Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008

Satellite Radio Ain't Doing So Well, Either

By Evan Rytlewski
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As Milwaukee radio listeners remain flabbergasted that one of the city’s last contemporary stations has switched to a mostly classic rock format, it’s worth noting that the satellite radio industry isn’t exactly experiencing a renaissance either. Yesterday the two stations, Sirius and XM, completed the final stage of their merger: integrating their programming. Judging from the comments on XMFan.com, a satellite-radio forum, listeners are cold to the changes.

They certainly have good reason to be. In most instances, the playlists appear to have been drastically trimmed and streamlined, and listeners are complaining about the repetition. Subscribers who paid money to escape the shrinking playlists of Clear Channel affiliates are rightly worried that their satellite radio playlists are shrinking, too. The negative buzz certainly isn’t going to help the new Sirius XM sway new subscribers, something it desperately needs to do right now as its stock price keeps plummeting (a shiny quarter will buy you a share these days).

Among the challenges this newly merged company faces:

1. As new car sales slow, so do installations of satellite radios

2. Apple is on the brink of adding satellite radio-like capabilities to its iPhone. Other   companies will almost certainly follow suit.

The bottom line is that for most consumers, satellite radio is an awful long-term option, an increasingly compromised service likely on the brink of obsolescence. Then again, I’ll concede that compared to Milwaukee’s classic rock-saturated airwaves, satellite radio still looks pretty attractive in the short term…

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