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Satellite Radio Programming Guide

XM and SIRIUS offer a wealth of excellent programming

Heads up!

Welcome to this article from the Crutchfield archives. Have fun reading it, but be aware that the information may be outdated and links may be broken.

The single most common criticism that music enthusiasts seem to have with FM radio — at least in its current incarnation — is the utter lack of programming originality. Over the past several decades, a prevailing school of thought has emerged within commerial radio: consumers and lovers of music somehow don't know what we like but rather only like what we know. While that clever wordplay might work well as a business model, it has all but removed the rationale of why most folks listen to radio in the first place. The end result has been the financially-motivated and methodical amputation of the soul, or "X Factor," from FM radio.

Miraculously resuscitating the medium are the seemingly unlimited possibilities emerging from digital broadcasting. The only limitation now is the listener's own sense of adventure. Coupled with increasingly affordable and infinitely user-friendly gear, the reality is that, as you read these words, a not-so-quiet revolution is occurring — satellite radio is forever altering the soundscape of broadcasting.

Finally, millions who have previously had no outlet for their specific and often eclectic tastes of entertainment, are privy to 24/7, wireless access to the finest and most varied forms of radio entertainment and information ever available — in the form of the all-digital XM Satellite Radio and SIRIUS' Digital Audio Streams. Newly introduced lines of portable receivers allow listeners to take the palm-sized units absolutely any and everywhere within the great 48 contiguous states — without even the slightest hint of static or signal loss.

While the basics are the same — 100 channels/streams of perpetually changing content — there are a few notable differences for those contemplating either digital satellite audio service. Here is a comparative overview of what is offered by each provider:

A few of the news, information, and variety stations, such as Disney Radio or CNN Headline News, can be accessed from either provider. One thing worth noting is that all of the music is unique and presented live in real-time — rather than just an ad infinitum loop of the same pre-programmed material.

The primary content of both SIRIUS and XM is music. Each offers several choices of non-stop Jazz, Rock, Country, R&B, Hip-Hop, Urban, Dance, World Music, Classical, Pop, today's Chart Hits, and even Tunes for Tots. Within these broad categories are more taste-specific subgenres.

Take Jazz for instance. Both services provide specifically-themed broadcasts of Contemporary Jazz, Classic/Traditional Jazz, New Age, Modern, Avant-Garde, and a variety of Broadway and Silver Screen show tunes as well.

You can quite literally Rock and Roll all night with 24/7 Classic Rock, Deep Album Cuts, New and Vintage Alternative, Metal, Jam Bands, Modern Progressive and even Unsigned, unknown and otherwise cutting-edge artists from today's ever-evolving underground scene.

Country Music fans are served up choices ranging from today's Top-Charting Hits, Classic, or Traditional Country — branching all the way back to Bluegrass and what some call "Newgrass" — a neo-progressive blend of traditional music with a decidedly modern spin.

One of the most notable benefits of digital radio is the freedom to broadcast unedited and uncensored recordings which are presented with the artists' original intent and context fully intact. Nowhere is this more essential than the often raw R&B, Hip-Hop, and Urban music scenes. In addition to providing Classic R&B and Soul, there are also plenty of fresh sounds that are indelibly fused with the vital perspectives of today's burgeoning artists and tomorrow's superstars.

Also available are non-stop genre specific Dance Parties ranging from 24 hour-a-day Disco to Rave, House and Electronica. Both SIRIUS and XM also offer a host of International and World Music programs, including Spanish-language and Latin tunes, African content, and New Age/Ambient sounds.

For Classical listeners, there are also several distinct options that distinguish the two formats. XM offers an exclusive Opera channel, in addition to the more generic traditional Symphonic and Chamber Music provided by both.

Another significant programming trait that crosses over between both carriers is the wide variety of chronologically categorized content. Listeners interested in reliving the hit sounds of the 1940's through the '90s have the decades' most memorable sounds at their fingertips. You can just as easily tune in new, unsigned , and otherwise cutting-edge artists from today's ever evolving underground scene as well as those concurrently atop the charts.

Sports enthusiasts will revel in continuous broadcasts from a variety of in-depth sources. While both SIRIUS and XM carry ESPN Radio, the similarities end there. Currently, XM brings CNN/Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, Sporting News and NASCAR feeds. SIRIUS counters with ESPNEWS, Outdoor Life Network's Adventure, Speed Channel, and several exclusive streams of Play-By-Play. SIRIUS also broadcasts Radio Deportivo, which offers Spanish language content. With the changing of the seasons, each respective provider will also adapt their schedules to be able to offer consumers the widest range available.

Comedy fans of all ages and tastes are offered a basic 'PG' rated channel , though XM goes farther with choices of family-oriented material. Unedited and uncensored comedy from yesterday's groundbreaking side-splitters and today's rising stars are available on each service.

Information junkies are far from forgotten. News hounds can tune in the latest events from around the nation and the globe. ABC News & Talk, BBC World Service, CNN Headline News, CNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, The Weather Channel and Bloomburg Radio are included on both services. SIRIUS also has several National Public Radio streams, as well as the World Radio Network. XM offers C-NET Tech News, CNN's Financial News, and USA Today.

Kids programming
As if all the above were not enough, there are also a host of general entertainment and variety programming alternatives. For the young at heart, there's Disney Radio on both services. XM devotes an entire channel, XM Kids, to providing age-appropriate content for wee folk of all ages, while SIRIUS offers the stream Kid's Stuff. Both services also broadcast Discovery Channel Radio, E! Entertainment, vintage Radio Classics from the golden age of broadcasting, and even networks specifically for truckers and other road warriors. SIRIUS also includes Court TV and A&E Radio in their line-up.

At the core of the non-musical content however is the distinct and personalized talk and otherwise interactive call-in participation forums. XM and SIRIUS carry a broad range of programs geared towards specific interests and audiences, ranging from politics, to do-it-yourself repairs, to Christian talk, and more.

If you've read this far, you are undoubtedly amazed at the infinite potential and immediate promise of digital broadcasting. Both SIRIUS and XM are constantly tweaking and refining their offerings to make the very most of the burgeoning medium.

The completely digital sound quality of both providers is nothing less than remarkable. Gone are the local and regional stations that fade in and out. You can quite literally road trip from San Francisco to Syracuse or Seattle to St. Petersburg with absolutely no static or signal interruption at all — ever — period. Even more incentive is the modestly-priced gear and even more affordable programming options. With nearly every major automobile as well as home and car audio manufacturer incorporating digital radio technologies into their current and future product lines, there are easily more reasons and choices than not to make the sound investment.

View a full-listing of XM Satellite Radio's 101 Channels.
View a full-listing of SIRIUS' 100 streams.