The Kids Are Only 'Sirius' About FM

Includes: CBS, CMLS, ETM, F, SIRI
by: Garland Pollard
I got a letter from SiriusXM (NASDAQ:SIRI) about a month ago. It told me that they would be giving us a free, three-month trial of their Sirius satellite radio service. Our blue carpool machine, a 2008 Ford (NYSE:F) Taurus X wagon, had a satellite radio installed, but we do not subscribe.
As a middle-aged fogey, I am seriously enjoying the Siriusly Sinatra channel number 75, as well as the news channels, but my kids do not. The Sinatra channel plays hours of Frank. Very often, Nancy Sinatra is on as announcer, telling stories about the songs and playing her favorites. The other day, Herb Alpert was on with his wife Lani Hall (she of sultry Brazil '66), and they were reminiscing about Richard Carpenter, who recorded on Alpert’s legendary label, A&M. People pay for that sort of thing.
But as much as I am enjoying it, the kids don't want any of the channels, and they rule the radio most times. They want plain old FM. My seven year old girl says “Magic 94.9 please” every time she gets in the car. The "94.9" is WWRM, a Tampa Cox Radio adult contemporary station that seems firmly entrenched in the old media ways. Mornings have an innocuous radio show with “Chadd and Kristi” and evenings are spent with the syndicated and syrupy Delilah Show. Promotions are classic radio, circa 1978; a “Workday Whistle” allows "caller number 94" to win $500 by naming the song. The playlist, highly regimented, includes music from Miley Cyrus to Nickelback to UB40 to Sarah McLachlan.

The teen aged girls also want the FM.The Sirius programming just doesn’t resonate with them. When I asked the teens what their friends listened to, it was either iPod or FM.

That fits with what is happening with "archaic" radio stocks, where there is still life. It has been a difficult few years for radio stocks, but they are pulling out of a slump, including Cumulus Media Inc (NASDAQ:CMLS), CBS and Entercom Communications (NYSE:ETM).
But back to Sirius. Some of their programming moves just don’t resonate. Last March, they actually issued a press release about a Tiger Blood channel, which consisted of regurgitated content related to various vixens of Charlie Sheen. Here is the PR Newswire mention:

During the exclusive, limited run channel, SiriusXM listeners will hear archival Playboy Radio clips featuring "Goddess"/current live-in girlfriend Bree Olson, a Playboy Radio contributor. In addition, Sheen's ex-fiancee/Spice Radio host Ginger Lynn shares stories of her relationship with him on Tiffany Granath's Playboy Radio show...

I kid you not. It was not April Fools, but was dated March 4. Do they not have anything better to do? Does this indicate a long-term audience strategy?
In addition, the racy Playboy radio channel is offered without easy blocking, which is hardly family friendly. Certainly there might be a market for this, but when the carpool mom is the #1 queen of the U.S. radio dial, it seems like a free trial offer sent to a Ford wagon might not include that content.
So when the packet to sign up arrived (including a stunning eight pages of terms and conditions), I ignored it. Heck, I can plug in an iPhone and get all manner of excellent programming from Clear Channel’s I Heart Radio app or the Public Radio app. Or I can go straight to the source, with individual apps from leading stations like WABC. All better than $16.49 a month and unhappy carpooling.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.