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iPhones, FStream and the Death of Satellite Radio

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the i-guess-music-wants-to-be-free-too dept.

Cellphones 397

Statesman writes "Only a little over a year ago, the FCC approved the merger of XM and Sirius satellite radio companies and the combined stock was trading at $4 a share. Despite being a monopoly — or perhaps because of it — the company is failing. They are losing subscribers, the stock is now trading around 22 cents a share (a 97% decline), and they have written off $4.8 billion dollars in stock value. So, what happened? The CEO is blaming pretty much everyone except himself and his business model. But is pay-for-bandwidth even a viable business plan anymore? With millions of iPhone and gPhone users out there, free streaming audio applications like FStream, and thousands of Internet radio stations to access, the question is: why would anyone want to pay for proprietary hardware and a limited selection of a few hundred stations all controlled by one company?" Read on for the rest of Statesman's thoughts.Statesman continues:
"It seems like the pay-for-broadcast business model is fundamentally flawed. First, satellite radio is a misnomer; if you are listening inside a big building, chances are you're really using WiFi radio, not satellite, which requires line-of-sight to the sky. In this mode, XM/Sirius offers less selection and higher cost than an iPhone and streaming audio client. Second, a monopoly is a monopoly. Sure, you can get dozens of ClearChannel stations in some markets, but after a while it does not matter whether they are country, top 40 or easy listening. They all have the same format of hypercharged 'personalities' and lots of ads. By contrast, the iPhone and streaming client can access thousands of stations from thousands of providers worldwide. Finally, you may say that an iPhone and service agreement are expensive compared to a satellite radio subscription, but if you already have the iPhone, the cost of adding a stream audio application is zero. And the iPhone is cheap compared to a cell phone plus an MP3 player plus a laptop plus internet access. Bottom line: a year after being granted monopoly status, Sirius is all but bankrupt and the satellite radio business model is dead. Time for the FCC to think seriously about making better use of this bandwidth."

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Aw... (5, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933591)

That "lots of ads" thing? Nope, no ads. That's one benefit of paying for the service. The jocks do push things they think are of general interest, like football scores and who is playing who and where, so it isn't entirely noise-free, but it is close.

Another benefit of radio over the iPod is that you're connected to the real world; if something happens, you hear about it. There are situations where that might be important, and there are situations where it certainly is at least desirable.

Satellite radio is, on some channels, uncensored. That's something I treasure. Important for listening? No, not really. But it is very nice to hear people speaking and performing without the government muzzling them. Particularly in the case of rock, where profanity keeps a very large number of tunes from ever getting on standard radio (if they ever deviated from their playlists, as if that'll ever happen.)

There are very large areas of the country where there is no service you can use to receive radio. You can't use an iPhone within hundreds of miles of where I live (they locked it to AT&T, and AT&T isn't very interested in Montana); and road trips are eight, ten, even twelve hours, during which we are almost pitifully grateful to have XM/Sirius. There's no digital service you can use to connect to the Internet barring a satellite connection on the roof of your vehicle. Which, of course, is what the XM/Sirius widget is in the first place. It just connects to them instead of the Internet, that's all.

We do have one (yes, that's *1*) FM station we can hear, as long as we're within 30 miles of town or so. We get the farm report, some country, some top 40, "auctions" of local goods and services, and the one thing I am grateful for, the lost pets report. Someone found my cat once. One of the charity things I was involved with brought PBS radio here; I contributed a few grand, they put up a translator, and if you're within, oh, five miles of it in the right direction, you can listen to PBS via FM. Having put money into it, you'd think I'd listen, but I'm somewhat conservative on many issues and frankly, they drive me a little nuts.

At night, we can hear quite a bit of the broadcast AM band, but that's really deteriorated into far left and far right and wackos, with a sprinkling of country (which you may enjoy, but no one in my family does.)

Now, I certainly recognize that if they can't make a viable business out of satellite radio, it is going to go away, but when urban dwellers generalize as if the entire country has access to the amenities they do, well, I'm afraid that's not the entire picture. It'll be a real loss for us. We have satellite radios in all our vehicles in the family, at work, and in my home. The day they go dead will be a day of mourning around here.

Re:Aw... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25933735)

Yes, it's great for people who live in the country, but it's also priced for desperate people with few alternatives. To the majority of the public, it's way overpriced for the benefits. A company that charges the highest price it can get away with, won't have enough customers to survive. They needed to lower prices to gain a critical mass, but it's too late now.

You could say the same thing about a Jaguar (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25933807)

Not every single successful business model is based on gaining critical mass, and appealing to a majority of the public. It's called a niche market. How many customers is enough to survive? There's no clear answer.

Re:You could say the same thing about a Jaguar (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25933949)

Having to merge with other failing British auto manufacturers, then outright nationalized by the British government, then spat out and bought up by Ford, then sloughed off to an Indian car company hardly seems like a "successful business model".

Re:Aw... (5, Insightful)

jmauro (32523) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933741)

The real problem with satellite radio is that since it competes mainly with free services (i.e. regular radio) it cannot raise its prices to bring in enough capital to cover the costs and there are not enough users, who like you and your family find it useful, to allow the service to make up the difference in volume.

While I doubt satellite radio is doomed in general, the Sirius/XM companies are. They have too much debt and don't bring in enough revenue to cover operating costs and debt retirement. I have the feeling that'll turn out like Iridium where the initial company goes bankrupt and another company steps in to buy the whole thing at some really reduced cost and then can operate the service without the debt of the initial startup costs. (Iridium was bought for $25 million after $6 billion of capital costs were sunk into it. Only then did it become profitable for the owners).

Re:Aw... (4, Interesting)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933889)

>The real problem with satellite radio is that since it competes mainly with free services

Respectfully, no, it doesn't. I'm able to hear the channel I want during a whole drive across the US and even into parts of Canada. I'm able to get traffic/weather reports as soon as I need them, instead of waiting for every 15 min (or whatever.) I have my favorite channels where I know I'm guaranteed to hear the music I want, when I want it, instead of random shuffles of what I consider to be mostly trite current hits. For example, I love classical music. I have my choice of listening to the style of classical that I want (opera, traditional, etc) instead of a melange of different types on one station. Is there a lot of repetition on the channels? On some? Yes. More now since the merger? Sadly, yeah. But satellite radio competes with free services only in terms of what I listen to. But frankly, it doesn't compete very successfully.

Re:Aw... (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934053)

Iridium was bought for $25 million after $6 billion of capital costs were sunk into it.

But they still charge for the phones and service like there was an industrial-strength debt to pay off. :-)

Re:Aw... (1, Insightful)

pisymbol (310882) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933861)

So the 8 folks living in Montana may have trouble...ok...great...

Statesman's thoughts are just really way off. Just like real estate is about location, location, location, media is about content, content, content.

The fact is the proliferation of many technologies from streaming audio to that AUX IN line in your car have allowed listeners to get the same content XM/Sirius provides for FREE.

Its not about iPhones vs satellite radio. Satellite radio has always had this stigma around it:

I'm going to pay $13/month because some satellite radio DJ creates better iPOD playlists than me? Seriously.

If they can get more exclusive content like Howard Stern (whether you like him or not is not the issue) then I can see paying for a subscription.

But as it stands, I'll stick with my mp3 player, burned CDs, and NPR if I want to listen to something while driving.

Re:Aw... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25934145)

Why does everyone complain about having to pay for entertainment. I cannot think of a single person that does not have cable television. There is free broadcast TV but everyone I know pays up to $100 a month to get the content they want.

