Sep 032003
 
Authors: Daniel Hallford

Satellite radio has been slowly squeezing its way onto the airwaves for the last few years, and many people are jumping on the bandwagon.

Satellite radio is the emerging enterprise of beaming signals down from space to produce crystal clear radio on earth. Sirius and XM Radio are both providers of the new satellite service, which you can receive with a special radio, anywhere in the U.S.

Is the satellite radio idea catching on? When choosing between 20 minutes of commercials per hour on your FM dial, or a subscription fee to remove those ads on the satellite dial, Sirius and XM both make a strong case for radio listeners to switch to their service. Sirius and XM have been facing the skepticism of anyone who likes to listen to free radio, and don’t see the need to pay for something they are already getting for free.

And yet, XM and Sirius satellite radio services have many techies and music enthusiasts pointing to the sky and exclaiming “to the future!” XM has pulled an impressive team of programmers from FM radio stations around the nation in an effort to give subscribers some bang for their buck.

“Our job is to push radio beyond traditional limits and win you as a fan,” XM’s official Web site says.

Sirius projects that their service will have 300,000 subscribers by the end of 2003, and will break one million by the end of 2004, according to a CNBC report.

Even with such an optimistic outlook, many people are uncertain if satellite radio is just a passing fad or a new technology that may eventually replace FM radio.

Vice President of Communications Sean Nethery of Colorado Public Radio in Denver is optimistic about the future of FM radio.

“Our role is to provide consistent, meaningful and rich programming,” Nethery said. “We’re trying to provide content that would otherwise be unavailable…. [We’re] helping people learn about the world.”

CPR reported a 25 percent increase in listeners and increased support from the community of the metro area over the past two years. CPR in Denver recently added a second station devoted to classical music, KVOD 90.1 FM. And best of all public radio is still free, 24 hours a day.

But if the selection of music on regular radio is not enough, or the commercials have become too much then plan on dishing out some serious dough for this new technology. It costs about $100 to $129 for a radio receiver, $69.99 for an adapter and anywhere from $60 to $150 to install satellite radio into your car or home. You’re not done yet however, because you still need to pay your $9.95 (XM) or $12.95 (Sirius) monthly fee to use your new gadgets.

However, you’re not paying for just a few channels. Sirius and XM offer at least 100 diverse channels, about 30 of which are commercial free. Sirius plans to add video streaming, along with a sports and stock ticker to future radios.

“Satellite radio is going to hurt commercial radio more that it’s going to hurt non-profit,” said Abby Berendt, music director at KCSU in Fort Collins. “It’s a good progression for the music industry … listeners will have more of a choice.”

It remains to been seen whether Sirius and XM can gather enough subscribers to bring their companies into the green. XM is forecasting their first profit by mid 2004, and Sirius by early 2005. At the beginning of August, Sirius announced revenue at $2.1 million, up from $800,000 last year.

Both XM and Sirius have cut deals with car manufacturers, and if you buy a new Ford, Infinity or GM in the near future, it’s likely you will have the option to put a satellite radio in your car. The Detroit Free Press reported that General Motors is planning to have 1 million cars installed with XM satellite radio receivers as a standard option within six months.

As technology advances, there will always be a new way to hear your music. Your ears will thank you for satellite radio…your bank account won’t.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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