(Sirius XM Hirings, Firings and Negotiations article updated with additional subscriber metrics and new stock price information.)
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Sirius XM (SIRI) has banked its success on its ability to build and retain a lineup of big-name talent from the worlds of media and entertainment. Commercial-free listening means far less without the likes of a Howard Stern or Oprah Winfrey behind it, especially as Internet radio outlets like Pandora.com gain more ground and become more viable competition.
Talent, therefore, is the key, and a costly one. In 2009, the company reported that it spent $370.5 million on programming and content, which includes the costs to acquire, create and produce content.
In 2010, Sirius executives landed several major contracts in efforts to gain and retain subscribers. Howard Stern signed on for 5 more years, only a few weeks before his original 5-year, $500 million deal was set to expire at the end of December. Sirius also extended its agreement with the National Football League for five more years before its 7-year, $220 million agreement was due to expire at the end of the 2010-2011 NFL season.
Loss of marquee talent is cited as one of the primary risks to Sirius' business. "There can be no assurance that this on-air talent will remain with us or that we will be able to retain their respective audiences," the company said in its 2009 annual report. "If we lose the services of one or more of them, or fail to attract qualified replacement personnel, it could harm our business and future prospects." "As these agreements expire, we may not be able to negotiate renewals of one or more of these agreements," the report continued, "or renew such agreements at costs we believe are attractive." Sirius stock is up more than 170% over the past year as investors have been bullish on positive news. Shares continue to climb to new 52-week highs and has been steadily gaining since its year-ago low of around 57 cents. On Nov. 4, shares spiked to a 52-week high of $1.61 after the satellite radio company reported that it swung to a penny-a-share profit in the third quarter and added 334,727 net subscribers. Subscribers are the most important source of revenue for the company, pulling in billions of dollars each year. In 2008, Sirius reached its then record high 19 million net subscribers. In 2009, the subscriber base decreased to 18.8 million. In the first three quarters of 2010 the company added 1.1 million net subscribers, bringing the then total number of subscribers to a record 19.9 million. On Nov. 30, Sirius announced that it had passed the 20 million subscriber mark, and reached the highest number of net subscribers in satellite radio history. Chief executive officer Mel Karmazin says the company will end 2010 with 20.1 million subscribers. Click on for a recap of the major personalities and programming that Sirius XM signed in 2010 and years prior, and the details surrounding the contracts the company has with each.
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