Re:Aw... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25933867)

I feel for you, but the old "urban areas vs. isolated rural areas" problem has been around forever. The stores where you live probably don't carry everything you want, you doubtless have to travel quite a bit to get to a medical specialist ... and so on.

You might ask WHY there's only one FM station in your area. Speaking as someone who works in the business (though not for Clear Channel), most people have no concept of how expensive it is to broadcast to the public. Labor is only part of it. You know those licensing fees that are discussed here on /, from time to time? They're quite high for a broadcaster. Even in a remote region like yours, they'll have to pay thousands per year to BMI, ASCAP and SESAC (unless they carefully avoid playing any music from the latter -- not impossible to do, but it requires a strict playlist).

Just building a station takes a ton of money. A small 3-6KW FM, even buying used equipment, will cost hundreds of thousands. If you're building a big Class C FM with a 1000' or taller tower, you're going to spend millions.

Here's the point: Sirius and XM have all of the same costs (and more -- launching satellites isn't cheap, either!). They're finding out the same thing that land-based broadcasters discovered in the 30's and 40's: there will always be a minority who want to hear Punk Polka or Chinese Jazz or Barnyard Rap ... but they do NOT a viable economic model make. In the past, these people bought tape players (and then CD players, when those came along) and dealt with it.

The point is this: it essentially costs just as much for me to broadcast Chinese Revolutionary Music as it does to broadcast the Jack FM format. Now ... which do you think I'll choose? :)

NOW look at Sirius/XM: they have those SAME costs over dozens and dozens of channels, and they're going to be profitable at $10-20 a month???

The idea that Sirius/XM could economically address dozens of small, niche markets struck me as silly years ago. I said back then that it was a business model doomed to fail (especially given that alternatives were on the way, as mentioned here in this article -- sharp people could see the writing on the wall back in the 1990's).

Plain English: I feel for you, but just as your father needed an 8-track player to listen to what he really wanted to hear, you'll need a CD or MP3 player.

Re:Aw... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25933903)

Yeah, I will be bummed if they don't make it.

Re:Aw... (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934063)

I've also used satellite radio. There were just as many adds as normal FM/AM. So I got sick of paying to listen to commercials. Bye bye....

BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25934103)

"That "lots of ads" thing? Nope, no ads."

Bullshit, XM is full of ads. Not only that, but it was ads for sex toys & shit.

I had XM for free for 6 months, & it still wasnt worth it.

Re:Aw... (1)

Macgruder (127971) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934183)

Hell, even when I lived in Los Angeles, I had trouble finding a radio station I wanted to listen to. KPCC had a nice old-time radio show on Sunday Nights, Y107 had no DJs and modern Rock for a few months before they went Spanish. Star 98.7 I could listen to during the mid-day, but their morning and afternoon shows were more talk than music... And I never was a big KISS-FM fan. The WAVE played light jazz, but after a week you heard everything often enough you could whistle along.

I got XM, and I flip between Sonic Theater, 80's, BPM, or Old-Time radio, depending on my mood.

Then I moved to SD. 15 country stations, 2 pop and rock ones, a couple of oldies... Nothing I want to listen to anyways. So I stick with XM.

Freedom to bitch. (2, Funny)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933615)

"why would anyone want to pay for proprietary hardware and a limited selection of a few hundred stations all controlled by one company?"

As opposed to the freedom I enjoy of everything coming down one or more pipes controlled by either a duopoly or a monopoly.

Because we have cars? (4, Insightful)

Wandering Wombat (531833) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933619)

Where I live, we don't even get radio station reception at my house, so this is a good way to get lots of music, and national radio broadcasts, in my car, whenever I want. Or I can change the stations depending who's in the car with me. Somehow, this seems a lot less of a hassle than getting an iPhone just to hear some tunes.

Re:Because we have cars? (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933987)

The other option is getting a digital music player in your car and grabbing some podcasts or ripped Internet radio streams when you are at home.

Howard Stern (4, Informative)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933635)

Some people like certain media personalities and are willing to pay a premium to subscribe to their shows.

BTW, this is also why sites like Forbes, NYT, and WSJ get paid subscribers while CNN and MSNBC basically give away everything for free. You said it yourself. Clearchannel's lock on the airwaves is something that some people are fed up with, and those people are looking to XM as a means of getting other types of content.

But I don't even own a tv or a radio, so I'm just a bit better than you.

Re:Howard Stern (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933879)

you do realize that clear channel supplies content to XM right? Clear channel entercom, etc supply the bulk of the radio you hear over XM, it is more a matter of connivence for the end user.

personally I am waitng for clear channel or Entercom to simply buy up XM and then make a deal with the other. Satellite radio doesn't have the stupid censors of regular radio.

Re:Howard Stern (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25933901)

But I don't even own a tv or a radio, so I'm just a bit better than you.

I don't even have a computer (nor do I know how to use one)... I post on Slashdot by rubbing ballons against my cat's fur.

No!? Really? (3, Insightful)

NetNinja (469346) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933645)

Why was this suprising? Remember the days when cable didn't have any commercials? Now it's just like regular public TV except there is more "Adult" content.

This model was doomed for failure the moment it left earth.

Re:No!? Really? (1)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933709)

Why was this suprising? Remember the days when cable didn't have any commercials? Now it's just like regular *commercial* TV except there is more "Adult" content.

This model was doomed for failure the moment it left earth.

There, fixed that for ya...

Sigh (4, Funny)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933655)

Instead of posting on slashdot, [slashdot.org] , I should have been shorting the stock.

SeeqPod [seeqpod.com] is pretty cool for the iphone/ipod.

Re:Sigh (5, Insightful)

thestreetmeat (1055390) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934039)

You would have made a killing off shorting just about any stock between July 26 and now, not just SIRI.

Re:Sigh (1)

windsurfer619 (958212) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934261)

I wish I had mod points!

WiFi Radio, and I went to Slacker from Sirius (5, Interesting)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933661)

if you are listening inside a big building, chances are you're really using WiFi radio, not satellite, which requires line-of-sight to the sky

WiFi radio? Does Statesman mean internet radio?

Sirius has terrestrial repeaters of their signal in large cities, so even in a building in Denver, for example, a Sirius receiver would get full signal strength from their transmitter on the ground. The transition from satellite to terrestrial is seamless, it is the same signal.

My main problem with Sirius is that even on the "commercial free" channels, the DJ would ... advertise for stuff going on related to Sirius, on other channels. Also, they would repeat songs at least once per day on more than a few channels, which got aggravating if you listened to it all day long.

I recently got rid of my Sirius radios and went with Slacker [slacker.com] , getting their G2 portable as well. Big advantages: they will stream internet radio to a Linux computer, something that Sirius will not do. Also, Slacker's selection is much better, and the "Ban" and "Next" buttons are something that you couldn't even dream of with satellite radio. The G2 will download songs over wifi to the 4 or 8 GiB of storage, and it attempts to create an internet radio experience on the go, and it really does succeed.

Re:WiFi Radio, and I went to Slacker from Sirius (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25933897)

hmm I'm streaming sirius to my linux box right now...might want to use google before showing the world how much you don't know.

Re:WiFi Radio, and I went to Slacker from Sirius (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25934087)

...says the A/C with limited social skills...

Re:WiFi Radio, and I went to Slacker from Sirius (2, Interesting)

jonsmirl (114798) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933907)

Satellite could implement ban/next by changing the model. They could also fix the problem with drop outs of which I get dozens as I drive around. I'm letting my Sirius expire when the contract is up.

An alternative model would eliminate the existing channels. It would use the much higher bandwidth as a single channel to fill 8GB of local flash cache. Then an app in the radio would reconstruct the channels out of the cache.

