Howard and Sirius

If it weren’t for Howard, Sirius would be out of business.

Let us count the ways Sirius sucks.

Number one, reception.  If word got out how often you lose signal with Sirius ONLY Howard fanatics would subscribe.  It’s a constant stream of dropouts.  Just ask anybody with the service, or who rents a car with Sirius installed, that’s the first thing they tell me, how you just can’t GET IT!  Maybe it’s not enough terrestrial repeaters.  Maybe it’s the moving satellites.  But I’m SURE it’s the short buffer.  Maybe one keeps receiving XM because an engineer a decade ago calculated the length of tunnels and the amount of time people spent driving under trees and figured out how much data needed to be stored so programming would be continuous.  I lose Sirius in the McClure tunnel (from Interstate 10 to PCH/the beach…just a few seconds long).  I lose Sirius driving from Sunset to Will Rogers Park.  I lose Sirius driving on the 405 by the cemetery in Westwood, where there’s not even a tall building in sight.

Number two, limited playlists.  Yes, there are a few stations on Sirius playing the unexpected, like Disorder, but so many of the stations play the same damn tunes you heard on terrestrial radio, just without the commercial interruptions.  It would be like watching the CW without commercials.  WHO THE FUCK CARES!  What we want is something new, something above the dreck, something that respects us, like HBO.  This is what sells XM.  It’s not beholden to the system, the charts, SoundScan, the deejays are told to play what they like, and A LOT OF IT!

Number three, the deejay patter.  My younger sister rented a car with Sirius and had to turn it off because the deejay was rambling inanities about his weekend.  As she told me, WHO THE FUCK CARES!  This is the kind of good-timey appeal to a lowest common denominator tripe that made droves turn away from terrestrial radio.  The only person seemingly AT this party are the deejay and those who might be in the studio.

But it gets worse.  You can’t easily scroll through the stations to see what else is on Sirius because it takes so damn long for the titles to appear.  They’re instant on XM, you can scroll through dozens of stations quickly to find something appealing.  Whereas it takes minutes just to run through the ROCK stations on Sirius.  For each time you shift, you have to wait to see what you’re hearing.  (Then again, too many times you already know the track, as per above.)

But Sirius has Howard.  And Howard Stern is the number one brand in radio.  And he’s better than he’s ever been.

I tuned in Howard 100 today because I got an e-mail that Bruce Hornsby was going to appear.

Instead I got Nick and Aaron Carter.

Nick Carter proceeded to sling the dirt on every girl he ever fucked.  Told about that Florida teacher who seduced her student being his first.  Talked about Paris Hilton.  Even Firecrotch, who he did everything BUT fuck.

And then his little brother got on and told about being emancipated from his mother.  And how she stole so much of his money.  How he hadn’t spoken to her in two years, but went to visit her on Mother’s Day.  And how her dream now is to open a hot dog stand.

But what was truly fascinating was how uneducated both these twits were.  The grammatical faux pas were both irritating and devastating to anyone with a high school diploma.  These idiots were revealed to be what they are.  Good-looking kids whose heyday is behind them.  THIS the public should hear.  To show how vapid and UNAPPEALING the people in the tabloids truly are.  If you want to hang with these people, I feel SORRY for you.

And when I got back in my car after my appointment, Howard was hyping the Sirius Stiletto, their new portable device.  Based on XM’s Inno and MyFi, and Sirius reception in my car and home, I’d be STUNNED if you could truly walk around listening to a Stiletto.  But Howard and his gang didn’t get into this, it’s all hype all the time, which is how it’s ALWAYS been with him, so maybe I forgive him.

But then Howard featured a guy who has a show on his alternate channel, Red Peters.  Who writes songs…

Hell, go to the iTunes Store.  It’s no Wal-Mart, there are no "decency" limits.  Search on Red Peters.  And play the snippet of his track "When I Jerk Off, I Think Of You".

I’d like to tell you the track is great, it’s not, it’s a one listen joke.  But the story behind it!

