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Sirius to launch two Howard Stern channels

Satellite radio provider also bulks up religious offerings, traffic channels
/ Source: Hollywood Reporter

Gearing up for the holiday season, Sirius Satellite Radio on Thursday unveiled its first portable satellite radio device and a new channel lineup that includes two Howard Stern channels and better highlights offerings for families, women and religious listeners.

The company also said it plans to provide traffic data services from 22 U.S. metropolitan areas beginning in November.

At its “Holiday Product Preview,” Sirius showed reporters a channel lineup that is set to take effect Sept. 29. The Howard Stern Channel is listed in slot 100, with “Howard Stern II” taking slot 102.

Stern is set to start work for Sirius in January once his contract with Viacom Inc.’s Infinity Broadcasting ends. A Sirius spokeswoman said the two channels will repeat promotional messages from the shock jock until then.

However, Stern said this week during his radio show that he might launch some content on Sirius next month with talent other than himself. The Sirius spokeswoman said she had no information on what this could mean specifically and whether it would indeed happen.

The new channel matrix also highlights the new Sirius Stars channel in slot 103, which features shows hosted by Robert Evans, Bill Bradley and Richard Simmons.

The matrix brings together five “family and kids” channels, most of which were found under different music and other channel groups. Radio Disney and Discovery Channel Radio are among the offerings.

In a newly highlighted programming niche called “Especially for Women,” Sirius will promote Martha Stewart Living Radio and a channel on healthy living that recently changed its name from “Wisdom Radio” to “lime.”

In changes to its music lineup, Sirius has put together in a separate group three Christian music channels, covering Christian hits, Christian rock and gospel.

The company also will consolidate its previously separate hip-hop and R&B/urban offerings into a new hip-hop/R&B segment with a slightly reduced total number of channels.

Finally, the new channel lineup includes recently announced addition BBC Radio 1, which features new music from the U.K., as well as a new channel called “Super Shuffle.”

Sirius officials Thursday said Super Shuffle tries to re-create the iPod shuffle feature or the Jack format that has taken the radio industry by storm. The channel will feature a best-of music selection from various Sirius channels.

In technology news, Sirius on Thursday unveiled the portable Sirius S50 device, which can store and play back up to 50 hours of Sirius programming, as well as digital music files. However, it must be connected to a car or home docking station to receive live Sirius programming.

Set to go on sale in October at a suggested retail price of $359.99, the S50 brings Sirius into the portable world that competitor XM Satellite Radio had previously entered.

Also on Thursday, Sirius said it will introduce traffic data services this year for such cities as Los Angeles and New York, which could expand to more than 50 metropolitan areas by 2007. The service requires specific tuners and will cost $16.99 per month bundled with Sirius programming or $9.99 per month alone.