There was an article today in the New York Times talking about how satellite radio is forcing commercial broadcast radio to change. This was an interesting read and gave me a moment to focus on some thoughts Ive been having about satellite radio recently.
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The thoughts were driven in part by a laoner car given to me by the local Acura dealership while I was having some work done on my own vehicle. The laoner had XM radio, and I found myself channel surfing among the 80s, 90s, dance and news channels during my drive. I have to say that I was impressed by the ability to manage my adult-onset attention deficit across a subset of XM channels. It takes a mighty arsenal of music and news to keep me sated, and XM did a pretty good job of it.
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Theres something that concerns me about satellite radio, though. I have to wonder if the business model for XM and Sirius is tied too tightly to the technical method of distribution for their programming. I really enjoyed their programming, and I dont see any reason why much of it could be delivered over terrestrial airwaves once digital radio takes off.
The Times article points out that major radio networks are looking at digital radio (or HD Radio as the Washington Post tried to brand terrestrial digital radioyuck) to offer subscription-based services with fewer commercial offerings. As much as I dislike commercial broadcast radio today I can recognize the potential competition that the medium will present for satellite radio at the cutting edge of broadcast technology.
One of the things I think XM and Sirius need to do is to begin to offer some of their content on a subscription basis via a terrestrial, digital broadcast infrastructure. This will go a long way to alleviating the challenge from digital radio. XM have already proven (at least to me) that they get the programming side of the game.
Secondly, I think XM and Sirius have an opportunity to deliver a more realistic kind of content over their satellite infrastructure. Being broadcast over airwaves not regulated (or less regulated, anyway) than terrestrial broadcasts allows the programming to be truer, more realistic and (lets face it) more raunchy than any terrestrial broadcast services will be able to provide.
Thirdly, I would love to see XM and Sirius move towards offering subscriptions to individual channels across both platforms. In other words, if I am an XM customer, but I want to listen to Howard Stern, I can subscribe to that channel from Sirius and receive it over the equipment I already have installed on my vehicle.
Finally, and this is something I believe XM and Sirius both have done very well is their ability to serve national radio audiences such as major league baseball fans and over-the-road truck drivers with specific content for their consumption.
So, those are my thoughts on satellite radio.