Thursday, December 15, 2005

Satellite radio, part 3

Yesterday morning I was listening to a local sportstalk show (no I haven't ditched terrestrial radio entirely, nor will I) and heard a hilarious spot stating that "some things should remain free, and radio is one of them." The announcement was "brought to you by the 11,000 radio broadcasters of America."

It was so cheesey my words cannot do it justice. But hearing this on terrestrial radio does give credence to my belief that satellite radio will continue to increase in subscribers and popularity.

Radio station owners/managers are worried, with good reason.

Freedom of choice

I remember when one of my friends, some years ago, said he was disconnecting his cable TV and getting a satellite dish. On my first visit to his home after he made the switch it was easy for me to see why he arrived at that decision. The local cable company had around 50 channels. Not only was there a superior picture quality on the satellite service, but it also provided MANY more channels. Newer networks such as the Game Show Network, Noggin, PBS Kids, and the Discovery Health Channel were available, as was just about every cable TV channel in operation. I remember thinking to myself, “This is wonderful. People don’t have to be at the mercy of their local cable providers, who tend to add and delete channels as they please.” Plus, if you could see the southern sky, you could install a dish and receive their service. The local cable company no longer had a monopoly on service. Since I believe in capitalism, it follows that I also believe competition is a very healthy thing for the consumer.

This concept is also applicable to the medium of radio. I reside in the Phoenix metropolitan area which is a top 20 market. Even with that ranking, there seems to be a lack of diversity on the radio dial. If I want to hear classic country, acoustic jazz, or Jack FM, I’m out of luck, even though these formats exist on terrestrial radio in various other markets. However, with my Sirius system, I can tune into whatever type of music suits my mood at the time. Commercial-free music is just icing on the cake. If I want to listen to adult standards with no top-of-the-hour news breaks, I just tune to stream #75 (Standard Time). If I want classic country, I listen to The Roadhouse or WSM on Sirius, or Hank’s Place or America on XM. Bottom line, if I want it, I’ve got it. Even the most diverse musical tastes can find what they want on either service. Everyone who listens to satellite radio is no longer at the mercy of the program directors of their local terrestrial radio stations. And talk radio? Take the names I listed in an earlier post and add numerous other voices from the political left and right, plus different experts in home improvement, advice, electronics, podcasting, and many other areas of interest. Then throw in a mix of world news from overseas sources and I challenge you to ever be bored with the programming on either satellite service.

Do I listen to the above, or do I stick with terrestrial radio and suffer through infomercials for the duration of a weekend?

The presence and availability of satellite radio may even have the reaction effect of local program directors being more thorough with programming terrestrial stations. A potential win-win for the listeners would be for the larger broadcasting companies to eliminate their “cookie-cutter” programming.

Next: The "forgotten" listeners of smaller markets and the folks who make their living on the road.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Satellite radio, part 2

I will disclose that I am a subscriber to Sirius. I do have DirecTV at my house which also gives me the luxury of listening to XM's music streams. Why I chose Sirius over XM came down to just a few factors. I enjoy the NFL, and being able to listen to all the games for no extra charge was appealing to me. Add to that the availability of the Sirius NFL Channel (all NFL, all the time!) and my hook was baited. I also am a long-time listener of the Dave Ramsey show. Sirius was the first satellite provider to carry his show, and they always have made the three-hour program available in its entirety. XM did pick up the Ramsey show, but shortened it to either two hours or one hour for a time. (XM has since resumed carrying all three hours.) As it was evident Sirius was more committed to Ramsey's program, that was just another factor that swung me to Sirius. However I have nothing negative to say about XM and if they had the NFL, I may have chosen their service.

I also am not an employee of, nor an investor in, either service. (Not an investor as far as I know. I could look closely at my IRA funds and see whether either company shows up. However I think I have established my neutrality about the two companies.)


Recently Geogal was listening to the Hugh Hewitt show. During one segment, Hewitt had a conversation in which he stated his belief that satellite radio would not catch on. (I must admit this is hearsay on my part. I did not hear the piece myself and I didn’t find any type of corroborating entry in Hewitt’s blog.) While I enjoy reading Hewitt’s blog and catch his show when I am able (more on that later), I have to disagree with his stance on satellite radio.