Ban/next now become local operations. When you ban a song you knock it out of the cache and the cache then fills with something else. Over time it would learn what you liked. The incoming music would be pattern matched against your ban/like history. Drop outs are gone because the channels play from the cache.

RIAA is the main problem. They consider cached systems like this "copies" and want a much higher royalty.

Re:WiFi Radio, and I went to Slacker from Sirius (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25934049)

thanks for the link. I'm going to use the web version at work- looks great!

XM to Sirius/XM (5, Informative)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934091)

I'm thinking about dumping it next year. Now that the merger is over, the Sirius "jocks" WON'T SHUT UP! The main reason I went with XM radio 5 years ago was NO TALKING, NO COMMERCIALS. The decades channels and some of the rock channels have "DJ's" which have to talk over the music, yack yack yack. If I wanted that, I could listen to FM for free. Fix that, I'll keep it, don't, and I'm outta here. Back to FM, CD's & MP3's

Re:WiFi Radio, and I went to Slacker from Sirius (1)

ptbarnett (159784) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934095)

My main problem with Sirius is that even on the "commercial free" channels, the DJ would ... advertise for stuff going on related to Sirius, on other channels. Also, they would repeat songs at least once per day on more than a few channels, which got aggravating if you listened to it all day long.

The music was not completely commercial-free on XM either. But, the chatter was kept to a minimum, at least on the channels I listened to.

XM and Sirius recently merged their channels, and now simulcast some on both systems. They've transitioned some of the XM channels to the Sirius programming. And now the "DJ" chatter seems constant, whether it's about other Sirius/XM events or the weather, or some music trivia.

It's still better than broadcast radio. But, I'm really tempted to send email to the "hosts" and tell them to STFU!.

Flaw in business model (2, Interesting)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933663)

The problem with subscription-based radio is that there are so many easy alternatives that provide the user with much more control over their listening environment. I could potentially see people subscribing who live on the road, but for your average driver the plethora of options presented by standard radio, in-dash units that play digital audio files, regular CDs, iPods, and other external digital music players makes the subscription model much less compelling.

I've only known one person who had a satellite radio subscription, and that was relatively short-lived. It just doesn't seem to make much sense to most people.

Who cares about FStream?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25933671)

Pandora allows you to stream based on your favorite artists, and it seeks out music similar to your artists. It's also commercial free and allows you to skip 6 songs per hour.

Re:Who cares about FStream?? (2, Funny)

TomRK1089 (1270906) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933859)

It's not commercial-free anymore. Every few hours you get a short little verbal ad snippet. It's not too bad; still far superior to 'real' radio.

Easy Fix (1)

sgarringer (751574) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933683)

The fix is easy, really. Offer up a set of channels that are free, open to all radios, with commercial support. Maybe 15 or 20 so of the "standard fair" that you get over the air in most major markets. That should be able to offset a lot of the cost of Sirius, and then, offer additional packages for people who want to subscribe to commercial free music. But, don't charge $13/mo for it. I'm sorry, I have two deactivated radios sitting at home because thats just too much. Maybe charge $3 or $4 for MUSIC. I don't want Howard Stern, I don't want Opie and Anthony, I just want music.

Re:Easy Fix (0)

Protocron (611778) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933749)

Here here! I agree. They really should open up some of their spectrum and make it free.

Re:Easy Fix (1)

certain death (947081) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934021)

Why is it that when a company is having a hard time, a gaggle of people start saying they should give their service away for free? While I would enjoy having free commercial free radio, I know that giving your service away for free is not a business plan. This has to be one of the weakest stances that links back to the mid to late 90's dot com bubble burst, and people are still thinking it will work...WTF people?!?

Re:Easy Fix (1)

HouseOfMisterE (659953) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934143)

You should re-read the comment to which you are replying. sqarringer was suggesting that they offer a subset of commercial funded channels for free, and "additional packages for people who want to subscribe to commercial free music." The idea is that selling commercial space on the free channels would generate additional income for the satellite audio providers. They wouldn't give away the commercial space for free, just like normal terrestrial stations don't give away their commercial space for free.

Re:Easy Fix (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934239)

But they have very limited bandwidth, so adding commercial stations would require removing some stations that are currently there. This would likely piss off existing subscribers, many of whom subscribed just because there aren't commercials. In addition, terrestrial broadcasters would have a very big problem with the 'free' aspect.

Re:Easy Fix (1)

HouseOfMisterE (659953) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934327)

True, but existing subscribers will probably be more pissed off if the service goes away completely since the satellite audio providers (apparently) can't continue to operate with their current business models. Good point about the terrestrial broadcasters, though. Not only would they have a problem with a free satellite option, but it would probably run afoul of regulations that dictate things like market segmentation and the limitations placed on the number of stations that one provider can operate in given areas.

Location, location, location! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25933697)

I live in West Texas. My XM radio has been fantastic during the times when I have to drive to Dallas or San Antonio. The radio stations out in some of the areas are very local. They have things about Billy Gonzalez's goat winning the 4H competition or Jim Brown lost his dog, has anyone seen it? Satellite radio offered a great choice.

The new Sirius lineup (3, Interesting)

snarfies (115214) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933711)

I remember a few weeks ago when I got the new channel update: I was freaked out. Half of my presets were gone. Not just renamed, but GONE. Yeah, I was pretty upset, and my first reaction was that I was probably going to cancel as soon as Howard Stern's contract is up (I'm a big enough fan that I consider that I'm paying my monthly fee just for his two channels, every other channel I happen to get is just a bonus).

But it didn't take me too long to figure out that my old channels has just been both renamed and renumbered, and my unit wasn't smart enough to track a change in both. Sirius' "Big 80s" was replaced with "80s on 8." Sirius "Left of Center" was replaced with "Sirius-XM U." "Buzzsaw" was replaced with "Boneyard." In short, nothing whatsoever was actually LOST, I just had to do some digging.

Sirius is guilty of failure to communicate the nature of the changes they made - but as near as I can tell they haven't dropped any content. At least, no content that I listen to... but like I said, if they drop EVERY other channel in their entire lineup and then jack up the price, I'll still pay to listen to Howard anywhere I go (a pure internet feed wouldn't cut it during my commute).

Re:The new Sirius lineup (1)

Night Goat (18437) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933737)

Unless you like the punk channel or Backspin, then you're screwed. I'm still a little bitter about that channel update. I'm getting used to the changes though.

Re:The new Sirius lineup (1)

topham (32406) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934029)

Sirius didn't lose content, they just changed the name.

XM kept the name and lost all it's content.

Re:The new Sirius lineup (2, Informative)

LWolenczak (10527) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934165)

I'm really quite upset with how many of my favorite XM stations are now their serius counterparts instead of what was there... I was a big fan of Squizz, Ethel, Fred, now we have the closest thing Sirius had to the content, and frankly its far from the same. How in the hell do you go from RATM to Ozzy? And why in the !@#$ do I have to listen to some DJ talk about his other show?!? The rock stations just... suck.

I went shopping for FM transmitters for my iPod last night.

To be honest, I want a giant undo button and I want XM back. I'm likely going to drop the service though, which is sad because its a great idea.... at least I have BPM for now.

Re:The new Sirius lineup (1)

cplusplus (782679) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934117)

Last time Sirius did a channel update, they sent out a nice laminated card with a channel listing, so you could easily look and see what happened to all your favorite channels. They didn't do that for the recent channel update.

Re:The new Sirius lineup (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934157)

Sirius did lose some channels after the merger, including Sirius Disorder, my personal favorite. We have two receivers but we're going to let the subscription on at least one and possibly both of them expire next month because of that.

