Satellite Radio Is Radio

Yesterday, I wrote a piece called "NPR Is Not Radio". You can see it by scrolling down or, if you receive my blog via email, log on.

Basically, the gist was that my young students don't consider NPR radio. Radio to them is what consolidators do. They don't much like it.

Someone sent me a copy of the Arbitron National Satellite Report for Spring of 2007 and I've got to tell you that based on the results, satellite radio is radio. Terrestrial radio. And I'm not sure that is a compliment.

The satellite Arbitrons (based on diary entries) tell me a few things:

1. Hit music formats get the best ratings (any program director could have told you that, but still...).

2. Howard Stern is satellite radio with the highest ratings (about 1.2 million cume) of any satellite channel. Hell, his second channel "Howard 1o1" does half a million. Stern is the Sirius franchise so lay off of Mel on this one. He was right to open the vault and give the big money to Stern.

3. Satellite operators should pray for the People Meter because they can only do better if satellite listening is automatically picked up. Can you imagine how under reported satellite radio listening is in a diary system?

4. Satellite operators need to subscribe to Arbitron. They are going it alone now because ratings matter less to satellite stations that don't run commercials (duh!). But satellite will carry commercials eventually. I promise. And when they have an audience to sell, they'll have to use ratings to sell them. (It's like promising no new taxes and all of a sudden, you get what? -- a tax hike. Same will be true of commercials on satellite music channels).

5. Niche formats -- the ones you'd think attract subscribers who'd be happy to pay for satellite channels -- do poorly. Sometimes very poorly. Sirius Underground Garage has about 45,000 cume listeners. XM's Fungus has 44,000. It might be better to turn the electricity off and save some money. But...the long tail theory applies to satellite radio as it does to popular music. All those little "low rated" channels make up what's called the satellite radio audience.

If you're a satellite radio subscriber as I am (three cars with satellite radio), then you finally get an idea of whether you are one of many or left out there in left field. My wife, for example, loves Sirius Hair Nation (337,700) and I favor Sirius Totally 70's (301,00) -- sorry XM, my cars only come with Sirius. I didn't make it that way -- you did! Especially because I like a lot of XM channels as well. I just can't get them in my cars. Damn -- for me. Sorry -- for satellite radio.

Satellite radio is terrestrial radio in so many ways.

It's run by ex or current terrestrial radio people. Some satellite jocks also have gigs on terrestrial channels. You get the point.

It sounds like terrestrial radio -- too many loopy jocks and too much radio production. Even top of the hour station breaks that the FCC doesn't warrant. Channel hype. Bored djs. The whole thing.

Satellite radio hypes non-stop music commercial free. Sounds to me like -- you guessed it, terrestrial radio.

Jingles! Yes.

So what am I saying?

If NPR is not radio -- at least according to representatives of the next generation known as my USC students -- satellite radio is an alien mother ship in outer space (I like that). But if the next generation would listen -- and so far, they won't -- they'd get hit music with no commercials and Howard Stern with commercials. True, they'd get many niche formats they can't get on terrestrial radio, but then again they can get them for free on the Internet.

The next generation holds NPR in higher esteem than commercial radio. That's why my students wouldn't insult NPR by calling it radio.

But somehow satellite radio has become terrestrial radio on a subscription -- a paid subscription.

Satellite is a world where the hits keep on coming. Big radio stars like Stern dominate. And their many innovative channels still appeal to small groups of devotees.

The choices are shaping up like this:

Terrestrial radio -- free mass communications.

NPR -- not as bad as terrestrial radio.

Satellite -- the same as terrestrial radio.

Can you see why radio is on the decline, NPR is defying the delivery system it is on and satellite radio can't seem to get revved up.

Internet radio?



Free to be all the little things its diverse audience wants it to be.

And coming soon to a WiFi, WiMax or cell phone enabled device near you.

If I'm terrestrial or satellite radio right now, I'm going to cut the crap and get down to the business of programming content to a generation that doesn't care about fidelity, craves diversity and choice, rejects radio formatics and will pay next to nothing.

Or, turn off all those channels you're aiming at the next generation because they're not going to hear them. Program to the available audience -- Gen X and baby boomers who do want the satellite or terrestrial signal.

Forget HD, bickering between terrestrial radio and satellite radio, Wall Street investors and the like (Am I alright? Did I really say forget Wall Street?).

It's time for a timeout.

Rethink who the market is and how you're going to make them addicted to your content.

They decide.

You report -- to them.

For those of you who would prefer to get Jerry's daily posts by email for free, please click here. Then check your mail or spam filter to initiate service.

Thanks for forwarding my pieces to your friends.