Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Sirius and XM radio latest from the US by Nick Lewis

Colorado-based conglomerate glomerate Liberty Media last week ofiered the merged Sirius XM radio corporation up to $530 million in loans to pay ofiimmediately owed convertible bonds. Those loans have staved ofi Sirius XM having to file for bankruptcy this week, but there's no telling how long the debt collectors will tap their feet waiting on the $3.25 billion they're due.
In the eight years since the advent of satellite radio, neither Sirius nor XM posted a profitable year, and teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, the death of the merged company may soon ring the bell for the medium.
And it won't be missed by too many.
Though Sirius XM claims a subscriber base of 18.5 million, satellite radio has been a hard sell outside the car market, and auto sales fell by 37 per cent last month. Portable satellite radio models have sold poorly given a handful of cheaper alternatives, and consumers have been reluctant to purchase a piece of proprietary hardware that only receives signals from one company.
In Canada, Sirius and XM continue to operate as separate entities, although there is concern over what will happen to these companies if their U. S. parent goes under. From an investment point of view, if Sirius XM does announce bankruptcy, the value of this penny stock (14 pennies, exactly) drops to zero.
If all they played was music, satellite radio could have been an overwhelming success. Dragged down by bloated, multimillion-dollar contracts to celebrity talent (Oprah Winfrey, Howard Stern, Martha Stewart) and to professional sporting leagues (NFL, MLB, NASCAR, etc.), the companies could never recoup their exorbitant operating costs with the limited subscriber base they had attracted. Face it -- human speaking voices are why satellite radio failed, and should we ever try to relaunch the medium, human speaking voices should be one of its last additions.
Human voices are a big part of why I don't listen to commercial radio (its corporate playlist being the other), and choose Internet radio instead. While I realize the strength of having a great DJ, they are so rare that I'm perfectly happy having uninterrupted streams of music spat at me by jukebox software. Once wireless Internet connectivity becomes ubiquitous, Internet radio and its hundreds of niche stations will become the behemoth satellite radio purported to be.
Granted, my drive to work lasts about five songs in good weather, a distance too short to require the use of satellite radio. But on the odd occasion I've rented a car or driven my girlfriend's dad's SUV, I've thoroughly enjoyed the service. Terrestrial radio seemed downright homogeneous and insulting compared to being able to hear The Jesus and Mary Chain or Spiritualized or L7 from one station to the next.
But while both Sirius and XM seemed to have something for everyone at the start, some of their niche programming soon began disappearing, and there was no disguising how lazy some of their new channels seemed. An entire station devoted to Led Zeppelin? Why not just throw your box set on random in iTunes? An entire Grateful Dead station? Who's stoned for that long? And driving, while we're at it?
The next big wave in radio is just around the corner. Australia's mi Roamer and Germany's Blaupunkt jointly announced the world's first Internet car radio just last month, and given the competitive nature of technology, Internet radio could likely be a reality on most new cars within the next five years. Heck, right now a cellphone with a decent data pipe (i. e. iPhone) can ofier radio stations through your car's stereo if you know how to tinker with it.
So unless you own stock in the company, you needn't fret over Sirius XM's demise. We didn't miss audio cassettes when CDs came about, we didn't miss laser discs when DVDs became the norm and we won't miss satellite radio once Internet radio streams through our cars. (Source Calgary Herald)

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