Re:The new Sirius lineup (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25934203)

Not so, friendo... A *lot* of stations were disappeared during the lineup. All but two of my presets are left standing, the two that I rarely listen to.

Boombox = gone, NO alternative
Backspin = gone, NO alternative
Strobe = gone, NO alternative
Punk = gone, NO alternative ... list goes on and on.

I've already discontinued my service as of the end of my yearly subscription on December 31st and am going the Slacker route.

Is this serious? (not Sirius) (5, Informative)

NitroWolf (72977) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933717)

Is this serious? An iPhone able to replace satellite radio? Lets start with battery life, as in, there is none. Using WiFi to stream music on the iPhone will kill the battery in less than an hour or so depending on conditions. To solve that, I guess I could plug the thing in.

Now, let's use WiFi in my moving car. HAHAHA yeah, that's a total joke. So we'll use T-Mobiles network for $20 a month... umm, maybe not. Let's use AT&T's network. Streaming data plan? $60 a month. Better hope you're in one of the urban areas that support the high speed data! ORRRRRRR... you could buy a $50 Satellite receiver, pay $12 a month (or $6 if you know someone nice) and do away with a $60/mo data plan AND have access to the signal anywhere in the US.

Seriously... I live in a big urban area, where the idea of this would work. But the implementation would be marginally feasible at best. The battery life issue is huge. The cost is huge (but one could argue that one would already have those, making the cost a non-factor... but how many people have an iPhone + an AT&T data plan AND have Satellite radio? Not many I'll wager.). The available coverage area is absolutely tiny, microscopic really compared to satellite radio.

No... there's nothing about this idea that is even marginally viable on even a small scale.

The business model of XM/Sirius may be flawed, but iPhones and FStream are not going to be a factor in any way, shape or form, nor is WiFi and Streaming radio. Satellite radio is good for so many things that WiFi and Streaming radio can't and won't be touching anytime in the near future (remote listening, professional music selection/composition/presentation, uncensored programming, big name talk show people (bleh personally), professional sports, etc...). Streaming audio can't compete at the same level anytime soon, if for no other reason than it's not organized enough.

Re:Is this serious? (not Sirius) (3, Informative)

Graff (532189) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933833)

Let's use AT&T's network. Streaming data plan? $60 a month.

AT&T's unlimited data plan is $20/month for Edge and $30/month for 3G. I have no idea where you are getting $60/month from.

Honestly though, I use my iPhone as an iPod, not as a streaming audio device. All of my music is bought and I have several different playlists for different types of music. I just plug it in to my car, start up a playlist and go. Just as good as any streaming audio in my opinion.

Oh and if I want talk radio then there are tons of free podcasts on every topic, even ones that are updated several times a day. Yeah I don't get someone talking about stuff happing right that exact second but I really don't care if the stuff I'm listening to is time-shifted a bit. The only time-sensitive thing I care about in a car is traffic and Goggle maps handles that better than the radio anyways.

Re:Is this serious? (not Sirius) (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25933847)

I just came back from a road trip from Dallas to San Antonio and used my iPhone instead of my Sirius receiver.
Pandora worked 100%.
Battery lasted about 5 hours. A little less than the drive. I'll get me an in-car charger next time.
In areas with 3G (Dallas, Austin, San Antonio), I was able to stream radio stations from Europe, no problem. The rest of I35 had edge coverage, which works perfectly fine with Pandora.

I already gave up my XM receiver in my (other) commute car and use my iPhone instead (have 100% 3G coverage).

So in this family with 2 iPhones and (previously) 1 XM and 1 Sirius receiver, the iPhones are a viable alternative and it looks like the Sirius subscription won't last with us.

Re:Is this serious? (not Sirius) (1)

NDPTAL85 (260093) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933909)

My god you're a moron. You went on for paragraph after paragraph about the battery life issue without realizing once that in a car one could use the car charger with their iPhone. This is ideal for someone who already HAS an iPhone 3G. It works fine on the road.

Re:Is this serious? (not Sirius) (1)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933969)

Now, let's use WiFi in my moving car. HAHAHA yeah, that's a total joke. So we'll use T-Mobiles network for $20 a month... umm, maybe not. Let's use AT&T's network. Streaming data plan? $60 a month. Better hope you're in one of the urban areas that support the high speed data! ORRRRRRR... you could buy a $50 Satellite receiver, pay $12 a month (or $6 if you know someone nice) and do away with a $60/mo data plan AND have access to the signal anywhere in the US.

The AT&T iPhone G3 data plan is $30/month for unlimited data. Where did you get your $60/month streaming data information?

I've also streamed for several hours on the battery. Plugging it in is an option, of course. How long does a satellite radio last on battery power alone?

I have seven apps for streaming audio, and I'm pretty sure they were all free (or at most 99 cents). They work over WiFi or 3G or EDGE. Coverage i sisolated areas leaves something to be desired, but at the same time, AT&T's EDGE coverage footprint is hardly "microscopic."

Is the iPhone + streaming audio app a "satellite radio killer?" No, but it's not the uber-expensive, impractical solution you make it out to be either.

XM is more than just satellite radio (5, Insightful)

Jay Maynard (54798) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933745)

I've got XM weather in my airplane (via a Garmin GPSmap 496). So do lots and lots of other people. There's no terrestrial replacement for that. I won't fly without it any more, as it allows me to keep an eye on the weather myself while I'm in the air.

I also have had XM radio in my car since December 2001, and love it: you don't have to go hunting around for decent programming every time you drive out of a station's coverage area on a road trip.

XM is worth every penny of the subscription fee, to me.

Re:XM is more than just satellite radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25934309)

I agree that XM delivers weather content to pilots in the air and this
is a very valuable thing. However, buying an $800 radio and then
a $40/month subscription is ridiculous since we, the US taxpayers
have already paid for the content of the data by funding NOAA.
(At the moment XM weather is CONUS only)
Hopefully the FAA mandated ADSB system will give us the
weather plus traffic and airspace changes without any subscription

The XM/Sirius Merger sucks (1)

Middle - Adopter (906754) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933753)

I can't say I'm too happy with the result of the merger - I was originally an XM subscriber. They really pared down some of the channels I enjoyed, like XM Fungus (punk rock) and 3 out of the 4 Mexican music stations. Another shitty thing is that now all the channel names are mixed up on my Honda Element's dashboard display; for example, Air Musique (French Canadian rock music station) is now displayed as "World/Latin" for some reason. They're all out of whack.

Basically, this merger made the service less varied and worse off than before. Still beats regular radio, though...NPR excluded of course.

Sirius XM is NOT a monopoly (4, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933755)

...a monopoly is a monopoly.

This is a tired and wrong argument. From wikipedia: "Monopolies [wikipedia.org] are thus characterized by a lack of economic competition for the good or service that they provide and a lack of viable substitute goods." There are PLENTY of viable substitute goods (iPods, terrestrial radio, etc), plenty of economic competition, and Sirius XM lacks the pricing power of a monopoly. The mere fact that they use a satellite to transmit their signal directly to customers does not make them a monopoly by itself. If satellite were the only way to reach all or even am economically significant fraction of customers then it would be a credible argument.

Our federal government took over a year (far too long btw) to review the case and came to the correct conclusion that there is no monopolistic power here. Customers are free to use any of the numerous alternatives and there is ample customer churn for Sirius XM to back this fact up. There is no compelling argument to be made against the merger and it is reasonably likely Sirius XM will go bankrupt no matter what happens thanks to the downturn in the auto industry.

Sirius XM may go out of business. Their revenue model has always been questionable and they have spent money somewhat recklessly. Their debt load is what ultimately might kill them. They have a decent product but that by itself is never enough. They are not and never have been a monopoly. There simply are too many other options.

