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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sirius Satellite 2.0 to include DVR-type features

Sirius XM app on Android phones. Sirius XM app on Android phones.

(Credit: Sirius)

Sirius XM will release Satellite Radio 2.0 this fall, according to a source close to the company. The next generation of the satellite radio subscription service will feature time-shift recording capabilities, increased storage for portable hardware devices, and on-demand content channels.

Because of licensing limitations, you can't record and store Sirius programming in your car. If you miss Howard Stern on the way to work, you're out of luck. But new satellite channels will host popular programs, and make them available for on-demand playback, according to a Sirius insider. That's means the big game will be on when you want it, and you'll never miss an episode of Oprah.

On-demand playback is great for major events, but unfortunately not everything will be available all the time. To catch obscure programs, you'll need to be able to record stations. That feature is possible with some devices, like the XMP3i, but Satellite 2.0 should make that capability more widely available, and hopefully without additional hardware.

Sirius' party line is still that customers want and are willing to pay for a curated radio experience with carefully crafted music program lists. But that tune could change with another potential feature of the revamped system. Satellite 2.0 could feature two-way Internet communication, which could be used to support the so-called personalized radio channels rumored to be included in the next-generation platform. Listeners will be able to vote up or down music they're listening to, and the system will scan all satellite radio channels to queue up music based on their music tastes. And like Pandora, this potential feature could let people skip songs. Right now, the only way to vote on Sirius XM is to change the channel.

Letting listeners choose programs at their convenience should help the company do battle with Web-based entertainment apps like Pandora and Stitcher, especially as automotive manufacturers integrate these free apps in cars. Cable customers have shown they're willing to pay additional fees for DVR recording and premium content. But with so much content available with free apps and the data plan many commuters already pay for, is customization and scheduling capabilities enough to justify the additional $12.99 monthly fee? Stern may be entertaining for an hour-long commute, but he's no HBO.

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