Satellite Radio

A couple months ago, I finally made the jump to satellite radio. I had been waiting for prices to come down and when equipment prices hit rock bottom, I made the leap.

One rather humorous note. All the "good deals" were sold out, so I ended up paying a rather (for me) high price for the equipment anyway.

Which of the two services (XM and Sirius) did I choose? No contest. Sirius, in my opinion, by far offers the better value. Now I wish to qualify my statement about best value. I am a serious talk radio junkie as well as being a sports fan. I also have only a narrowly focused interest in music.

First a plug, the one I came up with on my own (and I am left wondering why the marketing boys and girls at Sirius have not come up with this on their own): Sirius radio for Serious radio listeners!

Sirius has two channels of National Public Radio. Sure, XM has a Public Radio channel and has Bob Edwards on the weekend, however it does not contain NPR and as far as I am concerned, NPR is the caviar of talk radio. Now NPR is a little bit left of center, so I do appreciate that Sirius has two channels devoted to the FOX network, FOX news and FOX talk, so I can get my fix of "hearing the other side" there.

I do wish to point out that while I now spend most of my time listening to Sirius, principally because I am lazy, I am still motivated to scan the broadcast band on occasion. While Sirius has two channels of NPR, they do not include NPR's "All Things Considered" or "Morning Edition" programs. I am hopeful that at some point these programs are included in the content Sirius offers. Until then, when the time of day comes for them to be broadcast, and I am in an area apt to have an Public Radio outlet in the market, I often turn off my satellite radio and commence scanning the broadcast band. I also am often motivated to search for an American Family Radio broadcast so that I can hear Dr Dobson's group's take on news events. While Sirius does have a channel labeled "Christian Talk" I find its content to be extremely mediocre.

As for my music interests, as I said it is very narrow. I spend most of my listening time with talk radio, however at the end of the day, when I am trying to wind down, I tune in to one of the Christian music channels. I prefer the "Spirit" channel, though on occasion tune in to "Revolution". I still prefer the playlist contained on the commercially available, listener supported KLOVE network (with honorable mention going to SPIRIT ONE) however Sirius's Spirit channel is not bad. No matter where I stop anywhere in the nation for the night, I can find the Sirius Spirit channel and get my dose of music praising Jesus.

As for sports coverage, Sirius leads hands down. Sirius has the NFL, NBA, and NHL. Starting January 1st, 2007 Sirius will be the outlet for NASCAR, having wrestled this coverage away from XM. Sure I was pissed off during the World Series when I could not even tune in to listen to my St Louis Cardinals whoop up on the Detroit Tigers (since XM has baseball), however I am impressed with my ability to tune in to coverage of the play-by-play of my Washington Redskins. During the games, I find myself shifting back and forth to hear about coverage of critical plays from both the Redskins' broadcast network and the network of their opponents since both are offered simultaneously.

As for my equipment recommendations? I would advise people to try and get a satellite ready radio for their truck or automobile. If you have a broadcast radio that is satellite ready, you can hook up your satellite radio receiver by wire and avoid a tremendous amount of aggravation. However if you do not have a satellite ready broadcast radio you need to shop carefully for your satellite radio that will rebroadcast to the FM dial. I have heard that some of the new "bargain" satellite radios are limited in the number of frequencies they have available. I have heard that some are restricted to a single frequency. This could be a major problem depending on which part of the country you are in. If you happen to be passing through a commercial market that contains a strong broadcast station on that frequency, the interference from the broadcast station will make it intolerable to listen to your satellite signal. This problem will be most common in markets with a crowded broadcast spectrum such as most of the major metropolitan areas. If your satellite receiver has a broad spectrum of frequencies to rebroadcast to (like mine does) you should be able to find a clear channel. However if your selection of frequencies is limited you are going to be annoyed. You're better off spending the few extra dollars necessary to increase the availability of rebroadcast frequency options.

That is my take on satellite radio. From my understanding, satellite radio has not won wide scale acceptance within the consumer market. Satellite radio, as a "must have", is limited to those such as truck drivers and travelling salesmen who frequently travel. There are rumors that XM and Sirius might merge. The market is broad enough to support one service, however it might be too limited for two competing outlets to remain profitable.


Blogger Lethal_Poison said...

Im surprised that with such limited appeal, these two networks are paying millions upon millions of dollars to such entertainers as Howard Stern for exclusive use of their shows content.

I wonder where they get the money....

12/22/2006 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Little David said...

Actually, Howard Stern's leap to satellite radio was rather successful for Sirius. Sirius narrowed the gap in the number of subscribers in their race with XM for dominance.

Personally, I think Sirius overpaid for Howard Stern's limited market appeal. However this criticism is like criticizing George Steinbrenner for overpaying for baseball talent for his team. The Yankees are always in contention, and as a result the Yankees are amongs the most valuable sports franchises in America while the Mets trail far behind. Nothing breeds value like consistent success.

Personally I wish Sirius would offer NPR a modest package that would entice NPR to allow broadcast of "All Things Considered" and "Morning Edition" on their network. To me, this would offer better enticement to potential subscribers to sign up. However I must admit that there is a market for the "low brow" fare that the likes of Howard Stern has to offer. Even XM has their "Opie and Anthony" show which I think tries to appeal to those who might find Howard Stern's show attractive. I will note that "Opie and Anthony" are frequently the subject of restroom writings in toilet stalls in truckstops while never once have I read where anyone writes about NPR there - grin.

As for where they get the money? Both satellite broadcasters are working on borrowed time. Both are actually losing money. However both are still reaping money from investors based upon potential. Personally, I think satellite radio will be successful, however I forsee the merger of the two competing services. After they merge, they will be able to control the cost of content without having to worry about their competitor driving up the costs in a bidding war. There is enough demand for a profitable operation, however not enough demand for how they are presently doing it.

12/22/2006 10:46:00 AM  

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