Saturday, September 30, 2006

Some Sirius Ubiquity

Satellite is really starting to become a medium that reaches all crevices of the Earth. Satellite technology has enabled us to receive crystal clear radio reception throughout the country, and across state borders. You can drive from New York to Los Angeles, to Canada and listen to the same radio station the entire trip. The only requirement is that you have a direct line of sight to the south sky (where all the satellites are). However, problems may arise with satellite reception if you are working in a cubicle, inside an office, deep within a steel encased building with no windows. Thankfully, XM and Sirius have thought ahead…kind of.

Both XM and Sirius Satellite radio stream their programming online for customers, though, XM is a little more ahead of the game than Sirius. XM currently offers its programming online for free to all physical radio subscribers. However, if you want to join the XM nation without buying all the hardware, and don’t mind listening to the radio strictly online, XM offers unlimited online listening for only $7.99 a month...not bad. Sirius offers its online package for the premium price of $12.95! That’s a little steep considering you will only have access to “over 75” of the 200 channels Sirius owns. Granted both companies limit their online programming (for undetermined reasons) to certain channels, but Sirius is charging the same rate to online listeners as it is customers who get full access programming through a satellite receiver. This just makes Sirius look dumb, and would piss me off if I were a customer. However, Sirius has traditionally been the leader in price gouging. It initially offered its service for $12.95 a month, while rival XM offered comparable programming for only $9.99. XM wised up though, and like the oil companies love to do, realized it could charge a lot more for its product without justification. Now XM charges the same exact rate ($12.95/month) for traditional programming as Sirius.

Online streaming should be an added bonus to buying a satellite product. XM has hinted at this by offering online streaming (though limited) for free to customers with an account already. Sirius continues to sit there with a confused look on its face, as always. The beauty of digital media is that it allows digital programming to be manipulated in many ways, such as simulcast for cheap. However, it’s almost sad that Sirius announced just this week it would start offering online streaming to Sirius-Canada customers. XM has always offered the same programming and services available in America to Canadian subscribers. And why not? It’s not especially hard to do. I know it’s cold up there, but there is in fact internet access in Canada, and it’s stupid to deny people the right to throw their wallets at you.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The RIAA and MPAA are starting to sound like broken records.

Does it seem like the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America have nothing better to do these days? Anymore, it feels like this dynamic duo has tackled and sued just about every innovative technology related to the entertainment industry. Services such as Napster and Kazaa have taken harsh beatings from the RIAA for illegal downloading and copyright infringement, by allowing mass amounts of people to obtain music for free. However, the recording industry fails to realize that it brought this technological rebellion upon itself. People frustrated with years of market exploitation for CD’s and Movies are now seeking revenge on the industry, and copyright infringement is slowly becoming synonymous with justice.

The RIAA and MPAA push hard to restrict liberal copying and distribution of media because corporations see things like digital music and digital “burning” as detrimental to the entertainment industry’s survival. However, the truth is more related to the industry’s pure greed. Basically the money bags that record labels and recording artists receive aren’t heavy enough to anchor their new yachts. So in a seemingly endless battle, both the RIAA and MPAA have started suing everyone for monetary damages associated with copyright infringement…again.

Now the RIAA has found its next victim, satellite radio. Last week XM radio was sued by the RIAA under the "Copyright Modernization Act" for including a recording feature in its new Inno portable receivers. The feature allows XM customers to record music on any XM channel right to the receiver for free. The idea behind this feature is twofold; so customers can listen to their favorite songs repeatedly, and so customers can still listen to music in no-service “dead spots.” Customers cannot extract songs off the player unless they buy them, so copyright protection is virtually foolproof. To combat the RIAA’s nonsense, XM used a clever guerilla marketing campaign to inform customers of the legal issues being brought to the company, and to persuade customers to take action against the RIAA. XM urged customers to contact their representatives and tell them to reject any bill restricting the use of XM’s new Inno player. The power of pissed off people in numbers spoke loudly this time, because XM successfully defeated the RIAA in the suit.

It’s pretty lame and absurd, that the RIAA now insists on attacking everyone instead of just a few major offenders. XM charges its customers monthly rates in order to write fat royalty checks to the recording industry on a daily basis. On top of a monthly rate, it charges its customers again to pull content off its music players! My question is how much money do you want? Is this issue really about protection of art and original ideas anymore, or has it become strictly about the ca$h? The future of satellite is greatly dependent on its ability to compete with the mp3 market, and XM has answered this industry opportunity with valiance. The RIAA on the other hand, has become nothing but a bully in the free market.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Putting the O in Radio

If you think she’s already done it all, you’re mistaken. Oprah’s taken her career to diverse levels throughout her life. From television talk show host to actress, to renowned book club leader, she has broadened her talents in monumental ways. Now it’s off to the modern medium of Satellite Radio for the gossip queen.

