How to Fix Satellite Radio

By Mike on 10:14 pm

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It's no shock that the satellite radio industry is in trouble. XM/Sirius merged but the company is still bleeding money. Here's five ways the company could potentially restructure itself to get back on it's feet.

1. Sack Stern
Sirius paid $100 million per year over five years to get exclusive rights to Howard Stern's show. It's worth noting that this is the entire production budget, not just his salary. Stern is arguably one of the most influential and groundbreaking radio hosts in the last 30 years at least. Sirius took a big gamble on getting him after he left terrestrial radio, and the company was put into debt up to their eyeballs for it. The idea was that his fans would all migrate over to satellite radio, which many did indeed do. However, all but the most diehard fans feel that Howard is approaching the end of his career and that the show has gotten stale. Simply put, he doesn't have the pull he used to, and while Sirius has maintained the old fan base, arguably the show hasn't drawn new people in. Assuming Hoo Hoo gets at least two months vacation, the figure Sirius pays him would equal at least $333,000 per episode. For television maybe but for live radio it seems a little excessive. Stern's contract ends in 2011. If Sirius/XM wants to keep him on, they're going to have to keep paying him the same high amount. He's probably not going to take a pay cut. I say cut him loose and focus on new talent and other hit shows.

2. Make Satellite Radio more accessible
Sirius/XM has been hugely successful with their iPhone App in the US. Satellite radio content doesn't just have to be available over satellite and they stand to make big bucks by making it more available outside cars. Most plug-&-play or portable satellite radio units don't even come with a home kit. Expand the app to more smart phones and make the online versions more competitive. Also, current subscribers should not have to pay extra to get the online version, that's just being incredibly cheap. Who's going to honestly pay twice for the same service? (XMRO is still free to subscribers in Canada by the way, but not to Americans) More ways to access it equals more subscribers, which equals more cash. Simple math. Get apps out on other smart phones and start integrating players into devices such as the Xbox 360 and PS3.

3. Merge Sirius and XM into one entity.
In the US, the companies are merged but still operate as two, with two sets of channels on completely different channel numbers. Subscribers of say XM have to pay extra to get "premium" content from Sirius. Why? If the companies are merged, why didn't they merge their services. It just confuses people.

4. Stop treating it like regular radio
I've noticed more DJ banter popping into the music stations, and more commercials on the premium stations. You can literally sit through 10min of commercials on XM202. Satellite radio is loosing touch with the original reason why it was so desirable. No banter, no commercials, edgier programs and talent not subject to the FCC's content laws. This seems to be going by the wayside. I think a lot of it is due to the new management. Quality of the programming has definitely declined since the merger. Satellite radio subscribers signed up and paid good money to get away from the "morning zoo" garbage and overly nice & proper nature of terrestrial radio. Don't take that away from them because the newbies in management don't know how to do things any differently.

5. More exclusive content
XM/Sirius needs to cut out a lot of the garbage stations they have. They got rid of the new jazz station and replaced it with spa music?! Honestly. Then there's the TV news audio feeds from CNN and FOX, etc. TV news as a medium just cannot be adapted into an audio-only format, since it relies so much on visual information. Get more exclusive content. Canadian content also needs drastic improvement. Canada 360 for example has a really amateur feel to it. Vary dry. If you want the big networks on board, get them producing high quality content specifically for the medium.

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