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iPhones, FStream and the Death of Satellite Radio 397

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-guess-music-wants-to-be-free-too dept.
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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iPhones, FStream and the Death of Satellite Radio

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  • Aw... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fyngyrz (762201) * on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:07AM (#25933591) Homepage Journal

    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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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.
      • Re:Aw... (Score:4, Funny)

        by smilindog2000 (907665) <bill@billrocks.org> on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:55PM (#25936729) Homepage

        I'm one of those guys who just dropped XM radio. The commercials they run on may channels really pissed me off. I also got rid of my last Windows machine after Vista came out. Guess what my in-laws got me and the kids for presents this year? A Windows Vista box, and a new subscription to XM radio! Apparently, they're worried about my highly non-conformist streak.

    • Re:Aw... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jmauro (32523) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:28AM (#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... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ubrgeek (679399) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:49AM (#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... (Score:5, Informative)

          by reboot246 (623534) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @01:09PM (#25934543) Homepage
          I agree. I drive constantly on my job across four states. XM/Sirius lets me listen to what I want to listen to regardless of where I am on the road. I go places where decent AM or FM stations are nowhere to be found, and a lot of my driving is at night when nothing much is available over the air.

          It may not be worth it if your commute is only a half hour each way, but it's a bargain for me. My commute last week was 102 miles each way. Tomorrow it will be 95 miles each way. Plus I work out of my vehicle. I keep it on all day.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by arth1 (260657)

          >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 h

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            >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.

            Um, you say that it doesn't compete, and then you go on to list all the ways where XM/Sirius wins the competition for you? That's just strengthening the argument for it competing.

            What ever happened to basic reading comprehension? For Service A to compete with Service B, they have to have similar offerings. Regular radio has no ability to give traffic/weather reports as soon as you want them (doesn't compete). Regular radio doesn't let you narrowly choose the music you want to hear and it does not let you consistently hear it when you want to hear it (doesn't compete). If regular radio can somehow obtain these features, then and only then will it be competitive with satellite ra

        • by FooAtWFU (699187)
          Respectfully, it does compete. Just because the substitute is inferior in several ways doesn't make it any less so. And there's other "in-car entertainment" service/product/things it's competing with as well, such as the iPod.
        • by rkanodia (211354)

          So in other words, you see satellite radio as a superior substitute to free radio and you're willing to pay a premium for the increased level of service, but if satellite radio didn't exist or was too expensive to you, you'd use free radio and just wait the 15 minutes for traffic and weather.

          How does that in any way refute the GP's statement that 'satellite radio ... competes mainly with free services'?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Eil (82413)

          Since you're posting on Slashdot, you're already not the primary target demographic of satellite radio. Broadcasters want to reach the Average Joe who listens to radio for pop music, background noise, and the occasional sports updates. They don't want better content, they just want more content and they want it to be easy to get. For Average Joe, satellite *is* competing with regular broadcast radio and self-contained MP3 players.

          A co-worker of mine bought a brand-new monstrosity of an SUV to drive herself

        • by StarKruzr (74642) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @02:59PM (#25935689) Journal

          If Sirius goes under I am going to be one seriously sad panda. Radio in my part of the country is fucking dire.

          I find it hard to believe people don't think it's worth $13/mo, honestly.

      • 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. :-)
    • by Macgruder (127971)

      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 betw

    • by paanta (640245)
      You can't use an iPhone within hundreds of miles of where I live

      Oh there's a great business model. Try to build a huge infrastructure with satellites and hundreds of stations...supported by people who live so far from civilization that they can't use an iPhone. Respectfully, there's just not a lot of money to be made off of the people who live in Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, etc. That's why AT&T doesn't have any interest in it. If it were such a goldmine, they'd be providing you with s
  • by Ostracus (1354233) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:12AM (#25933615) Journal

    "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.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The days of someone else controlling what I listen to are done. I bittorrent my television (no commercials) and use an iPod or burned CDs to listen to music. Radio, satellite radio, and realtime television are unbearable to listen to once you're used to (a) having all the control over what content you see and hear and (b) cutting out commercials.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rukie (930506)
      Isn't it something like clearstation or clearmedia that owns all of the Kiss stations across the country? That company owns a ridiculous amount of radio. Sirius tends to have newer music and a wider variety versus the collection of 3-5 songs that Kiss plays on repeat for months at a time. I for one, like my sirius overlord.
  • by Wandering Wombat (531833) <mightyjalapeno AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:13AM (#25933619) Homepage Journal
    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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      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.
      • Sirius car radio: $50 as a present.