XM announced earlier this month that starting Monday, September 25th, it will commence the much anticipated “Oprah & Friends” programming on Oprah’s new digital-quality radio channel. Though it is a major career move of the opinion leader, critics do not see consumers scrambling to XM stores and resellers to purchase radios and buy subscriptions. XM radio, under scrutiny for setting unreasonable budgets to sign new talent, hoped that securing Oprah and her massive loyal audience would throw another sail up on its vessel. “Oprah and Friends” adds one more unique edge to XM’s programming, joining such successes as “Opie and Anthony,” “Bob Edwards” and “The Who Channel.”

It seems that no matter what Oprah says or does her cult-like audience will follow with joy in a trance like state. This is exactly what XM is banking on! Historically, XM has held nothing back when going after the next piece of radio gold, and buying Oprah was mere chump change to the corporation. What was considered priceless to XM, was the immense goodwill that would follow the hire of the personality.

We’ve seen this situation before with Sirius’ decision to sign Howard Stern. Though it did not work out financially as well as Sirius predicted, XM seems to have the formula down to a science. XM’s signing Opie and Anthony was a major controversy, yet has yielded unforeseen revenue for the company. XM also signed Bob Edwards with tremendous confidence after he was let go by NPR, resulting in a vast immigration of his audience from terrestrial to satellite to catch the veteran’s new show.

XM knows how to pick prime opportunities, and its new hostess will undoubtedly provide massive returns for the future.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Time to Get Sirius, and Listen Religiously.

Well, Sirius figured out how to do it. All God, all the time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365...with a special segment on Christmas. If you've ever actually been to a real mass, you would know that going to church on the TV is not the same by any means. Well now you can go to church via satellite. Sirius realized there was a potential satellite radio market within the Catholic community and jumped on it like the Sunday offering. Sirius' decision to add a Catholic channel came from strong demand among the religious community and a need to create any marketable edge against the mega corporation XM radio.

Sirius CEO, Mel Karmazin states, “"This partnership with the Archdiocese is a significant step forward in our development and mission to provide our listeners with the finest and most distinctive Christian programming in radio." Such an integration of technology with tradition is exactly what’s needed to help ease the church into the 21st century.

The format of the station will be open and informal, inviting not only Catholics, but people of all religions to interact with the church through a modern day medium. The ultimate goal is to provide a home for religious radio listeners (pun intended), and those curious about the faith. There will even be a simulcast of Sunday Mass from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City available to be heard nationally.

Unfortunately though brothers and sisters, you won’t be able to escape the weekly collection here, it’ll still cost you $12.95 a month for the service…And be careful, if you go too far on the Sirius dial, you’ll find yourself in confession on Sunday for listening to Howard Stern.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Roady Meets Radio

Taking a small page out of Apple’s marketing book, XM Satellite Radio announced September 13th that Acura will now install XM radios throughout its entire 2007 model year line. According to the release by Acura and XM, Acura “will now make XM standard equipment on all Acura models.” XM somewhat borrows this idea from Apple Computer, which currently offers an iPod connection in Audis, Volkswagens, Hondas and even Acuras. It is one thing to offer an optional product or service when selling a car, however, the game is intensified when manufacturers start fusing their products with other manufacturers’ products, and installing components standard.

Acura also agreed to exclusively offer XM’s NavTraffic feature in its new models, trying to achieve what companies like Lexus and GM already offer; seamless technology integration. This concept delivers consumers the convenience of having multiple in-dash computer displays, which function as numerous things including a radio, GPS unit and climate control. This new partnership can either make sales, for both companies, go in the right direction or the wrong one. It is almost inconsiderate to install a radio, which requires a monthly operating fee, standard into a car. However, being a higher end car in the sedan market, Acura must have great confidence in what it is doing and that XM will provide an incentive for its new 2007 model line. Likewise, XM will be looking to Acura to provide the catalyst it needs in order to break 8 million customers. Together the two corporations could either make history and set the standard, or drive consumers to start buying Toyotas with strictly AM/FM receivers.

Whatever happens, it’ll be neat to follow each company’s progress.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

"The Move"

So you’ve decided to make the move, are thinking about making the move or are just down right curious about the move. “The move,” of course, refers to the switching from terrestrial to satellite radio. It's a big step and only time will dictate the true possibilities of such an opportunistic medium. Throw the latest innovation of High Definition (HD) radio into the mix, and things really start to get interesting. Confused yet? Don’t be discouraged, the more information you digest about this technology, the more you will want to embrace and own it. A lot of people are either hesitant to enter the world of satellite because they are afraid of technology, or just don’t want to front the “start-up” costs of entering this elite communication world. I, however, have implanted my XM radio onto my hip, as I treat it more like a vital organ than a piece of electronic equipment. What I recommend, is that you allow your hesitations to succumb to the exciting new possibilities of satellite and HD radio, and begin to explore the world of crystal clear audio and commercial-free music. Not to sound too much like an advertisement for satellite radio, I’ll still inevitably pay thirteen bucks a month for the service whether you read this or not.