Satellite radio has come to Canada. XM launched there in late November, Sirius about a week later. And I’m heard to tell ya….satellite radio will make a bigger impact there than in the U.S. Here’s why…

CANADA’S POPULATION IS S P R E A D O U T . Canada is a bit bigger than the U.S., and its population is a lot less — 32 million, versus our 297+ million. Most of Canada consists of wide-open, sparsely-populated areas. If you’re going on a long drive, you’ll have little AM or FM to choose from. But as an XM Canada press release stated: “You can drive from Newfoundland to B.C., and up to the Yukon, and you’ll get XM Canada in crystal-clear digital-quality sound.”

CANADA IS UNDER-RADIOED by U.S. standards. For example, the Kelowna, BC area has seven stations competing for around 150,000 people. The Bangor, Maine metro has similar population, but 22 stations competing for it! Toronto, with a metro of nearly five million , is the only Canadian market with that many stations.

Canadian listeners don’t have a lot of choices compared to their American counterparts…the prospect of 100 channels will be even more appealing to them.

ON SATELLITE, CANADIAN CONTENT IS “GHETTO-IZED.” Thirty-five percent of the music on Canadian stations must be written or performed by a Canadian. Canadian P.D.’s work diligently to program this “Cancon,” and it ain’t easy. Not that there’s anything wrong with Canadian music, but it just doesn’t represent 35% of what you would play given the choice.

On XM and Sirius, it wouldn’t be feasible to integrate Cancon in the mostly U.S.-sourced channels. Instead, the satellite services offer separate Cancon channels, like Sirius’s 10 “Made in Canada” channels. A Canadian listener can seek out Cancon or avoid it entirely.

So XM’s Top Tracks channel can play “All the killer cuts from the supergroups of the 60s, 70s and 80s.” And sure, that includes some B.T.O., Rush, Neil Young, Guess Who and other Canadian rockers! But on a Classic Rock FM in Canada, you’ll get disproportionately heavy doses of those artists.

In short, Canadian radio broadcasters face a significant challenge from the “space invaders.”