        New car stereo: $200 and up, plus having to have a different digital music player for each group: Just me, me and my wife, and the whole family.
  • Howard Stern (Score:4, Informative)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:15AM (#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.

    • by peragrin (659227)

      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.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:52AM (#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? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NetNinja (469346) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:16AM (#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.

    • 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 (Score:5, Funny)

    by Strange Ranger (454494) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:17AM (#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.
  • by corsec67 (627446) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:19AM (#25933661) Homepage Journal

    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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jonsmirl (114798)

      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

    • XM to Sirius/XM (Score:5, Informative)

      by p51d007 (656414) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @12:20PM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

        by grotgrot (451123)

        I just dumped Sirius after being a subscriber for many years. The ultimate reason is that they are an exceptionally poorly run company. After hearing my tale, any shareholder should be pissed.

        I had two radios with annual subscription. The first subscription is about $140 and the second about $80. For the latter the antenna on the car had cracked and stopped working. We had a Sirius Boombox and so were using the antenna from that inside the car but it didn't work too well. A replacement car antenna is

    • by ptbarnett (159784)

      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 "

  • by Fjandr (66656) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:19AM (#25933663) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by snarfies (115214) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:23AM (#25933711) Homepage

    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).

    • by Night Goat (18437)

      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.

    • by topham (32406)

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

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

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LWolenczak (10527)

        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 b

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by a42 (136563)

          I feel your pain. I want my Lucy back.

          And Fred? Fred's dead, baby. Fred's dead.

    • by cplusplus (782679)
      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.
    • 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.

    • Big Mistakes (Score:3, Insightful)

      by maz2331 (1104901)

      As a Sirius subscriber, I'm still left shaking my head regarding the channels they nixed as opposed to the ones they kept. Rather than consolodating the ones that were basically duplicitive of each other, they killed the unique ones. This was a boneheaded move.

      They did drop their most unique and niche content - the stuff that customers can't get on terrestrial radio. For example, they still have several channels of "rap and hip-hop", while killing the one disco/R&B channel. My wife was really pissed

  • by NitroWolf (72977) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:25AM (#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.

    • by Graff (532189) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:41AM (#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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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

      • by gunnk (463227)
        Same here -- I dropped my Sirius receiver a few months ago. 3G iPhone + Pandora (and the iPod functionality for the RARE times I don't have coverage).

        No one is going to buy an iPhone to replace Sirius, but if you have a 3G iPhone and live in a well-networked area, why keep Sirius? I get a much more personalized station selection via Pandora than I ever got from Sirius, so that's what I'm going to use anyway.

        Best of all, I'm saving $12/month at the same time I'm getting a better listening experience.
    • by NDPTAL85 (260093)

      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.

    • by frdmfghtr (603968)

      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

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Cyberllama (113628)

      I can stream music just fine over EDGE on my iphone, who cares if the 3g in a particular area is good or not? 3g is overkill for all but the highest quality streams.

      Also, my battery life while streaming is more along the lines of 5-6 hours. Now this is a big hit to my normal musical battery life, I'll admit. The iphone can play mp3's continuously for somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 hours (though I think they advertise it as 12, all the battery life tests confirm that it goes 20-24).

      The iphone simply h

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by acroyear (5882)

      Streaming audio can't compete at the same level anytime soon, if for no other reason than it's not organized enough.

      And once it gets organized (Live365, for example), it immediately gets attacked by the RIAA and the publishers (ASCAP, BMI, etc) for royalty rates that are set relative to the average audience size (just like broadcast radio), at which point most internet radio is also a "loss-leader" for nothing.

      Free is relative: the music industry refuses to let anything be free for long. So either internet

  • by Jay Maynard (54798) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:29AM (#25933745) Homepage

    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.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:29AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dr_dank (472072)

      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 milli

  • Howard Stern (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jrap (614351)
    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
  • Playboy radio? How does that even work?
  • Not so (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UserChrisCanter4 (464072) * on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:42AM (#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.

