March 15, 2004
XM radio

Came across this article on XM Radio in a magazine at the gym, and it's pretty interesting. The XM folks went through quite a bit to get where they are. A couple of points of interest, starting with this bit of unfortunate timing:

At last XM was ready to go live. The plan was to premiere in two top-20 markets—Dallas and San Diego—that would be easier to operate in than, say, New York or L.A. XM would then roll out nationwide in a matter of weeks. But the day the service was to launch—Sept. 12, 2001—fell in the aftermath of a shocking event. From XM's broadcast center, employees could see smoke rising from the Pentagon. XM canceled its launch party, which was to include performances by Peter Frampton and Ziggy Marley. The company also immediately pulled its inaugural TV ad, based on the theme "falling stars." The ad featured rapper Snoop Dogg plummeting down from outer space and past an array of skyscrapers—an image eerily similar to what much of the world had just witnessed on the news.

I don't think I need to add anything to that. On a different note, about the future of XM and its sole competitor in satellite radio, Sirius:

However the content wars evolve, XM also faces competition from conventional AM/FM stations. While satellite radio can reach a national audience, analog will always have the advantage of being able to offer local news and local personalities. AM/FM will start to further cut into satellite's advantage as more analog stations begin offering crisp digital signals. The switchover is being driven by iBiquity Digital, a hardware maker based in Columbia, Md., that expects to have converted 600 of the nation's 13,645 stations by the end of 2004.

If we've learned anything from the Clear Channel takeover of the airwaves, it's that local content and personalities mean very little in much of the country, since for much of the country, it's all some dude in a central studio interweaving snippets of local color to make you think you're hearing a DJ in town. There's hardly any local music programming to speak of out there, too, so I don't see the big deal. Actually, given that XM is planning local news/weather/traffic stations for some markets, it's not hard to imagine them creating regional (if not truly local) music channels. Surely there'd be an audience for them.

I'm still not ready to plunk down the money for this service, since I wouldn't get enough out of it right now, but I'll tell you what - my next car will have it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 15, 2004 to Music | TrackBack

This is more than a little off-topic but I thought that you and your readers might be interested to learn that the California Democratic Party recently updated the heck out of their website, and it's gone from being pretty boring to rather interesting.

Some of the new features include a daily poll, a daily cartoon, a list of stupid Bush quotes, and a daily blog by Bob Mulholland, the CDP's strategist.

If you haven't seen it yet I highly suggest checking it out even if you aren't a Californian. The polls are interesting, the comics are hilarious, and even though the new version of the website has only been up a couple weeks there are already Republican trolls making a-hole comments that really need to be countered by people who are better writers than me.

Posted by: Jackson Pritt on March 15, 2004 11:33 PM

For $100 and $10 a month XM radio is pretty expensive, you can buy a lot of CDs for that kind of money. As far as I'm concerned, listening to radio is 100% wasted time, you are always listening to music that someone ELSE wants you to listen to. I prefer to listen to what I want to listen to. I haven't listened to radio for at least 10 years.

Posted by: Charles E on March 16, 2004 5:18 AM

There is still a value-add for me in radio, which is exposure to new music. Obviously, commercial analog radio is doing squat for me on that score now, but if/when I bought into satellite radio, one thing I'd hope to get out of it is discovering some new performers that I like. Until I spend more time in my car, or I get an office with a door, though, it'll have to wait or get less expensive.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on March 16, 2004 7:59 AM

I like those receivers where you can plug into a car and then take it into your house. Considering that I'll make my next car purchase in 2 years, I bet that satellite radio will be a standard option. By the way, Clear Channel is a big investor in XM. This company has a very large chunk of any medium. On any given day, it's a virtual lock that you will see or hear an ad via a Clear Channel platform. It's kinda scary if you think about it.

Posted by: sean on March 16, 2004 8:12 AM

Clear Channel was one of many investors in XM. They raised an ungodly amount of money. I don't recall if the FSB article mentioned how big a piece Clear Channel has in XM, but I do recall that GM had something like 8%, so it's probably in that ballpark.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on March 16, 2004 9:54 AM

It will be interesting to see how the new digital AM/FM will effect XM & Sirius. Since CC is the biggest owner of stations in the country, why would they want to promote satellite and digital radio at the same time? A lot of analysts are concerned for satellite's growth because of the coming digital radio revolution. Personally, I ca't wait to hear CD quality sound come out of my car's speakers. Also, it will be nice to hear AM come through like FM is today. It could really change the look of radio overall.

Posted by: sean on March 16, 2004 10:14 AM