Thursday, March 01, 2007

Today's Washington Post has yet-another-story about the proposed merger between XM and Sirius. Apparently Congress is real skeptical of a combined XM/Sirius being able to keep prices low and programming fresh.

What I can't understand: Why is Congress only JUST NOW looking at the possible ramifications of a monopoly in broadcasting? Clear Channel, Chancellor, Bonneville, CBS, et al... could buy as many stations of terrestrial radio as they wanted in as many cities as they wanted, eliminate thousands of jobs, stifle innovation, limit format choice and program diversity, and they, along with the FCC, turned a blind eye.

But just because XM and Sirius want to merge, and possibly *need* to merge, suddenly they're looking out for the consumer.

I am a proud XM subscriber. I chose XM over Sirius because I liked the overall music choice and baseball package on XM much more than Sirius' fewer musical offerings and football. However, a combination of the two companies would offer football and baseball, Howard Stern and Opie and Anthony, Oprah, Bob Dylan, Eminem and Little Steven and countless other benefits to the market. Many people who truly enjoy listening to the radio have already switched over - take a look at satrads' TSL (time spent listening) over traditional radio, and terrestrial radio has not improved enough or responded to the changes in the marketplace to win back many converts. HD radio is a nebulous, expensive proposition for many consumers.

Both companies are bleeding money. They both are going to have to either:

1) cut back on talent expenses
2) operating expenses
3) satellite and ground-repeater maintenance
4) increase licensing fees to hardware manufacturers
5) raise monthly subscription fees
6) a combination of any or all of the above to survive.

I fail to see how the consumer suffers any more or less if some of these actions are taken by the individual companies or merged company.

To me, the whole issue is a living monster created by the Dr. Frankenstein of the Telecom Act of 1996 and the electrical storm of an FCC without proper focus. They care more about exposed boobs than the competitive marketplace. The record labels complain about falling sales, and radio - still the recording industry's best way of distributing new music - is as stagnant as a dry lake bed. Radio listenership is declining, and the advent of iPods make it easy to listen to music you already own, and hard to find new music to like.

It's the Perfect Storm, but without George Clooney.

Perhaps a more dynamic traditional radio would help the record labels if they had a stronger, more viable competitor in a merged XM/Sirius?

There's more than one way to look at this, Congress.

1 comment:

NSAreject said...

"In-Stat: Digital Radio Set to Take Off"

"In 2006, 73 percent of respondents to an In-Stat U.S. consumer survey were aware of HD Radio on some level."

"Sirius, XM, and HD: Consumer interest reality check" (Alexaholic)

"While interest in satellite radio is diminishing, interest in HD shows no signs of a pulse."

This just confirms, the lack of interest for HD Radio, on Google Trends:

"Rethinking AM's Future"

"Only 175 or so AM stations have even licensed AM-HD. For a number of reasons, quite a few have tried it and taken it off the air, or so the anecdotal evidence suggests. Ibiquity no longer reports in its public summaries whether a station is on the air. Making AM-HD work well as a long-term investment is seen as an expensive and risky challenge for most stations and their owners. With the bulk of successful AMs airing news, talk and sports, the improved fidelity advantage of HD and stereo seem only marginally attractive. There is the significant downside of potential new interference to some of their own AM analog listeners as well as listeners of adjacent-channel stations. And of course we still have no nighttime authority for AM-HD."

Existing RDS has the same texting functions, as HD/IBOC. For now, HD Radio/IBOC is dead.