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Opinion: The demise of satellite radio


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#1 of 90 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted January 22 2009 - 05:46 AM



Click on the above banner to read my editorial. Please offer your opinions of my views or how you feel satellite radio can save itself

 

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#2 of 90 OFFLINE   Dave Gorman

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Posted January 22 2009 - 07:37 AM

Good article, Ron. My SO got XM with his car purchase 2 years ago, and it certainly seems to me that quality has declined recently. Of course being a huge fan of classical music, I've never been very thrilled with XM's offerings. Now since the merger they've gone from one mediocre and two crap classical stations, to one mediocre and one crap classical station!
...And then there's the guy who saw the sign that said "Wet Floor", so he did.

#3 of 90 OFFLINE   Philip Hamm

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Posted January 22 2009 - 08:54 AM

Interesting article Ron!

I've been saying from day one that the satellite radio model that XM, Sirius, and now SiriusXM have put forth is doomed to fail. There are not enough people who are willing to pay for the service for it to ever turn a profit.

Once relevant DJs like Opie and Anthony and Howard Stern, since going to sattelite, completely nominalize themselves. By moving to sattelite, they have made themselves irrelevant in the market. The few subscribers who they brought in are now there, and since they're broadcasting to a captive paid audience there won't be many more.

I enjoy the SiriusXM channels that Dish Network gives me and listen to them often. I also notice the frustratingly small playlists on my favorite stations. I have a rental car right now with satellite radio so I've been listening to it. The sound quality sucks. Both at home and in the car. At home my old Dish Network stations which predate satellite radio sound better than the SiriusXM stations. In my car local OTA radio sounds considerably better than the satellite offerings. People who care most about music listen to CDs and MP3s (even low bitrate MP3s sound a lot better than SiriusXM stations).

I know it's anecdotal, but the few people who I've talked to about satellite radio in the last year or so have all said they're dropping it. In these tough economic times who's going to pay $20/month for radio?

I think that satellite radio will continue, but on a much more modest scale and using a different model than the current SiriusXM model. There is a customer base for this kind of service, but it's a hell of a lot smaller than their models account for.
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#4 of 90 OFFLINE   drobbins

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Posted January 22 2009 - 09:46 AM

I have never had satellite radio, but I have been thinking about it lately. I am on the road 1.5 hours a day to and from work and the same old songs on my ipod are getting boring after 7 years. In the morning there is nothing but DJs, (dumb jerks) yacking away and endlessly laughing at themselves. Posted Image So I listen to the ipod. On the way home I can listen about 1/2 the time to the radio if I keep switching between 3 stations. If I wanted to hear people talk I would put on talk radio, so many times I choose to drive in silence.

So I get the impression that I won't gain much with satellite radio except a new monthly bill?

#5 of 90 OFFLINE   shawnMbrown

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Posted January 22 2009 - 12:20 PM

I have had CM for about a year now. The more I listen, the more I am beginning to get bored with it. There was a time I could listen to LaughUSA and actually hear new sketches. Now it seems, every time I turn it on, the same ole stuff... Just not my cup of tea I am afraid... Hopefully, baseball will be back soon and I'll have another reason to listen...

#6 of 90 OFFLINE   Todd Hochard

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Posted January 22 2009 - 01:59 PM

I just grudgingly renewed (they made me a $77 for the year offer), otherwise I wouldn't have bothered. I have XM built-in my Acura TL, and I have the same beef I've always had-

The sound quality is horrendous. I have some really old 96kbps MP3s that sound marginally better. Since the merger, I've also noticed what you've said- too much talking.

They need to fix these issues, or I won't take it for $50 next year.
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#7 of 90 OFFLINE   DavidJ

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Posted January 22 2009 - 03:14 PM

Can I add a dissenting voice to all of the dissent? Posted Image

It may be because I live in what has to be the worst radio market in the US, but I love my satellite radio. I got hooked on it in our new car and signed up for a year. I have since added a XMp3 and I can now listen in my office which is awesome. I hope to figure out how to get the XMp3 installed in the car soon.

Now I will grant you that most of the changes since the merger have not been good ones. The reduction in classical channels hasn't affected me yet. Even though it constitutes a larger and larger percentage of my music listening, I'm sure I'm not the aficionado that some of you are. I haven't tired of the channels yet and they are more variety than I had. Still I do understand. My wife recently got me a CD because of some work she heard on one of the channels before the merger. I doubt she would've heard it with the new lineup.

