WASHINGTON — Having gotten a late start, Sirius Satellite Radio of New York is still playing catch-up in its subscriber race with XM Satellite Radio of Washington, but for the companies’ Canadian affiliates, the story is different.

Canadian Satellite Radio Holdings of Toronto, which operates under the name XM Canada, and Sirius Canada of Markham, Ontario, both launched in late 2005. But Sirius Canada began pulling ahead in May, according to Andrea Horan, an analyst with Genuity Capital Markets of Toronto.

Since that time, Sirius Canada has continued pulling ahead, and announced Nov. 22 that it has 200,000 paying subscribers . XM Canada, which counted 91,200 subscribers as of Aug. 31, does not plan to release updated figures until early December, company spokesman Jason Mercier said.

One analyst who follows satellite radio, and who declined to be identified, estimated that XM Canada will have around 130,000 subscribers by December.

Analysts have theories as to why Sirius has pulled ahead of its rival.

Horan said programming is the deciding factor. When the companies launched, XM had 80 channels while Sirius boasted 100. Now the companies both offer just over 100 channels, but much of XM’s programming is devoted to live sporting coverage, she said, which may only appeal to a small number of customers. Analysts also cited radio personality Howard Stern as a draw for Sirius .

“I expect among early adopters, who would probably skew towards younger males, Stern may be a reasonably interesting source of content,” Horan said. “So the so-called Stern effect may be greater at the onset.”

Analysts said pricing likely has been a negligible factor in terms of subscriber acquisition in Canada. XM Canada started out with lower fees, but raised its rate to 14.99 Canadian dollars ($13.29) per month Sept. 1 to match that of its rival.

While Sirius Canada has remained mum on its subscriber projections , XM Canada has stated it expects to have 1 million customers by 2010, a number analysts agree is feasible. Carl Bayard, an analyst with Desjardins Securities of Montreal, said in a Nov. 17 analysis that XM Canada is being conservative and likely will achieve 1.15 million subscribers by that time.

Analysts expect XM and Sirius subscriber rolls to get a boost next year as their respective deals with automakers for factory installed radios begin to have an effect. XM Canada has more such deals , having signed agreements with Toyota, Nissan, Honda and General Motors of Canada. The automotive market is similarly expected to boost XM’s business in the United States .

But XM Canada cannot rely solely on the automotive market if it wants to catch up with its rival, Horan said.

“I do think it’s achievable but they need to do a lot better on retail share,” Horan said. “They can’t just abdicate from the retail market,” which includes portable and user-installed devices, she said.

It is unclear which company is in better shape financially. Sirius Canada is not disclosing financial figures, according to company spokesman Jeff Roman. XM Canada reported 6.9 million Canadian dollars in revenue and 56.4 million Canadian dollars in losses for the year ending Aug. 31. The companies have not had to make huge investments in satellites, relying instead on their American partners.