Re:Sirius XM is NOT a monopoly (2, Insightful)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934113)

Our federal government took over a year (far too long btw) to review the case and came to the correct conclusion that there is no monopolistic power here. Customers are free to use any of the numerous alternatives and there is ample customer churn for Sirius XM to back this fact up. There is no compelling argument to be made against the merger and it is reasonably likely Sirius XM will go bankrupt no matter what happens thanks to the downturn in the auto industry.

Stern made this argument on his show a million times and it still doesn't hold water. Sirius/XM is not a monopoly in the mobile entertainment space, to be sure. You have Ipods, terrestrial radio, etc. However, SiriusXM is a monopoly in the satellite radio space. As competitors, they kept each other on their toes for price and content. Now, they can fiddle with either one at will, knowing that subscribers can't jump ship to a comparable service anymore.

You don't have to be a mathematician or a business major to know that if you have two companies competing and they merge into one, that is the very definition of a monopoly. Federal regulator lapdogs be damned.

Price is a factor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25933795)

When I bought my XM radio subscription I did it for a few reasons. I have an impressive collection of music which I enjoy, but XM provided the opportunity to explore genres I was unfamiliar with. In addition, it was only $5 a month for bulk subscription, so it was cheap to just buy 5 years and forget about it.

Now it seems that I've exhausted the other genres I was interested in. XM's vast inventory of music has been sampled, and I've gone out and purchased what I felt my personal collection was missing.

In addition, I see the price of a subscription has almost tripled since I signed on. I can't really understand why they would need to triple their price, unless they just wanted to milk the numerous people who already bought a receiver and wanted to justify that expense by keeping the subscription active. They already have the satellites up, they already have the music.

They have to pay their disc jockeys to babble and advertise the other stations (commercial free really means they only play XM commercials). They also regularly create new jingles and catchy phrases to play between songs. They could save us the expense and them the effort and just play music. I find myself more and more often turning to my ipod so I don't have to listen to TV sound bytes between songs.

I would argue that the loss of customers is more a function of yearly subscriptions expiring and customers unwilling to pay the increase. Secondary would be the ease of acquiring a cheap mp3 player and the ability to listen to only the music you like without the cross-channel advertising and annoying jingles.

Howard Stern (2, Insightful)

jrap (614351) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933803)

Stern is the reason why Sirius/XM are still alive. He brought along millions of subscribers when he left terrestrial radio, and they are sticking with him. However he retires in two years, and I imagine Sirius/XM will have some very hard times retaining customers when that happens. baba booey baba booey

Re:Howard Stern (1)

digital_rich (1085385) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934153)

Actually I think Stern's half billion dollar contract led to Sat radio's downfall. He's not worth it and shares @ twenty cents is proof of that. Then there's the ridiculous sums of money paid to MLB, NFL, Oprah, & Nascar.

access and organization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25933819)

The thing is with the 1000 channels out there on internet radio, i don't have the time to dink around looking and listening to each one.

At least with satellite i have a selection of varied chanels with specific descriptions in one location.

Just because you have options does not make it good

Erm wait a minute (1)

Luthair (847766) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933831)

Playboy radio? How does that even work?

Re:Erm wait a minute (1)

phillymjs (234426) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933997)

Probably something like their Braille edition. [banterist.com]

~Philly

Re:Erm wait a minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25934141)

Playboy radio? How does that even work?

very similar to the braille version of playboy. Jokes aside, there ARE articles in playboy

Not so (5, Insightful)

UserChrisCanter4 (464072) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933839)

XM/Sirius' stock is trading in the trash because they have over $1 billion in debt that needs to be refinanced next year and there are substantial fears that they won't be able to obtain such financing in the current market. If they are unable to obtain the financing they need, then the stock will be worthless. It's a pretty easy explanation.

The summary indicates that the submitter has no idea about satellite radio. I don't have one, nor have I ever had one, but even I can see through the faults in his explanation. Listening in a building does invoke the terrestrial rebroadcast, yes, but only a tiny fraction of satellite radios are portable. The overwhelming number of units are permanently installed in cars.

"Proprietary hardware?" Seriously? Satellite radio gear is manufactured by Alpine, Kenwood, Sony, Pioneer, and most of the smaller car audio names and is available as OEM equipment from nearly every car manufacturer. The iPhone is, near as I can tell, available from one vendor. If subby is perhaps using the words "proprietary hardware" to refer to the encrypted stream that is beamed from XM/Sirius, I might point out that the iPhone suffers from similar problems; please tell me how to use an iPhone with Verizon, or for that matter, how I keep Apple from remotely disabling FStream if they decide to do so.

What does XM/Sirius have to offer? For one, clean integration in your car. Car interface for an iPhone involves either a crappy little FM transmitter that will inevitably result in crackly, washed out audio on any channel or hardware-specific add-ons that work with some models of stereo but not others. If you're talking about an OEM XM/Sirius-capable radio in a recent model car, getting satellite radio is as trivial as calling a phone number. If you're talking about a car that lacks XM/Sirius hardware, then we're talking about installing new gear, which is essentially the same level of cost outlay and difficulty as adding iPhone playback. There are a few cars/aftermarket car stereos that have aux-in jacks, but those are pretty unusual. I would imagine that the ease of use in finding a radio station is probably lower on, you know, a radio than on some device that needs to be plugged into my car and have special software started up before I can browse for my preferred station.

I won't even get into the comparison between the $30 data plan on an iPhone (in addition to the standard voice plan) and the $6.99 a la carte pricing on XM/Sirius (for those who aren't interested in many of the stations).

Simply put, XM/Sirius isn't a "pay for bandwidth" service any more than Cable TV is. By the article's logic, the fact that I could go hook up my computer to my TV and use YouTube and Hulu and Netflix instant play means that the cable company is trying to sell me nothing more than bandwidth (over which similar shows tend to flow). It couldn't be further from the truth. XM/Sirius made some fundamentally, seriously bad business mistakes, starting with the fact that they didn't pool their resources and launch one company in the beginning. Launching (ultimately) redundant satellites, installing (ultimately) redundant terrestrial rebroadcasting towers, bidding against each other for radio "talent," etc. didn't come cheap, and much of it could have been avoided if one company launched in the beginning. On top of that, they forced potential subscribers to sit on the sideline until they figured out who was going to "win." Now, add in the fact that a huge amount of their debt is coming due at possibly one of the worst times to try to deal with it, and you've got a recipe for disaster.

But seriously, don't try to tell me that there's no good reason to use a $7/month radio service when a $30/month iPhone is just as good if you don't even grasp why someone might choose one over the other.

Re:Not so (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934301)

There are a few cars/aftermarket car stereos that have aux-in jacks, but those are pretty unusual.

these aren't so much "unusual" as "new".

Go down to a car dealer, and ask them how many of their new cars have an aux-in jack. Just this past summer I bought a bottom-rung cobalt, with a bloody aux-in jack on the radio.

My humble opinions (4, Interesting)

Sabz5150 (1230938) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933843)

I subscribe to SiriusXM as well as riding the 3G network, and if it's radio you want... hate to tell you guys, but you're going to pay a metric assload less for satellite radio versus 3G internet access.

My XM subscription costs $130 USD per year.

My 3G access (unlimited data with unlimited tethering) is $85 USD per MONTH, which is only the data plan portion of my phone bill.