Howard and Red got into it.  How when guys jerk off it’s a slideshow of women.  Almost never featuring the girl they’re PRESENTLY in a relationship with.  And they end up focusing on one particular person…  Howard always climaxes to this famous woman who gave him a blow job prior to his getting together with Beth.

God, one can barely discuss masturbation with a partner.  Yet, here on the radio, is Howard speaking truth.  THIS is why people tune in.

And then they played this track by Larry Pierce.

Oh, the title on his Website and on iTunes…  That’s a decoy.  The track isn’t "Good Hard Screwing", but "Good Hard FUCKING"!  Listen to the iTunes snippet, you’ll hear the dirty word, you’ll hear the ESSENCE!

Howard uses "fuck" ALL THE TIME on Sirius.  He’s cutting edge in a way that no one on the terrestrial band is.  Yet almost nobody is listening.

It appears that satellite radio is heading for a cliff.  Especially Sirius.  For Sirius gives a free one year subscription with the new cars of companies they’re aligned with, and so many of those one years are about to run out.  And the churn rate on free car hookups for XM aren’t much better.  Supposedly, there’s now a fifty percent DISCONNECT RATE!

Satellite radio is yesterday’s news.  Fighting between themselves, XM and Sirius ruined their financials and just didn’t get their message across to consumers, who now have options, like the iPod.  XM is a music goldmine, not that you’d know that from the marketing.  Yet somehow someone convinced these guys it was about stars, and stars don’t matter, unless they’re RADIO stars, like Howard Stern.

It’s almost like the sixties all over again.  Something is happening on the fringe, in the underground, if you’re hip you belong, otherwise you’re out of the loop.  But the difference here is Howard was mainstream FIRST!  Will he end up bringing people to him?  Not listening, you’d have to say no.  But catch his Sirius show and you start to wonder, if somehow people could only hear what they’re missing, if only they could get a taste, they’d want more.  MUCH more.

From the 8/15/06 "Wall Street Journal" re churn:

XM won an early advantage when GM quickly started hardwiring XM radios into more than two dozen 2003 models; other car makers dragged their feet. By 2006, XM was in about 35% of the four million or so U.S. passenger cars sold by GM. The car maker ploughed $50 million into XM’s convertible debt and the radio company agreed to pay GM $400 million through 2009 to be its exclusive partner, giving both sides a big incentive to cooperate.

But XM soon learned that installing radios in the dash isn’t enough. GM dealers tried to sell XM subscriptions to car buyers, but few bit. Starting with 2003 models, GM launched a free three-month trial. About 55% of those customers sign up for a paid subscription, at the regular price of $12.95 a month, when the trial runs out. The free-trial model would later be widely adopted by other car makers.

To battle drivers’ apathy, the radio companies started thrusting free trials on consumers. Up until late last year, people who bought DaimlerChrysler cars with Sirius had to call an 800-number to get it activated, says Mike Kane, director of product strategy at Chrysler. When large numbers of customers failed to dial in, the car maker had the radios turned on at the factory, allowing customers to start listening as early as their test drives. GM and other car makers use the same technique.

Mr. Kane says Chrysler won’t know until the end of the year if the switch will boost the number of converts from free to paid subscriptions. That is because Chrysler models come with one full year of Sirius, paid for in advance by the car makers at a discounted rate. Some Ford models recently bumped up the trial period to three years from six months.

A wave of the one-year trials will begin ending soon, providing some indication of how many real subscribers will emerge from the car programs. So far, well over half of Sirius’s 1.4 million car-based subscribers don’t pay directly for their service, according to James Dix, an analyst at Deutsche Bank who has a buy on both companies. Sirius has 4.7 million subscribers in total.

Many analysts say that "churn," the percentage of subscribers who don’t renew, could rise significantly at Sirius in coming months as the trials begin to expire. Until now, churn at Sirius has held steady around 1.8% monthly for the past couple of quarters. At XM, which measures that figure differently, it’s hovered around the same level, but it’s likely to rise there, too. Analysts expect churn to increase at both companies as their customer bases widen beyond the enthusiastic early adopters, who are more likely to cling to their subscriptions year after year.

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