Monday, April 24, 2006

Satellite v. Terrestrial Radio

Since I know I'll be writing entries about football this Friday and Sunday, I figured I'd throw something out there for all of those not remotely interested in football. Also, I'd like to report that I'm getting a hold of the technical aspects of blogging, but I'd still welcome improvement suggestions from those who know what they are doing.

Before I get too deep into the whole Pay v. Free radio debate, I'd like to point out a couple of things. First, Sirius is banking on 'Shock Jock' Howard Stern to lift them into relevancy. He's received more press (for better and for worse) in the last year than he has in the last ten. Does it feel strange to anyone else to still call him a Shock Jock? Is anything he does really shocking?

I enjoy the Howard Stern show; I listen every day. Love him or hate him, he defined talk radio--or at bare minimum, defined the format for entertainment radio. In the early 80s, he was shocking. These days, unless Howard walked in, sat down at the mic, and shot Artie Lange in the head with a .45 magnum, I'm really not surprised with what he does on the air--ESPECIALLY since he is no longer chained by the FCC. Anyway, back to the original discussion.

Sirius: As many of you know, I've been a Sirius subscriber for almost two years now. I even got a second receiver in my car. Obviously, I enjoy it more than terrestrial radio, enough to ensure I never need to listen to it again. That said, it isn't without limitations. Sure, the rotation is limited--but I think that's countered by the number of stations (and the number of stations dedicated by genre). Advertisements I hear these days feel like an invasion of privacy.

The technology is still very young. It's going to get a lot better, and I'm still getting the knack of how it really works. It still cuts out from time to time with the infamous acquiring signal message on the display. I've heard this is because I have it routed through the wrong FM station, but I've tried several. Hopefully, they'll eventually post a guide stating which FM stations work the best for particular parts of the country.

Terrestrial Radio: farewell, old friend. While you helped inspire my devout love of music, I can only listen to the same crappy Nickelback song (well, the intro anyway, before I change the station) so many times. I can only listen to so many advertisements within a one hour period before I never want to purchase anything again.

I think free radio has a long row to hoe. They've already started to change their image--you hear a lot of "Free FM 10X.X" stations, marketing the price. The problem is they've already lost 10 million listeners between XM and Sirius, with more defecting every day. I'm not sure they can stop the bleeding. You see, the only thing they have to offer is the price. And it isn't free. You pay with time. TWENTY-TWO minutes of every hour is dedicated to advertising. The DJs talk for another eight. So basically, you get 1/2 for your hour in terms of rate of return. Then there is the crapshoot of finding something in that tiny window you actually want to listen to. Satellite, on the other hand, remembers your favorite artists and alerts you what channel they are on. That's worth $12.95 monthly to me, considering I spend about 4 hours a day on the radio (more on the weekends).

XM: I'm no expert on XM. I applied for a job there once, but didn't hear back. As far as I can tell, the musical programming is nearly identical to Sirius. Basically, you should sign on with whichever one has the talk programming you enjoy more. I like Howard Stern and Football--Sirius was the natural choice. If you like baseball, maybe XM is more for you. Personally, I think eventually the two will merge. They both need to get their debt down first, but I'd say in the next 3-5 years it will happen. Sirius already has a chip that converts an XM box to a Sirius box, so they technology is waiting to merge. I also think that by Christmas 2007, Sirius will take over as the subscription leader.

If there are any XM subscribers out there, please make a comment. I'm admittedly ignorant about XM, but they seem to be floundering a little. I'm pretty certain the BOTH satellite radio parent companies will kick the crap out of terrestrial radio, turning it into PBS, while they are cable with HBO subscriptions. Thoughts?


Tillerman said...

Don't XM have Bob Dylan as a DJ? Sounds like a good reason to subscribe all by itself.

Ben said...

That's true, Bob Dylan did just sign on to be a DJ. He's on once a week for one hour, but I have to admit I'm curious.

I've never been a huge fan of his singing, but I do think he is one of our nation's greatest poets, and he knows a TON about music. It would be cool to see what he throws in a rotation.

That said, an hour of Dylan every week isn't nearly enough program to sway me away from 24-7 Howard Stern Programming and the NFL. Hopefully one of my friends gets XM so I can get a preview of what they offer.