I love that I can once again listen to ESPN radio. I really like Tirico and Van Pelt. I also like having access to the BBC and other news channels. Then one of the main reasons I got satellite to begin with is for 164 (the OTR) channel. Fortunately it appears to have survived the merger well.

On the audio quality issue, I'd say that I understand the complaints as the quality can vary quite a bit, but most of the music channels I listen to seem to be pretty good. It's better than the FM I can get here. Is it my SACD stuff? Of course not, but it is serviceable.

Now the inane DJ banter...that has to go and I agree with Ron and his comments on the issue.

May I share a post-merger anecdote? I'll assume that the answer was yes. I did have some problems activating my new radio and after the first call they asked if I would like to take a customer service survey. "Just stay on the line and you'll be connected." Click. Dial tone. I chuckled.

Well the activation never did work so I had to call back and spend more time on the line getting the problem solved. "Would you like to participate in our customer service survey?" "Sure." Now I actually had a few constructive comments I wanted to pass along. Click. Dial tone. Who says customer service and value suffers when competition is reduced? Posted Image

#8 of 90 OFFLINE   JerryK

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Posted January 22 2009 - 03:29 PM

I have so many thoughts on this I am not sure where to start...lol. I agree, when I have a music station on I want commercial free music without dj banter, especially when I'm paying $12.95 a month for it. I originally signed up with Sirius because I was a fan of Howard Stern, I bought my Sportster back at the end of 2005 and amazingly it still works. I would listen to mostly Classic Vinyl, Backspin and other channels close to those genre's. Than last April I bought a new Honda and it came with 3 months free of XM. Knowing the merger was around the corner and Mel's promise that it would be good for the consumer I ended up statying with XM, as I enjoyed their Top Tracks and The Rhyme channels and I did not have to constantly transfer my Sportster. Once the merger passed things started going downhill. Even though they were now the same company they were not giving multiple subscription discounts for those who owned an XM and a Sirius sub. Than they wanted $4 more so you could listen to Howard Stern on XM. The excuse at the time was they could not merge the channels but low and behold a few months later channels were merged and some were removed. After customer complaints some channels were brought back. Than they started censoring some channels and even though I am not a fan I can not believe they are rebroadcasting censored FM broadcasts of the Bubba The Love Sponge show. Now they want to charge $2.99 more a month to listen online and raise the multiple sub discount $2.00. This company is doing everything wrong and lately I'm starting to feel that it's purposeful. Come March I'm canceling my XM sub, I will just lug around my Sportster. I am still teetering on keeping my Sirius sub, while I am a fan of Howard and enjoy some of the music channels I am getting sick of their business ethic and I guess it will take a large amount of subscriber cancellations for them to either wake up and make a last ditch effort or it will be the final nail in the coffin of their demise. With stock in the .12 cent range I cannot imagine it's too far away.

#9 of 90 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted January 23 2009 - 12:01 AM

Quote:
So I get the impression that I won't gain much with satellite radio except a new monthly bill?

Hi Dave!

Years ago, I would have been standing on top of a soap box yelling
about the virtues of satellite radio to everyone that would listen.

Today, I would not steer anyone towards a $12 subscription that
offered nothing beyond what you could hear on FM radio.

Satellite radio has drastically changed over the past few years.
Instead of being something unique and innovating out of the minds
of creative individuals (which it once was), it is being run by the
same music consultants that have ruined FM radio.

So, if music is your motivation to go satellite, then you are much
better sticking with FM radio.

On the other hand, there is a wealth of talk and sports that may
be appealing to you, so if that is where your interest lies, perhaps
it would be worth your consideration.

 

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#10 of 90 OFFLINE   Joseph Bolus

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Posted January 23 2009 - 02:36 AM

I own an iPhone ... And with the ability of that device to dock via various third party devices to the car stereo I don't really see a need for satellite radio.

Music? The iPod capability of the iPhone provides all the music I need. And I don't really require CD quality in a car since the ambient road noise and other factors already hurt dynamic range. So MP3 quality is usually adequate. It's also possible to download a new song or album at any time anywhere via the iPhone's access to the iTunes library.

