With the Sirius/XM merger all wrapped up, the street has turned to looking at what the future holds for the new SIRIUS XM Radio. Today's conference call did little to answer that question, other than the ever famous "We are looking into it", and the "We will be reporting to you frequently." This was not the answer that I wanted to hear, but I realize that they have only been married for a week and haven't had time to go through everything yet (as they were prohibited from doing it before). Therefore, I have created my own vision of what I would like the future to hold for SIRIUS XM Radio.
1) In the conference call today, Mel Karmazin repeated the fact that a-la-carte would require a new radio. The technology is available to do this on existing radios, to some extent. While true a-la-carte would probably require a new radio, XM does have some content/channels which requires the consumer to call to activate. They also offer the ability to block certain channels, such as the extreme language channels. Sirius needs to quickly reach out to the XM subscribers and offer their biggest asset, which is Howard Stern. Perhaps with Stern broadcasting on both spectrum's, they can set Stern to be premium content for XM sooner rather than later. If the move would entice even 5% of XM's subscribers to pick up this premium channel at $4 per month, this would bring in an additional $22 million dollars per year in just subscriber fees, at no added expense to the company and does not factor in additional ad revenue. A change like this can be done immediately.
2) Interoperable Radios really need to be available before Thanksgiving. "Black Friday" is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year. In order to truly breathe some new life into the retail market, SIRIUS XM Radio need to make a concerted effort to get these radios on store shelves by Black Friday, and have a large advertising campaign at least a month before that. The regulatory delay may have made this difficult, but hopefully Interoperable Technologies, Inc. has been working behind the scenes to make this a reality.
3) Renegotiate OEM contracts in a way that make sense for EVERYONE involved. As Tyler pointed out in his article Serious OEM Potential For SIRIUS XM Radio, there is a way to renegotiate these deals where EVERYONE makes money. In addition to this, SIRIUS XM needs to push OEM's to transition to interoperable radios as soon as possible, and push for 100% penetration as soon as possible. It only makes sense, and if the OEMs are making decent money off of these deals, why would they have a problem with it?
4) Transition to an advertising-based business model. WHAT?!?! Yes. Sirius has the capabilities (and the patents) to switch their business model to an advertising based business model, while still maintaining their subscription based business model. It is called a layering technology. By using the radio ID, it accesses the system to see if you have a subscription. If you do have a subscription, then all you hear is music....No commercials. If you do not have a subscription, then for 10-15 minutes each hour, instead of a song that lasts 2 minutes 30 seconds, you get 2 minutes 30 seconds worth of advertising. Of course, each burst of advertising has a voice over saying something like, "If you are tired of these commercials, call customer care to subscribe today for as low as $6.99/month!". This will effectively cause all radios to be usable, and allow you to create additional advertising revenue. Of course key content such as Howard, O&A, NFL, etc., will not have any free listening privileges (content is king, after all).
5) Continue to work with dealerships to work on the Used Car market. In the article Betting On Used Cars, Tyler states that in his opinion, the used car market should be considered an added bonus for now. While I understand his point and I do agree, I feel that if the dealerships are able to sell the deal mentioned above in new cars, they will probably be willing to do something similar in the used market. There is a potential 20 million radios out there that could be reactivated, with more being added to this number every day.
In summary, I am looking for the combined SIRIUS XM Radio to start delivering some impressive products and services pretty quickly. Mel already had a plan in mind when he proposed this merger, and I do not see him slowing down now. I eagerly await the future of SIRIUS XM Radio. Do you have ideas on what important moves these companies need to make? Feel free to share them here, or over in the Forums.
Disclosure: Long SIRI