My opinion on why SiriusXM is tanking? They looked at all their combined radio stations, separated the wheat from the chaff, and gave us the goddamn chaff. The one channel I listen to the most (XM82 The System) was nixed in favor of something called Area, which in comparison, sucks. Even my wife who is not a die-hard electronica fan said that the quality went downhill. They screwed around with Chill, nixed Chrome, and I am quite certain that several other stations have been screwed around with much to the dismay of SirXM's subscribers.

They need to realize that most of us subscribe for literally a handful of stations, and if you screw with them, we get pissed.

Re:My humble opinions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25934167)

Two channels important to me went into the XM dumpster.

Robert Aubrey Davis's VOX channel was replaced with the Met Opera Channel on the mistake assumption that all non-pop singing MUST be opera. What kind of clueless dopes make these decisions? The VOX channel was a venue for all kinds of singing and choral music from classic Negro spirituals, to German Lieder, to art song, and glee club, and barbershop and just about any kind of non-commercial singing you can imagine. It was just totally shit canned into he dumpster by XM Sirius.



Then there was XM's High Standards which was dedicated to the Great American Songbook--songs by Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Vincent Youmans, et al. Now it has been replaced by the pathological Frank Sinatra Channel where every other song is by Frank Sinatra. Hey, I like Frank but not every hour of the day. A couple times a day would be fine but this obsession with Sinatra makes the channel completely unlistenable.

Here's a take on it from the NY Daily News:

Pop standards format takes another hit on satellite radio [nydailynews.com]

BY DAVID HINCKLEY DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Tuesday, November 11th 2008, 8:06 PM

Ten years ago next month, WQEW (1560 AM) became Radio Disney, and New York broadcast radio lost its last popular standards format.

It was, and remains, a tragedy that the music of Frank, Ella, Broadway, Irving Berlin and the Gershwins - music that was born and flourished on the sidewalks of New York - isn't heard all the time on New York radio.

And now radio is losing another popular standards station. As of today, the "High Standards" channel on XM Satellite Radio will disappear, replaced with Sirius' "Siriusly Sinatra." Why? Because Sirius XM, now one company, is consolidating channels it considers redundant.

The problem is, whoever decided these two channels replicate each other because they both play pop standards simply hasn't listened.

Popular standards is a glorious, almost endless meadow, and "High Standards" picked a far different bouquet.

"Siriusly Sinatra" has generally focused on hits, the most popular of the standards - and that's fine. "High Standards" went deeper, finding different interpretations, fresh recordings, subtle connections among songs and sounds.

It was radio at its best - music no one could ever load onto an iPod.

"High Standards" was created by Jonathan Schwartz, whose radio lineage goes back to WNEW-AM and FM and whose musical lineage goes back to his father Arthur, who wrote "Dancing in the Dark."

Schwartz has also, all along, given constant credit to his main programmer, Buddy Ladd. Ladd could string together eight songs with a common theme that was almost subliminal, yet worked beautifully.

In many ways, "High Standards" - which began life as "Frank's Place" until the Sinatra family moved its affiliation to Sirius - was the pop standards station WQEW could have been if it, too, hadn't felt obliged to focus on the hits.

"High Standards" was marvelous music, programmed by people with knowledge and passion. Its departure leaves yet another empty space where the great American songbook should be.

This is not a criticism of "Siriusly Sinatra," which also plays and respects popular standards. It's just that there's so much room for more.

Fortunately, Schwartz will continue to be heard weekend afternoons on WNYC (93.9 FM), and there are other popular standards "specialty" shows for those with the patience to twirl the dial.

But the fact there's now one fewer home for some of America's greatest music gives the same feeling of emptiness it did 10 years ago.

Re:My humble opinions (1)

robogun (466062) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934271)

They looked at all their combined radio stations, separated the wheat from the chaff, and gave us the goddamn chaff

Precisely why I terminated my subscription.

News flash -- it's not always the CEO's fault (5, Insightful)

PeeAitchPee (712652) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933887)

I know it's incredibly in vogue these days to blame everything on selfish people who make more money than you, especially the evil CEOs, but sometimes companies fail and it's not the CEO's fault. The best covered wagon CEO on earth couldn't figure out a way to beat the Model T.

Satellite radio is caught between a rock and a hard place. The RIAA wants their cut of royalties for the music XM / Sirius plays, and wants XM to police things so people don't rip music off their streams (which never happens in practice anyway because the stream quality's not good enough to incite enough people to want to do that). That costs a lot of money. XM / Sirius don't make a lot of revenue from ads, so they have to make it from subscribers. Logic dictates that one way to increase the subscriber base is to offer discounts -- but that presents them with cash flow problems while maintaining (or increasing) maintenance costs on that larger subscriber base.

Some of the subscriber attrition can be attributed to folks with multiple radios shutting one of them down to help save money in an economic downturn. I have two older radios -- one in the car, and an XM PCR in the house. Since I can get the XM stream via PC anyway, I recently shut down the PCR.

The ONLY thing keeping them afloat right now are deals with high-profile comedians and pro sports. Period. And they have to pay those folks boatloads of money to play at all. As wireless Internet becomes more ubiquitous and more and more of the premium content is available via Internet (Sunday Night Football via NFL.com is a perfect example), sat radio will finally be killed off.

It was a great idea in the pre-wireless days, but satellite radio is going the way of Iridium Phones.

Compare it to buying music (1)

speedlaw (878924) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933905)

If you compare it to buying a CD per month (yah, I know, paying for music, etc.) at the end of the year I'd have 12 albums, which I'd be deathly sick of by the end. I drive a lot, so the endless supply of music is appreciated. You can listen to genres you'd normally not. If you get tired of a playlist (hello First Wave), then there are a few dozen others to explore. I do miss the modern Jazz channel S lost when XM merged. Standard FM radio ? Way, way too many commercials. I'll give you the 13 bucks not to have to listen to them. I do listen to NPR, and the international (formerly shortwave) stations, which you'd have a much tougher time finding. I just wish Sirius would pick up C-SPAN. Yes, I could obtain the music on line, load an Ipod or generic MP3 player, and do it that way. My time is worth something (YMMV), and for that, I press a button and get sound-I don't have to rip my considerable CD collection, get dollared to death by iTunes, or infringe. It only has to be better than Broadcast FM, for which the FM Broadcasters have made easy by the tiny playlists, incessant commercials, and overcompression of sound. (yes, I know Sat Radio could do better, but it still sounds better than the overcompressed FM signals we get here in the NYC area. The true tragedy is that FM broadcast CAN sound wonderful) When WiMax becomes practical, and I can log onto a website whilst mobile, I shall take my early - adopting self over there. Till then, you have two choices...FM Broadcast or the Sat Monopoly.

No one does what I do? (1)

TomRK1089 (1270906) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933913)

The summary (and some of the comments) seem to make the assumption that I'm just going to rush out and get an iPhone with a great data plan. Sorry, I'm happy with my Verizon nothing-but-voice plan -- it's about as cheap as you can get.

So what do I do for music? Well at home, where there's Internet access, there's always Pandora. If you still haven't heard of it, it's a streaming radio service based on what they call the Music Genome Project, where music is classified based on its attributes, from major stuff like genre and artist to more esoteric things, like being in minor key with mostly keytars and a wailing androgynous singer...well, you get the picture.

But what about on the road, where there's no internet access? Well, I'll make the leap and say that if you're reading Slashdot, you have some variety or flavor of MP3 player. This seems a safer guess than the iPhone, since there's lots of them and they're pretty cheap. I've got a Sansa, and it works fine for me. I hook it up to a tape deck adapter (my car's a 95 Oldsmobile, no CD or AUX input for me) and put it on shuffle. Music problem solved, no need for satellite.