Sports talk and News? Between podcasts that are specific to the sport that you're interested in and programs like "WunderRadio" -- available for a one time modest fee at the Apple "Application Store" -- you have access to much more Sports talk and News than will ever be available via satellite. "WunderRadio" provides access to about 80% of *all* the AM and FM radio stations in the country. (Another iPhone app -- "iHeartRadio" -- provides access to most of the rest.) While the fidelity of the FM music channels provided by these apps can't compete with satellite radio, the fidelity for sports and news shows is fine. ESPN radio is easily available as well as dozens of major news talk shows. With the most recent iPhone firmware all podcasts are also available at any time via iTunes. It's also a kick to be able to hear your local FM sports talk station while on a trip ... and not have to ever worry about driving out of the signal range.

With the mixture of iPod capability and access to most AM and FM stations via applications that work over AT&T's EDGE and 3G networks, it's hard to believe that any mobile professional requires anything more than an iPhone these days. And if you have access to a Wi-Fi hotspot you'll find that the fidelity of the AM/FM stations provided by "WunderRadio" and "iHeartRadio" will rival satellite. Heck, at that point you can even use the "Pandora" app to create your own personalized music radio "station".
Joseph
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#11 of 90 OFFLINE   MarkMel

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Posted January 23 2009 - 03:28 AM

I'll tell you what, I see the demise of my cash as the stock price is stuck at $0.10.

When/if will they turn a profit.
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#12 of 90 OFFLINE   Jerome Grate

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Posted January 23 2009 - 06:13 AM

Had Sirrius for a couple of yeats and still do in the wife's Commander. In the beginning, it was great, but now the one thing that's getting to me is their need to play the same songs over and over again. I was always under the impression commercials would be a thing of the past and I would get to here a wider selection of music. I was wrong on both of them. For example, on the soul station, I should not here Issac Hayes' version of Walk on by three times in one day. There's plenty of music out there for that genre including some b side songs.

Then the DJ giving a complete history of the song he's about to play. I have no problem with some history as it can be rather entertaining to here a song's orgin but a 5 to 10 minute dialogue on the issue, is a bit too much. My mother in law thinks it's incredible that we can listen to the same station from New York to South Carolina but the fact is there's a need for a change in format. Go back to almost no music interruption, CD quality music would be a big plus.
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#13 of 90 OFFLINE   Jeff-Wooten

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Posted January 23 2009 - 07:51 AM

I think there are pros and cons to satellite radio, but there’s pretty much pros and cons for any entertainment media. (I’m sure someone has a pro about Betamax and eight-track tapes.) I think its most serious problems are the increased and fluctuating rates (I wish I could swing one of those $77 deals, but all I seem to get stuck with are the $156 yearly rates—which has definitely scared off some of my friends.) and the fact that if hardware malfunctions after a year, you’re pretty much left with having to upgrade to recent, more expensive equipment to keep up since repair parts are apparently obsolete the minute a unit is released to the general public. That bothers me more than yakking DJs, I guess.

But I still love satellite radio. I’ve had a Sirius hookup since about 2004 I think. I guess I’ve been so used to the Sirius DJ banter, that I’ve kind of become immune to it. But although the djs on Sirius’s Underground Garage are sooooo long-winded, I’ll put up with them because they play great music that I’ll never be able to pick up on any of the FM stations around the rural area I live in. (Ditto the Roadhouse and Willie’s Place Classic Country music channels.) Besides local radio around here seems to play about ten minutes of music and fifty minutes of commercials. I refuse to go back to it.

I also love that I’m able to listen to entire Miami Dolphins NFL broadcasts, which is something I can never do here in Carolina Panther and Washington Redskins FM/AM territory. Also our local AM radio sports station is ESPN until 8am, when it then switches over to local news and sports talk. I love that I can listen to ESPN all day if I want. Ditto Stern. I’m not chained to the 6am broadcast. I can listen to the show in the afternoon or the evening (although Stern’s seemingly constant whining and Artie Lange’s constant “rehabbing” are starting to wear down my patience).

My biggest irk with SiriusXM now: I almost went with XM back in the day, because they had a Cinemagic channel (movie soundtracks and songs) that wasn’t available on Sirius. I was very excited when the merger happened and found that Cinemagic would be located on Channel 81 (Sirius). Well I had to put up with two months of holiday music on Channel 81 (with news that Cinemagic would finally return on January 1). Well it did return on January 1, and I enjoyed it a lot for the three days that it aired. By the end of the week, Sirius had pulled it and ran constantly looping ads announcing the Disco channel would be coming to Channel 81 in two weeks. It seems Cinemagic had disappeared from the Sirius line-up. Is it still on XM? If so, why would they yank it from Sirius?

Sorry for the long post!

