Is It Time to Put Sirius XM on Deathwatch?

One of my primary online pastimes is watching technology I like go through agonizing death spirals.  TIVO is still twitching a little, and I had hope that the not-so-forthcoming new DirecTV box was going to spur a comeback of Billsian, if not Biblical, proportions.  I’m in a wait and see mode, but not as hopeful as I’d like to be.

Another technology I have enjoyed is satellite radio.  I’ve been an XM subscriber for years, and the merger with Sirius gave me the improved Classic Vinyl station, and the far too Americana (I greatly prefer alt. country) Outlaw Country.  And I lost track of Bill Anderson‘s excellent talk show (which should be released on a CD boxed set).  But overall, I thought the merger was necessary and, at worst, a wash for listeners.

Yet the combined Sirius XM continues to lose subscribers.  My personal view is that they way overpaid for the Oprahs and Howards, which I have no interest in, and sports, which I have interest in, but not via radio.  As a result, they have to charge me more to subsidize those who care about that stuff.  But that may not be what’s really hurting Sirius/XM.

I think it might be iPhones and other almost as smart phones.  Here’s my theory.

First, I am convinced that the lion’s share of satellite radio listening is done in the car, a theory which has some support in the details regarding the subscriber loss.  I have logged maybe two hours of in the house satellite radio listening over the years.  Previously, the amount of daily time I spend in my car combined with my well documented aversion to ads made satellite radio worth the money, in both hardware and monthly costs.

But lately I find that I am getting the large majority of my music from Pandora and Slacker Radio.  The depth of programming options are simply greater there.  I have a deeply targeted alt. country station on each, as well as a blues mix that plays the sort of blues I like, without most of the stuff I don’t.  I like early ska and reggae- I have a station for that.  I like zydeco- yep, I have a station for that.  In sum, I can fine tune my preferences much, much better with Pandora and Slacker Radio than I can with Sirius XM.  In fact, I’m finding myself listening to my online options even more than I listen to songs on my music server at home- and I have a ton of music on there.

Plus, online stations allow me to access my music more easily and from more places.  When I’m at a computer, it’s easy to tune into one of my Pandora or Slacker Radio stations.  No additional hardware needed.  Both services have excellent iPhone apps (Sirius XM doesn’t have one).  Lately, when I’m in my car, I have found myself plugging my iPhone into the auxiliary input on my audio system and listening to Pandora or Slacker Radio while I’m driving.  Better mix, no ads.

On top of all that, it’s cheaper.  Why buy special hardware and pay through the nose for a satellite radio subscription – for each device, no less – when you could pay much less for a premium online radio subscription that you can take with you anywhere?  It sounds like a no-brainer, because I think it probably is.

For the moment, I have both.  But if I had to choose one or the other, I would quickly choose Pandora/Slacker Radio over Sirius XM.

And I suspect that trend will continue to work against satellite radio.