While on vacation in Las Vegas, I have had a great time, taken in some shows, and spent time with my family. I have also been able to maintain what is happening in the news because of my Blackberry. Only a decade ago, a cell phone was not standard equipment for every human aged 12 and up. Now, we are so technologically tethered, that it has become difficult to imagine life without our gadgets.
I took the opportunity today to pick up the weekend edition of USA Today. On the front page was an interesting survey that shows that even in tough times that people seem to feel that their gadgets are even more important now than ever before.
In 2006 the Pew Research Center conducted a survey of items that people felt were a necessity. The same survey was conducted a couple of weeks back, and the results were very interesting. It would appear that items that people categorize as necessities has shifted substantially. Microwaves are out, and iPods are in. In these poor economic times who would have imagined that this would be the case? In 2006 68% called a microwave a necessity, now that number is 47%! In 2006 television was at 64%, today it is at 52%!
Air conditioning lost 16 points, dishwashers lost 14, and clothes dryers lost 17! Times are perceived as bad, so perhaps these numbers are a sign of people cutting back...But then again, look at some other items, and you may begin to question priorities. Flat screen televisions gained three points. High speed Internet gained 2. iPods gained 1 point, and cell phones remained flat.
What we are seeing here is a shift in the thinking of consumers. Does this mean that satellite radio, considered a luxury by many, actually has a chance of being considered a necessity? Well, there is no evidence from this survey to indicate that SDARS is any more or less important to people. It simply was not among the data entered. However, there is a clear shift in what people are considering a necessity today, and electronic gadgets seem to be stable.
This survey alone does not point to anything specific with regard to SDARS. In fact, the subscriber numbers in SDARS have not been very good over the past several months, and that trend is not likely to reverse when Q1 numbers are reported. I feel it would be a stretch to categorize SDARS as a must have item, but it was the flat panel television and iPod data that made me stop and ponder. Many readers here are also subscribers, and many have stated that they would never return to terrestrial radio. I myself feel that I will always have a subscription. iPod has reached a critical mass. Satellite simply is not to that point yet, and this is precisely why they need to do the little things that will keep existing subscribers and bring in new ones. In this economy a task such as this is challenging at best, but if SDARS is to grow and get to profits it needs to happen.
There does exist a core group of subscribers that are "lifers" when it comes to SDARS. Given the fact that it has been demonstrated that an iPod can become a necessity to many gives SDARS a bit of hope that it will be able to ride through the tough times, and could perhaps do very well when the perception of the economy improves.
We are living in interesting times. I guess there are people out there that would be happy to hang clothes on racks in their kitchen as long as they can do it listening to their iPod and watching a flat screen television.
Position - Long Sirius XM