#14 of 90 OFFLINE   Derek_J

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Posted January 23 2009 - 08:35 AM

The Sirius DJs and limited music playlist are what should have gone.

#15 of 90 OFFLINE   Bob_L

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Posted January 23 2009 - 09:53 AM

A very well stated article, Ron.

However, I suspect that Karmazin is the kind of guy who listens to nobody, so he'll take Sirius/XM down the same road until it runs off the cliff. Regardless of subscriber input.

I may have been the ONLY person who noticed, but almost immediately after the merger the XM Opera/Vocal channel was executed (along with the outstanding classical programmers from XM).

American Creeping Meatballism wins again.

#16 of 90 OFFLINE   DavidJ

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Posted January 23 2009 - 10:13 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff-Wooten
My biggest irk with SiriusXM now: I almost went with XM back in the day, because they had a Cinemagic channel (movie soundtracks and songs) that wasn’t available on Sirius. I was very excited when the merger happened and found that Cinemagic would be located on Channel 81 (Sirius). Well I had to put up with two months of holiday music on Channel 81 (with news that Cinemagic would finally return on January 1). Well it did return on January 1, and I enjoyed it a lot for the three days that it aired. By the end of the week, Sirius had pulled it and ran constantly looping ads announcing the Disco channel would be coming to Channel 81 in two weeks. It seems Cinemagic had disappeared from the Sirius line-up. Is it still on XM? If so, why would they yank it from Sirius?

Sorry for the long post!

It is still on XM. They moved it to 76. It is now adjacent to the classical channels.

#17 of 90 OFFLINE   Dave Gorman

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Posted January 24 2009 - 02:44 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidJ
classical channels
"Channels" plural? Aside from the opera/vocal channel, isn't there just the one classical channel? XM had two: the main classical channel that played full length pieces (with far too much baroque) and the "snippets" channel that played shorter single movements and a lot of "pop" fluff. I think the "snippets" channel has been removed from XM, leaving only the main, excessively baroque, channel.
...And then there's the guy who saw the sign that said "Wet Floor", so he did.

#18 of 90 OFFLINE   DavidJ

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Posted January 24 2009 - 02:24 PM

Last I checked, which was yesterday, both the "snippets" channel you describe and the main classical channel are still there.

#19 of 90 OFFLINE   Paul_Medenwaldt

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Posted January 25 2009 - 08:29 AM

I've been a XM subscriber for 7 years and grown attached to The Boneyard which was a heavy metal channel that played the bands I grew up on, plus it played new songs from these bands.

When Sirius took over, they replaced The Boneyard with Hair Nation. I made a mental decision to compare the play lists. I know Hair Nation plays exclusively bands from the 80's, they do play 70's and 90's metal bands at times.

My complaint so far has been the poor playlists that this station has. Though they don't repeat songs from the same bands, they play the same bands over and over. I can listen to a Motley Crue song at 1pm and they will play another Crue song at 2:15pm. I don't call that variety. Now The Boneyard did show hints of this before the merger and I did send them an email, but it wasn't as bad as it is now with Hair Nation.

Get rid of the DJ's!! I cannot stand their stories between songs that have nothing to do with the music. If the DJ's remarks contributed to the channel in anyway, I wouldn't have a problem, for example 'Next up with we Ratt, Ratt will be playing tonight in Cleveland'. I don't care that it is Dustin Hoffman's birthday in between songs from KISS and Dream Theater.

With The Boneyard back on the air, I'm taking note of their playlists, I hope the repetition of Hair Nation doesn't leak over to the new Boneyard.

Paul
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#20 of 90 OFFLINE   Derek Miner

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Posted January 25 2009 - 10:19 AM

Ron, I completely agree with your editorial!

My experience with satellite radio has only been in rental cars on vacation. One time they threw it in for free, but on a recent trip, I paid extra because I remembered how much I loved Little Steven's Underground Garage. In both cases, I knew I would be driving around a lot and it was a chance to hear some new/unfamiliar music along with some random surprises of things that I normally wouldn't hear on the radio.

Would I pay for this at home? Maybe before, but with all the complaints I keep hearing and raised prices? NO WAY.

If the execs at the newly merged company really think consumers will pay a premium to hear "familiar songs" on satellite radio, I want to see the research that makes them so certain. It sounds like they are sticking to opinions from people who would never pay a monthy fee for satellite hoping that they can change it enough to lure them in. Like everyone else here seems to understand, this is going to alienate the people who ARE willing to pony up.

I see this whole operation going the way of Voom in the near future.
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