One only need look at the different names who are migrating to satellite radio. Howard Stern seems to be the first name many recall, but there are others. National Public Radio fans will always have fond memories of Bob Edwards from his “Morning Edition” days. Since his sacking by the NPR powers that be, Edwards now holds forth on XM. So for the listener who does not care for the replacement host(s) on “ME,” just purchase XM equipment and a subscription, and you can again enjoy Edwards’on-air style. Depending on your political persuasion, you will undoubtedly find several national gabbers with whom you will agree, regardless if you have Sirius or XM. A glance at the Sirius and XM programming lineup includes names such as: Tony Snow, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Phil Hendrie, Michael Reagan, and Dr. Laura. Granted, all of these talents are heard on terrestrial radio but they seem to have no difficulty or objection to also being available to satellite listeners.

The above names are all affiliated with large syndication companies. Evidently these different radio syndicators had no objection to adding their lineups and talent to the programming available on the two satellite providers. Hewitt’s show is also syndicated (by Salem Broadcasting). In contrast to Hewitt’s view, I believe that within the next year or two the entire Salem lineup will be on at least one of the satellite services.

In part 3, freedom of choice!

Economic development goes into orbit

I interrupt my thoughts on satellite radio to point out this news item.

In 1992 I produced a radio news series about economic development in southern New Mexico. I recall most of what the leaders of the different communities said about attracting new business but none of them could have anticipated this.

If the proposed spaceport actually flies (no pun intended) it will be a boon beyond comparison.

Monday, December 12, 2005

And so it begins, my thoughts on satellite radio

Not that I meant to put it off for this long, it's just that the holiday season creates other demands of one's time. (Sounds like a good excuse, I'll go with it.)

However my timing now seems apropos given the media coverage of Howard Stern and his transition from Infinity Broadcasting (terrestrial) to Sirius (satellite). I am not a Stern fan nor am I enamored with any "shock jocks." Yet Stern's move, I believe, is indicative of something major. The real beginning of the emergence of satellite radio as an accepted medium. Satellite radio gaining mass appeal. Satellite radio being something the average Joe and Judy can afford and actually use. Just look in any news publication and you will see articles about XM and Sirius systems being one of the "hot" electronic gift items this Christmas season. No matter that neither services has yet turned a profit, satellite radio is here to stay.

Can you flash back to 1979-1980? Something called cable TV was starting to be available in major cities, not just rural, isolated towns. No doubt there were people back then who thought: "Why would anyone pay for television when they can get it for free?"

Cable TV caught on like few expected. I predict radio is now in the same metamorphosis.

Are you unfamiliar with satellite radio? Crutchfield has a good primer here.

In part 2, I will outline current trends that support my belief about the future of satellite radio.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Signs of sanity

Picked up my tree-killing news medium this morning and was greeted with this story.

Full disclosure: I am a graduate of New Mexico State. I am a proud Aggie. Yet I was never a fan of these "money games," as some people labled them. Others of my ilk would refer to these contests as "prostitution." According to the powers that were, these games would yield a significant amount of money to the football program and the athletic department. Playing against big-name opponents would also bring additional recognition to NMSU.


As you may suspect, I didn't buy it then (these games began around 1989 or 1990, IIRC) and I still don't believe these games are beneficial. (Save for the contest in 1999 which saw my Aggies beat ASU in Tempe.) What does it do for the morale of the players to get the stuffing beat out of them by schools such as Texas, Alabama, UCLA, etc.?

And what of all this money? It might buy top-of-the-line training equipment for the guys of the gridiron, but years of these big payouts never has resulted in a consistent winning team.

I don't care if it costs 300 grand. Kudos to the NMSU athletic director for making a move in the right direction.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The exciting life

Drop off little one at school. Clean house. Do laundry. Pick up little one at school. Cook evening meal.

An apt description of my life yesterday.

I should count my blessings, though. While it may be a bit cool here this morning (about 32 degrees), at least it's better than living in, say, Minnesota. Feel free to read Lileks' thoughts about frigid temps.

At least a summertime temp of 105 never caused anyone to skid off the road and overturn.

Time to return to my composition about satellite radio. I will begin posting the chapters within a day or two.