler and BMW.

Meanwhile, competitor XM Satellite Radio boasts more than 6 million subscribers, while offering its customers "America's largest playlist" and more than 150 channels.

Sirius, which promises to continue outpacing others in terms of growth and offers more than 125 channels.

Analysts predict that the satellite radio market will continue to grow, but it will have to compete with portable media players and music services, such as iPods and iTunes, according to David Schatsky, Senior Vice President of Research at JupiterResarch, which issued a market report on the subject in November.

During a period of rapid expansion, satellite radio stocks have fluctuated as providers lay out capital to add programming and deliver services. XM's stocks closed the NASDAQ at $28.99 Thursday, while Sirius closed at $6.20.