XM Canada hits new sub mark

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TORONTO -- As its American content providers get set to merge, the Canadian licensee for the U.S.-based XM Satellite Radio service said Friday it has signed up 237,500 subscribers to date.

Canadian Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., which operates the XM Canada subscription radio service, had 120,000 customers at the end of fiscal 2006 but managed to nearly double that by including drivers whose new vehicles come with a trial offer for the service.

Sirius Canada, which does not release financial statements, announced in February that it had surpassed 300,000 paying subscribers nationwide by recruiting more than 100,000 of those subscribers over the holiday period since Nov. 22.

Both XM Canada and Sirius Canada depend largely on programming from the respective U.S. satellite radio services, XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio.

February's news that U.S.-based XM and Sirius services had proposed a merger led to immediate speculation that the Canadian licensees also would eventually consolidate their services.

Publicly, XM Canada and Sirius Canada insist that they're monitoring the U.S. merger process, which requires regulatory approval.

Any Canadian consolidation would face similar regulatory scrutiny from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which bucked criticism from domestic broadcasters when initially licensing XM Canada and Sirius Canada as separate services.

But analysts expect the CRTC to agree to accept any proposed merger between XM Canada and Sirius Canada given the likelihood that XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio will eventually merge their feeds and turn one of them off.
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