For quite some time I had harped on the fact that I felt SiriusXM (NASDAQ:SIRI) needed to embrace its Internet platform for growth. Yes, the royalties are higher, but the Internet platform offered a wealth of potential that included the ability to offer more content, customized content, and even services like On-Demand. When the company finally announced its Satellite Radio 2.0 intentions I was quite happy. Then satellite radio 2.0 “rolled out” and it was essentially a thud at first blush. As we quickly learned, the roll out was more of a soft launch with all of the better aspects of the service to be delivered later.
First was a desperately needed upgrade of the mobile platforms. Things were looking up. Then came the launch of On-Demand. Things were even better still. This Fall we should see personalized radio happen. That will be a sweet day. Still, the service is not perfected though. In order to approach perfection the company needs to make all of these services as seamless as possible. That day is not here yet, but it is approaching, and when it does SiriusXM could finally realize the Titan potential that we have all envisioned at some point along the way.
By seamless I am referring to the ability to instantly shift between the Internet platform and the satellite platform in the car in a manner in which the consumer does not even realize the switch. You see, as great as satellite delivery is, it is a one way street. The satellite beam down a signal that the consumer receives. There is no way for the consumer to send any information back to the satellite. In point of fact, not only does SiriusXM not know what you are listening to, they do not even know whether or not your radio is even on. On the other hand, we have SiriusXM Internet Radio which is easily a two way platform. You can stream a station, the company knows that you are streaming it, and if something on that channel wants feedback, you can give it.
Picture yourself in you car. Picture the screen of the stereo showing SiriusXM channel categories. Picture going to the pop category. Picture the various channels being displayed on the screen. All you want to do is listen to BBC Radio One. Shoot! That is only on SiriusXM Internet Radio! Hang on… let me pull out my smartphone, open the app, and stream BBC Radio One. Problem solved! Therein lies the problem though. The experience was not seamless.
Now picture the same situation with the BBC Radio One stream as a choice in the pop channels menu on my dashboard. As a consumer do I really care how my music is delivered? The company could simply put an Internet icon next to BBC Radio One, indicating to me that I will be using data. The default setting for any channel could be satellite first, Internet second. To the consumer it is invisible and that is the whole idea. Traveling through a tunnel listening to Classic Rewind where satellite does not work? The secondary option of the Internet feed kicks in, and boom! I am still listening! Exit the tunnel and the switch back to satellite happens automatically! That is seamless.
Let’s take this a step further. You love the Howard Stern Show and want to listen while you drive. You simply use On Demand to listen to the show when you want to. That feature comes from the SiriusXM Internet Radio side. What if that experience was in your dashboard and seamless to you as a consumer. Do you see why getting to seamless integration is such a big deal?
Now let’s shift gears. How does all of this happen? Cellular connections are required, and SiriusXM is not a cellular provider! Consider what Verizon recently did with its pricing plans. The plan is called “Share Everything”. It let’s consumers share a pool of talk, text, and data. Do you have a iPad that you want to surf the net with anywhere? Simply add it to your plan for $10 per month. Picture that capability in your car now. Do you have a car that you want connected to the Internet? Simply add your car to the plan at $10 per month. Wait, cars are not connected! That is true now, but already the connected car is in the early stages of being quite real. It is estimated that some 30 million connected cars will be on U.S. roadways by 2017. Already, many cars are “sort-of-connected” via the smartphone on your hip. Verizon has already inked deals with Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and Kia.
Recently SiriusXM announced a pretty big leap in capability in a deal with Nissan that brings a suite of telematics services to the dashboard. That deal is bigger than many realize. It spe3aks to using cellular in conjunction with satellite. Essentially it speaks to a seamless solution. There are some that speculate that there is a deal between SiriusXM and AT&T. No such deal has been announced as yet. The two companies did arrive at a compromise, and submitted it to the FCC for consideration, on the WCS spectrum that sits adjacent to the SiriusXM spectrum, but that does not necessarily mean that the two have any relationship beyond that. It is possible that SiriusXM could lease some spectrum from AT&T for the purpose of data transmission that could allow the services outlined in the Nissan deal. That cellular connection has to come from somewhere. It is also quite possible that the services will simply rely on consumer plans. We will know more when the company speaks to it in the coming quarters.
While much of this will take some time to roll out, the sooner the company can accomplish a seamless experience the better. With the audio entertainment landscape getting more and more crowded, it is essential that SiriusXM try their best to keep people tuned into their service. The simple way to do that is to make it seamless and keep people within the realm of SiriusXM as much as possible.