A bit off-topic, when my father bought his Honda Pilot, he got a three month preview of XM, and none of us were impressed. They repeated the same songs over a day, even more than normal radio, and the other upshot -- no commercials -- wasn't true. They were just all for XM, which seemed pointless, unless they were targeting their XM ads to those trying the free trial. Either way, it wasn't an impressive experience and certainly not worth the monthly fee when the car has a six-cd changer and an MP3 player input. He just does the same thing I do now and listens to his Stevie Ray Vaughn on the way to work instead of the radio.

I'm surprised no one else does this, though -- I figured I'd see plenty of other /. commenters saying much the same.

Are You on Crack? (1)

Luscious868 (679143) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933927)

With millions of iPhone and gPhone users out there, free streaming audio applications like FStream, and thousands of Internet radio stations to access, the question is: why would anyone want to pay for proprietary hardware and a limited selection of a few hundred stations all controlled by one company?"

Oh, I don't know ... perhaps it has something to due with the fact that not everybody has a iPhone or a gPhone ... just a thought ...

Ever leave the city? (1)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934073)

Ever leave the city and go on a road trip? How old are you anyhow, 17? Guess you've never driven through a less populated state where you can go hours without hitting a radio station let alone a cell tower. If you do find a station theres a good chance the first word you hear will be "jesus". I can take my Sirius radio all over North/South America and get a signal (short of a metal roof in the way).

Irrelevant douchebaggery (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 4 years ago | (#25933953)

Geeks who would pay for this likely have ipods or *GASP* MP3-CD players in their cars.

Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25933963)

The merger was approved on July 25th, 2008. Four months ago, not "a little over a year ago." They announced their intention to merge in February of 2007. The long period between these two events probably created a lot of new unexpected problems for the two companies.

In the third quarter their subscription rates and revenue were up 17% and 16% respectively over last year. I haven't seen any evidence that they're losing subscribers at an increasing rate.

Satellite radio is built into many new cars, which is where most people listen to the radio. It's also extremely popular with truckers. The iPhone thing is a nice alternative for technically inclined people, but it seems unlikely to me that the average person is going to bother with it.

Full disclosure: I am a satellite radio subscriber, and I am somewhat satisfied with the service but not sure how much longer I will keep my subscription.

Sources:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/07/25/ST2008072503697.html [washingtonpost.com]
http://www.orbitcast.com/archives/sirius-xm-radio-inc-losses.html [orbitcast.com]

Sirius Radio (1)

mcnutt (1214480) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934005)

Living in New Mexico and soon to be in LA, it's kinda nice not to have to change my radio presets w/ Sirius radio. Any out here in New Mexico, when I'm a million miles from no where, I'd rather let the radio DJ's do the music thing than me. If I crash fudging with my iPod, I'm a million miles from no where.

WTF?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25934013)

How can internet audio/video streaming ever compete with satillite radio for people who drive???

First example, long haul truckers....I think that speaks for itself.

Second example, the west...Unless you live in a major city, have fun in vallies trying to get the FM signal 50 miles away in your house.

Third example, price...12.95 per month is ALOT better then what ANY of the cell operators can offer for data service 24/7. Unless they came out with a "streaming only" for 12.95 no thanks.

Fourth example, clogged cell towers...Do you realise the infrastructure the companies would have to have if everyone with a phone streamed media while driving?? There would have to be a tower every 500 feet just not to drop people's "music". I don't know about you but have you ever tried to drive around while using the "data" side of you phone? Iffy at best in big cities, impossible in most areas that don't have ubber coverage to hand you off before the signal gets to weak.

And don't mention the bandwidth...If we can't get our "ISP" with there sudo-monopoly to build more "infrastructure/bandwidth" to meet the needs, would we really be surprised in the cell companies follow the same trend???

ok, ok, rant over...I just hate when people think that "ALL TECHINICAL ISSUES" can be solved with the internet. Sure, maybe in the future when the entire "US for example" is covered in 100% quality wireless signal at "ahem" affordable prices, then yes, it may...but not until.

I hope they sue everyone everywhere (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934031)

I would love to see Sirius/XM sue every hearing person on the planet. Rip a page from the record companies and litigate your way to prosperity.

Re:I hope they sue everyone everywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25934047)

you're just an ass.

Satellite radio is doomed, get over it (2, Interesting)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934035)

I have an account with Sirius and don't mind paying for ad free music. I also appreciate the ability to tune in to my same favorite stations wherever I am in the US (I travel a lot for work). However, that's not really what Sirius XM has become. Because of the following reasons, I will be cancelling my subscriptions (I have two) once the year long contract runs out...

First of all, many of the channels are not ad free anymore. If it's not a real ad from another company, it's Sirius advertising their own services. Sorry, an ad is an ad. I won't pay for a service that is suppose to be ad free but isn't.

Second, in the merger of Sirius and XM, they did away with 5 of the 7 channels I routinely listen to. They also did so with no warning. Good grief, Charlie Brown, at least Sirius XM could have come up with some notice about the changes coming (ever heard of email?). Better, they could have conducted a survey of their customers as to what channels were the favorites and dumped the least favorite channels first. Not sure if my channels would have made the cut but at least it would not have been arbitrary (or based on some out-of-touch business manager's decision).

Third, their customer service has always sucked, and their web site has always been less than friendly. At least in my opinion. Maybe it's a monopoly thing. Not a deal killer but definitely a strike against them.

Fourth, with the XM merger, now they want to charge even more money to access all of their stations (specifically, they have a list of "The Best of XM", which includes Oprah, various sports related channels, and some public radio). It's not like they're not already charging an arm and a leg, so to speak.

Lastly, their REAL competition is access to the internet from any location (car, airport, jogging track, home) by any hardware. And with better reception (mostly, anyway). In fact, I would expect broadcast radio to be following satellite radio in short order for the same reason (ubiquitous internet access coupled with DRM free music and the proliferation of podcasts).

So, as a business model, I don't see them remaining viable past the end of 2010. It may be a self fulfilling prophesy but I will not be renewing my subscriptions for the above reasons/rants/predictions.

rental cars (2, Informative)

savuporo (658486) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934037)

I did a coat to coast roadtrip last year and Sirius in a rental car was basically the only thing there was to listen to. Sad if that goes away.

Like attracts like? (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934045)

why would anyone want to pay for proprietary hardware ... controlled by one company ..which sums up Apple and iPhone in a nutshell.

Why Pay? (1)

ifixpcs (1408671) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934057)

I have never understood why anyone would pay for satellite radio programming. Most sporting games of any importance are broadcast on free radio. Paying for any other programming (music, talk shows, etc.) via satellite radio always struck me as frivolous (that's what iPods, CDs and podcasts are for). I guess the industry is just now figuring that out, judging by the XM/Sirius stock implosion.

Re:Why Pay? (1)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934311)

Paying for any other programming (music, talk shows, etc.) via satellite radio always struck me as frivolous (that's what iPods, CDs and podcasts are for).

Yes, if you want to listen to YESTERDAY'S news... Yeesh, think things through before you talk.

Worse in Canada (1)

Necrotica (241109) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934071)

Things are worse in Canada. My new car came with a built-in XM receiver and I immediately signed up. I actually thought that the merger was going to be a good thing in terms of selection. The problem is that Sirius Canada and XM Canada are both separate companies than their U.S. counterparts. I'm guessing that they license the channels and add a few law-mandated French channels. The end result is lack of choice for Canadian subscribers. I was very excited at the thought of being able to get Howard Stern and all the NFL channels. As it turns out none of them are available to Canadian subscribers. Furthermore, the blogs that I've read show that the chance of getting those channels in Canada are slim-to-none.