    • 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.

      • No, they are still unusual. You do tend to find them more on low-rung economy cars because it's cheap to add and an easy way to appeal to younger drivers. In the car market as a whole, though, not even 25% of current models sport aux-in. That would qualify as unusual in my book.

    • by nuggetman (242645)

      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.

      Complaining that you can't use your iPhone with Verizon is like complaining that you can't get Sirius on your AM transistor radio. It's a different type of signal... why is this so hard to grasp? If you want to brand one as "proprietary", it would be Verizon, since the majority of the world is using GSM not CDMA, and the iPhone is usable on any GSM network. Apple did

      • It isn't difficult to grasp, not at all. My intention was to illustrate how asinine it is to refer to XM/Sirius hardware as "proprietary" when there are multiple companies who have produced hundreds of XM/Sirius-capable equipment.

        Regarding disabling an app: there's a conclusion that most people have reached, but it's not conclusive whether or not it can really be disabled, and the most Apple can do is remove an app from easy installation for the majority of users, thereby allowing it to wither on the vine?

  • My humble opinions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sabz5150 (1230938) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:42AM (#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.

    • by robogun (466062)

      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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by stox (131684)

      BTW, if your subscription is coming up, tell them you want to cancel. They will then offer a $77/yr plan to keep you. They are desperate to keep subscribers right now.

  • by PeeAitchPee (712652) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:49AM (#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.

  • 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 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).

  • 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.

  • by It doesn't come easy (695416) * on Sunday November 30, 2008 @12:11PM (#25934035) Journal
    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 (Score:3, Informative)

    by savuporo (658486) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @12:11PM (#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.

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

    • by nuggetman (242645)

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

      I know what you mean! It pisses me off so much when my Pioneer stereo breaks and I take it to the Sony vendor and they refuse to fix it. It's all damn proprietary hardware.

  • 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 a
  • 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

  • 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 unde
  • ...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.
  • 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 he

  • 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 pr
  • 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 w

  • by cunamara (937584) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @01:02PM (#25934457)
    Sirius's Karmazin ran over the dogmazin.
  • I have had both XM and Sirius radio; I currently have Sirius.

    There were two main reasons why I stopped listening to ordinary radio and jumped to satellite. The first problem with ordinary radio is the endless onslaught of commercials. The second problem is the endless gobbling of retarded DJs. Collectively, most DJs have the IQ of a soap dish. That doesn't keep them from voicing their opinion on everything from economics to cultural imperialism. The XM DJs were kind enough to be silent, for the most part, b

  • Perhaps it's not the "pay-for-broadcast" model that's flawed, but a whole economic system structured in such a way that no company can stay afloat offering a decent service any more.

    It's not just Radio. Look around. Every product and serive today is fighting for your last dollar in a race straight to the bottom.

    XM/Sirius can't stay in business b/c they are being eaten alive by excessive CEO compensation, government regulation and taxation, and a fixed stock market casino.

  • My iPhone can't stream radio for shit even on 3G. It seems a big reason for the low stock price right now is concern that they wont be able to refinance their debt next year.

  • But is pay-for-bandwidth even a viable business plan anymore?

    You always pay for bandwidth. Music may be less demanding than video - still, the numbers do add up. Both for the listener and the broadcaster. The geek may rant when his broadband service is capped at 250 GB a month. But there are lots of places where you can't get a tenth of that at any price.

  • by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Monday December 01, 2008 @12:14PM (#25947017) Homepage

    The only place XM/Sirius is even remotely worthwhile is where I don't have some form of internet access, and with 3G getting more prevalant, that's going away. I just wish more portable players, like the sansa e280 (rockboxxed, baby!) had 802.11 capability, without restrictions on where you go to get your streams. That would be really nice at the gym. Yeah, phones can do it, but I really prefer having a cheap device that is really good at that one thing that I don't worry about breaking.

    At home I use my roku soundbridge, which provides a great streaming interface. On the road, I use streamtuner to 'dial in' my internet radio stations from shoutcast. Audacious, I just discovered while trying ubuntu as a good xmms replacement.

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