Sirius XM Satellite Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI) has taken a bold new step with their Internet Streaming business, Sirius XM Internet Radio, by apdating the apps that work with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) products to include some great new Satellite Radio 2,0 features. While not confirmed, it is our understanding that a new Android app will be launched within six months.
With the addition of Start Now, Tune Start, Pause, Rewind, Fast Forwad, and Show Finder, Sirius XM's Internet streaming service is applying pressure to the likes of Pandora (NYSE:P), Slacker, MOG, and Spotify.
While each of these services has their own uniqueness, audio entertainment is getting to be a more crowded space. With these new features, consumers may now see value in Sirius XM Internet Radio that did not exist before.
Perhaps a good place to start is defining the ways in which Sirius XM competes with the mainstream services out there.
Sirius XM Internet Radio vs. Pandora or Slacker
Both services stream music to consumers. Sirius XM employs a subscription model that will cost consumers about $15 per month and includes talk channels, while Pandora, with very little non-music programming relies on more of a mass market business model which exposes users to advertising to pay the bills. One distinct feature with Pandora is that users can become subscribers and take away the advertisements, while Sirius XM consumers have no less expensive alternative within the service unless they want to haggle with customer service and get a discount..
Pandora utilizes The Music Genome Project to predicatively program their music offering to suit a listeners tastes. The more someone listens the more accurate the genome can become. Sirius XM uses people to curate and program their channels.
With services like Pandora, consumers could skip songs and create any number of channels that continuously adjust to meet a listeners preferences. With Sirius XM, the feed is the feed, and listeners that do not like a song must change the channel, or find what they like elswhere. That dynamic has changed slightly now. Sirius XM now allows you to rewind one song once per hour, or fast forward through an unwanted song five times per hour. While the service does not remember that you disliked that song, at least you can navigate around it. These new satellite Radio 2.0 features offered by Sirius XM make the service more user friendly. It will come in handy if your tastes do not align with the curator assigned to that channel.
Neither service will deliver true "On-Demand" music.
Pandora is a bit more customizable. You can create a channel centered on your favorite band on Pandora, while Sirius XM does not offer that capability.
Pandora is available for free to listeners, while Sirius XM Internet Radio will cost consumers $14.49 per month plus about $1.40 for Royalty fees.
Sirius XM offers many news, talk, and sports channels, while Pandora is mostly music with a bit of comedy mixed in.
The additional ability to control the listening experience offered by Sirius XM brings it more in line with some capabilities of Pandora on a user interaction platform. The big question is whether those features are substantial enough to make up for the difference in cost.
Slacker uses human curation, and has some additional news and sports deals over that which is offered by Pandora. Slacker is also beginning to center heavier on their subscription tiers of service. As a consumer I prefer Slacker to Pandora, and use it frequently. Most of my listening is on Sirius XM though.
Sirius XM vs. MOG or Spotify
Mog and Spotify are much more geared to a subscription model than Pandora or Slacker. In many ways, these companies compete with iTunes more than Sirius XM.
As a subscriber to MOG, I can enjoy true "On-Demand" content and can even download as many songs as I want. As long as I keep current with my 410 subscription I can listen to any song I want, as often as I want, and even enjoy channels that play songs based on my preferences.
From a music perspective I think MOG is about the best of both worlds. For a nominal subscription fee I have full control over my listening experience. However, these services are lacking in non-music content. Sirius XM's 2.0 brings their service up a notch, and combined with their news, comedy, sports, and talk, may now be a better value than what MOG is delivering.
I will not be giving up my MOG or Spotify account any time soon, but these new features from Sirius XM may well have me listening to satellite radio more.
The big thing here is that there is now some customization. One reason I sometimes drift away from Sirius XM's music is because I am hearing too many songs I do not care for, or getting into some pretty repetitive play lists. When this happens, I switch over to my iTunes, power up Slacker, or tune into MOG or Spotify. Once there, those services tend to keep my attention for quite some time.
In my opinion Sirius XM is now poised to make a move into some turf dominated by Pandora. For existing Satellite Radio subscribers, the bump up to include Internet is only a few bucks. I can see many grabbing that option. Especially since Sirius XM launched an "All-Access" pass priced at $199 per year. Where I think the company will be more challenged is getting new people to grab Sirius XM Internet Radio as a stand alone product, which may seem pricey when compared to the other services.
In summary I can see many consumers using at least two of these services on a regular basis. The trick for Sirius XM will be to be one of those two or three services consumers use.
Lest we all forget, iHeartRadio is has a massive offering which now includes Cumulus stations. I am a Sirius XM, Slacker, iTunes, MOG guy, but with an ever changing audio entertainment landscape, there is always room for someone to impress me enough to garner my attention.
Disclosure: I am long SIRI.
Additional disclosure: I have no position in Pandora