Company was flawed from the begining (1, Interesting)

pvera (250260) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934079)

I am a former alumni of the company that became the company that launched XM as a separate venture, then sucked the parent company dry to get XM up and running. The parent was renamed, and now it seems to be redirected to yet one more company. The ad copy in this current iteration reads the same promises that they were making to the market when I was freshly hired in 1996. If these people are still even remotely connected to what XM is today, then it's probably going to end up as more of the same, merger or else. It is sad because their technical people were top notch, all of this mess was because of the business side of the house.

CNBC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25934097)

CNBC's audio feed and the comedy channels. It will be a sad day for me when I lose those.

Because AT&T isn't going to let you stream qua (1)

SirBitBucket (1292924) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934125)

Hell, they aren't even going to let you stream video over your AT&T broadband without charging you soon. (They claim they will charge the content providers, but that is just another way of charging YOU. You will pay for it... kind of like taxing corporations... no such thing - it just results in higher prices, or fewer jobs...) AT&T is one of the biggest enemies of Net Neutrality. There is no way they are going to let people stream 128k or better (below 128k is not even listenable) for very long before they start gouging you. There are already hidden limits on the amount of data you get with your "unlimited" plan...

Content (1)

GrayCalx (597428) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934135)

why would anyone want to pay for proprietary hardware and a limited selection of a few hundred stations all controlled by one company?

Content, content, content. The same reason people pay for HBO when they can rent the movies from Netflix... their original-series. Opie and Anthony, Ron and Fez, Howard Stern, and just about every sports game for people who drive a lot I suppose.

Now for me it doesn't work. I'd like to hear O&A and Stern but not enough to pay that amount for them. But I can understand why some people would. My guess is that the niche market is the truckers. People in their vehicles most of the day, driving long distances.

my problem with sirius (1)

JAK (6169) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934147)

...was that they did not make the same channels available over internet that did on their satellite broadcast. The terrestrial coverage didn't work for me in my location. Had they just made the same channels available via internet, I'd still have my subscription today ($12/month, I think is what it was a couple of years ago).

In my opinion... (1)

PJ1216 (1063738) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934151)

...its sinking because Sirius took control as opposed to XM. The new channels are terrible compared to what XM had. Now I hear the same music over and over. The new DJs aren't as good as the ones they replaced either. If I didn't pay a few years in advance (its built into my car, so i figured I'd keep it as long as the car), I would have canceled. I do not plan on renewing it at this point assuming they're even still in business by that time.

The audio sucks and it's loaded with commercials. (1)

ttroutma (552162) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934163)

The audio quality on satellite radio is really only good enough for talk radio or news and if you listen to those channels they are stuffed full of the worst commercials.

Lousy technology, RIAA co-conspirators (1)

S-100 (1295224) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934181)

Satellite radio is doomed to fail or become obsolete because it's based on shoddy technology. When SIRIUS first got going, it petitioned the FCC to shut down other devices using adjacent frequencies because they caused interference to the SIRIUS service. The real problem was that by design, the SIRIUS signal is very close to the absolute noise floor so that it requires incredibly sensitive receivers. And even under best conditions, they need swarms of repeaters in urban areas, and the signal will drop out under even modest bridges and underpasses. Why pay for high-tech radio and still get AM radio reception problems? Music channels are compressed to the point where artifacts are constant and annoying. Talk channels are compressed to where they sound like an out-of-tune AM radio picking up an overseas broadcast on a cat's whisker radio. Why pay for crap? Just to hear people say "fuck"?

The two people that I know with Sirius built into the car have dropped it. New car sales are still plummeting, which will notch Sirius sales down even further.

And how in the world could the company LOSE almost 5 billion dollars in a year? They provide a SERVICE based on satellites that are already operational. They sell their radios for good money, and even their sweetest carmaker deal couldn't cost them all that much to include a Sirius module in the factory radio.

Sirius/XM also got in bed with the RIAA as the first in the USA to pay for performance rights for pre-recorded music. They cut themselves a great deal, and now the RIAA is doing their best to shut down Internet radio - which is the ONLY source for musical diversity.

XM on DirecTV (1)

ahooligan (1420151) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934187)

I use XM on DirecTV and it's great!! Since the merger my channels have changed but with a little attention I was back on track. It's a good resource for new music, when i hear something that i like I just seeks it out on itunes or amazon and download it. Satellite radio is a keeper and will order it in my next auto purchase. I want the option of purchasing my music instead of suffering through ads in order to hear something new.

Sat radio is not dead (1)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934223)

It just needs to realize what it's core consumer group is: people listening in cars.

Let me paint you a picture. I live in Wichita, America. Here are my choices for radio when I drive to work in the morning:

- Local sports show
- Local news show
- Bob and Tom
- Walton and Johnson
- Todd and Tyler
- Kid Cratic
- Local soccer mom-friendly morning zoo team
- Whatever the hell the hip hop and country stations are playing

That's pretty much it. Half those nationalized shows I don't really even have a clue about besides hearing their ads run on the drive home, but that's enough to tell me I want to have nothing to do with them. Even during the day it's not much better. We have a couple of what you would probably call "adult contemporary", a rock station that redefines the term "playlist", and of course the requisite "classic rock" station where I can hear Hot Blooded for the 90th time. The only "alternative" station who would even bother to crack a White Stripes CD once in a while closed up shop in favor of Mexican radio, literally. In other words, Wichita radio is a farking wasteland.

Sat radio was a God-send for me when I got my new vehicle a few months ago. It came with three months of free XM, and even though Lucy played way too much Offspring, it was light years better than the alternative. Since the merger of stations I haven't had time to form much of an opinion, but what I've heard so far sounds pretty much the same to me.

You can talk about iPhone this and iPhone that, but I'm not really willing to buy an iPhone, or any other phone for that matter, just to have streaming radio on me, particularly when the only time I care about the radio is when I'm driving to work, and would rather listen to the car radio anyway. Yes MP3 players and CD's are an alternative too, but even they get stale after a while, especially when you're like me, spending all my free time looking after two newborn girls; I don't really have time anymore to go actively searching for new music I might like.

I'll keep my Sirius, thank you. (2, Interesting)

tfiedler (732589) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934283)

I've had a Sirius subscription for 8 years using the same hardware all of that time and it still works the same today as it did when it was new --come talk to me about the longevity of your iPhone in 8 years. I hate commercials and for the most part, I hate DJs too. I just want music, the same music choices, where ever I go in North America and so do all of the other subscribers of the service. I doubt Sirius is in danger.

This article is garbage anyway because the author is really just an Apple fanboy preaching from the normal Apple fanboy pulpit about the superiority of the iPhone experience.

Just the same, I'll keep my Nokia E71 because it is a real phone that doesn't require being charged every 6 hours, and I'll keep my Satellite radio because the user experience for music is far, far superior to that of the iPhone.

It's all about cars... (1)

nlh (80031) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934303)

I'm not sure about the OP, but I know that I certainly don't listen to Sirius-XM at any time other than when I'm in my car. And when I'm in my car, it's a godsend. Terrestrial radio is just complete crap--ads, payola, etc. (how many version of Z100, Y100, X100, KISS, etc. are there?).

Satellite radio is really not designed - primarily - for those of you who are sitting in an office or at home. That's a fringe benefit or secondary revenue stream. The real benefits are for the vast majority of people who want something interesting and consistent to listen to in the car. I know that when I drive from NY to Boston, I don't have to deal with the dead zones of central Connecticut....I get the same stations the whole way.

So I think the issue here is one of perspective...don't look at Satellite Radio as an expensive competitor to the various forms of Internet radio -- look at it as a cheap alternative to crap terrestrial radio in the car.

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