Sirius XM CEO raises subscriber forecast

Despite speculation that Howard Stern may step down

NEW YORK -- Sirius XM Radio CEO Mel Karmazin raised his company's 2010 subscriber forecast once again here on Friday, despite speculation that Howard Stern may step down after his $500 million, five-year contract ends this year.

He predicted the satellite radio firm would end the year with approximately 20.1 million subscribers, which would be an all-time subscriber high for the company.

The projection implies net subscriber additions of approximately 1.3 million in 2010, up from about 1.1 million previously.

Speaking here at Liberty Media's annual investor and analyst day, Liberty CEO Greg Maffei called Sirius one of his personal favorites among Liberty investments and said Liberty plans to hold its stake in the company for the long-term. He explained that it fits in with Liberty's longer-term move from media businesses that are too exposed to advertising or secular challenges, such as Overture Films and News Corp., to firms with subscription businesses or in "great protected niches."

And Karmazin highlighted that his firm's new guidance would leave Sirius as the only U.S. subscription business besides Comcast that has more than 20 million subscribers.

Karmazin declined to comment as he ran off from the investor gathering when asked by The Hollywood Reporter where the negotiations with Stern stood.