With less than 3 weeks until Christmas, Manhattan based, SIRIUS Satellite Radio (SIRI) is poised to surpass 3 million subscribers by the end of 2005. SIRIUS recently finished the third quarter ending September 30, 2005 with 2.2 million subscribers. Washington DC based XM Satellite Radio (XMSR), who launched their service one year earlier than SIRIUS, surpassed 5 million subscribers at the end of the same time period and has set its year end target at 6 million. From the beginning of year through September 2005 SIRIUS and XM have dueled in the market place with each adding 1 million and 1.8 million new subscribers respectively. The race to be the king of satellite radio is far from the finish - something you have likely noticed with all of the advertisements by both companies as the holiday season marches on.
In a major stride to close the subscriber deficit SIRIUS is spending $100 million a year to bring the self proclaimed "King of All Media" Howard Stern from Infinity Broadcasting to SIRIUS in January 2006. Howard's current on-air show has an estimated 6 million listeners. SIRIUS has also lined up more sports programming than XM. While XM offers Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, Indy Car Racing and NASCAR, SIRIUS has signed deals to provide regular season and playoff programming with the NFL, the NBA and the NHL. SIRIUS has also courted NASCAR programming away from XM and will begin broadcasting in 2007.
XM makes up for its lack of sports programming with well known theme programming by Snoop Dogg, MTV and VH1. XM has also launched, Talk Five, a new channel dedicated to women that will feature comedian Ellen DeGeneres of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show", model Tyra Banks of "America's Next Top Model" along with content from the Food Network and HGTV. With a counter offensive of their own SIRIUS has been able to respond with programming by Eminem, Richard Simmons, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen classics and the resilient home making Queen Martha Stewart (MSO). Below we have broken down the content by company -
Terrestrial radio stations have clearly heard the footsteps of satellite radio and responded today. Clear Channel Radio (CCU) and Emmis Broadcasting (EMMS) along with several other radio companies announced the formation of the High Definition Radio Alliance to promote the expansion of digital radio and to combat the loss of subscribers to satellite radio. While improving the quality of sound is a step in the right direction for terrestrial radio content must still be addressed.
Since SIRIUS and XM both charge customers $12.95 for their services programming is becoming more critical to each providers success. While both SIRIUS and XM have comparable 100% commercial free music programming along with news, weather and talk it is the service specific programming options that will win or lose customers. XM has built a formidable lead over the upstart SIRIUS by being first to enter the marketplace and by continuing to add new programming. However SIRIUS is up to the challenge by banking on its stable of new personalities including Simmons and Stewart along with its big bet on Stern to close the gap and deliver many new subscriptions this holiday season.