With the 2009 debt taken care of, I have started to look towards the future. What I see is not very encouraging. Circumstances have most certainly been stacked against Mel and Co. with an unprecedented 18 month merger process and now well within the grips of the credit crisis, but that is no excuse for the company to remain stagnant. After all, a company that is not growing is dying. Sirius XM may not be dying, but it is certainly broken at this time. There are things that could be done with little to no costs to the company which could do a lot towards the image of Sirius XM, as well as potentially draw revenue. Why are they not being done?
#1 Create a Decent Web Player/Interface
As others have mentioned, the Sirius XM web interface is archaic and buggy. There is no unified website yet other than a generic front page which makes you choose between Sirius and XM. The different websites are virtually identical, with many of the links on the XM website pointing to the Sirius site (such as the investor relations link). Why not come up with a unified website to remove much of the confusion regarding the merger? It has been over 6 months, and still nothing? Now subscribers have to deal with a price hike for the online feeds? Give us something to justify the price hike.
#2 Get into other technologies!
I find it absurd that Sirius XM has not developed an iPhone app yet (though there are confirmed rumors that something will be released soon). As both a subscriber and investor, I have been looking forward to this app for a LONG time. StarPlayr has a nice app that is in Beta for the iPhone right now (though their application was recently denied), but why has it taken so long (and with no official announcement) for Sirius XM to act? Why isn’t Sirius XM trying to monetize this idea themselves? They are in a credit crisis after all, right? The app will be free, but will they include a download button where the user can download the song that they are listening to, which also gives a cut to Sirius XM? It is a no-brainer win/win for Sirius XM, the consumer and even Apple. Why isn’t it here? If there is a reason that it is not out, let us know. What about getting into Xbox? Roku? GPS units?
#3 Develop a demand for the product
Sirius XM does not have any “cool” factor. How many people have said “wow, is that an iPhone?” I have heard that quite a few times. How many have ever said “Wow, is that XM?” Never heard it myself. Sirius XM needs to brand itself much better. What about something as simple as bumper stickers, showing that you are a loyal listener to Sirius XM radio? Give one or two to each person when they buy a new vehicle to make them more aware (and curious) about Sirius XM. Mail out a couple to all of the current subscribers. Every single person driving down the road will see Sirius XM bumper stickers. Initially, it will not mean anything, but what happens when 10% or 20% of the cars out there have a Sirius XM Bumper sticker? People will be curious about the product.
What about community? There is more community here on SiriusBuzz than there is over the entire Sirius XM network. Why do individual program directors and DJs have to have MySpace, Twitter, and Face Book pages? Sirius XM needs to develop a community within their own website as added value for existing subscribers and to raise awareness to those potential subscribers.
#4 Capitalize on the bandwidth.
With the channel revisions and some recent cuts made, there is enough bandwidth to add 5 channels on each service (one country, one rock, one alternative, etc) which the company could broadcast to EVERY radio out there (even non-subscribers) which they could monetize using commercial advertising so that people can get a taste of the programming available on Sirius XM. Once each commercial break, air a commercial stating that all of these commercials could be eliminated by subscribing to the service for as low as $4.99 per month. The technology already exists to allow these channels to nonsubscribers (remember the hurricane channels that they made available to all radios?). Perhaps this could even be the launching platform for ideas that are being thought about for the subscriber base, or perhaps you could even bring back a few of the channels that were canceled in the recent channel change as a commercial-based broadcast. I have always said that once you try the product, you will be hooked for life.
#5 Start the Media Blitz NOW.
Slacker and Pandora are announcing various advancements on an almost weekly basis. People actually pay attention to this kind of stuff, especially techies who like new gadgets. The only thing anyone ever hears about Satellite Radio is how it is doing so horribly and is going bankrupt because of falling subscribers and insurmountable debt. We all know how crooked the media is, but it is all about perception. This virtual silence is killing the investors and not doing a damn thing to change the image of the company that customers see.
XM once solicited for user generated commercials but I never saw one on TV. Do it again and offer a lifetime subscription as the prize. Upgrade/refresh auto dealer’s displays of the SatRad. Give up some cash to move the displays at Best Buy from the car audio section (generally in the back of the store where no one goes) to up front near the iPods and MP3 players. GET INTO THE PUBLIC VIEW.
All of these are things that the company could be doing right now, with little or no financial strain (other than the advertising part). They all seem like such common sense steps yet, they are not being done. While Sirius XM has the potential to be a true powerhouse in the not-so-distant future, the company is broken right now. Are they willing to take the necessary steps to help themselves? Only time will tell.
Position: Long Sirius XM