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12/28/2004
12:11 PM
Mike Elgan
Mike Elgan
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Satellite Killed The Radio Star

It's a no-brainer that satellite is the future of radio -- or at least will have comparable penetration to cable TV.

Christmas was kind to me this year. Did you know that elves now make satellite radios in their little workshops. Who knew?

I got an XACT XS027 Stream Jockey Deluxe Portable Boombox and a lifetime subscription to Siruis satellite radio.

Let's pause for a moment and just take that in....

The boombox has a handheld player and remote control that pop out with the press of a button. The handheld can be played in a car using special connectors or listened to with headphones anywhere there's a satellite signal. The boombox also plays CDs and MP3, comes with incredibly long antenna and AC adaptor cables and sounds fantastic.

I am -- or used to be -- a streaming audio junkie and in-car radio junkie. Satellite radio has now changed all that.

I used to suffer immeasurably during my frequent car trips from Silicon Valley to Silicon Beach (Santa Barbara, Calif.) where the only thing on the radio in this vast, 300-mile stretch of the U.S. 101 -- rich in agricultural production but information poor -- are pop drivel, religious radio and Spanish language stations, none of which is my cup of tea.

Now I'm flipping between BBC World Service, CNN, CSPAN (there's nothing quite so thrilling as speeding through the sleepy fields of Soledad, California, while listening to Tony Blair being grilled in the British House of Commons) and other news stations, or any of the 120 plus stations on Sirius -- all crystal clear and mostly commercial free.

I'm new to Satellite radio, and was very pleasantly surprised to learn that subscribers can also get all the stations as streaming audio over the Internet. I'm listening to it right now (Area 63, to be specific). It's clearly the best streaming audio I've ever heard.

Looking at the big picture, it seems to be a no-brainer that satellite is the future of radio -- or at least will have comparable penetration to cable TV.

The main reason is that ordinary radio is so incredibly bad. Traditional local talk radio is dominated by the mostly weak and boring public radio, where they'll do 20-minute reports during your morning commute on start of the big salmon season in Haines, Alaska, and also religious talk radio. Music stations tend to be polluted by commercials and desperate D.J.'s frantically imitating Howard Stern or bribing their 13-year-old audience to listen by giving away concert tickets and $100 bills.

Those of us who commute can only take so much of that.

Yes, people will pay for radio.

In fact, both Sirius and XM announced major gains in subscriber numbers yesterday. XM said it has grown from 1.3 million subscribers at the beginning of the year to 3.1 million. Sirius is up above 1 million people from about a quarter of a million.

XM is bigger, but Sirius is currently the flavor of the month. They're getting tons of publicity with Howard Stern's long transition from regular radio to Sirius, and some more from Eminem's hip hop station on Sirius, called Shade 45. I'm predicting that in 2005 Sirius will close the gap in subscriber numbers.

If you're considering satellite, try the free trials offer by both Sirius and XM on their respective home pages (Links below)

This recommendation comes with a word of caution: If you try it, you're probably gonna buy it.

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