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SiriusXM Radio Drives a Bundle Bargain With Mix of Politics, Music and Talk

It’s become abundantly clear to me lately that my tastes are veering away from the mainstream (wherever that is). For example, I still peer at my TV screen, even though 57% of the young demo now disdains that device as a source of entertainment. I still use my smart phone to call people, but the 18-24 set absorbs 40 plus hours a month of entertainment on their phones, making chats irrelevant. I still watch sports on ESPN, but 3 million subscribers dumped it this year alone. And while every media pundit is predicting the end of TV bundling, I have not only renewed my TV bundle, but even added a radio one.

Yes, radio. I signed up for SiriusXM last week, thus inflicting upon myself a 150-channel blast of music, politics, comedy and random noise, again realizing that my interest in radio was counter-cultural. Further, I did so mindful that Howard Stern, the king of all yakkers, who’d signed a widely heralded $500 million deal with SiriusXM a decade ago, had not yet renewed (a silent Stern?). On the other hand, a range of new talkers like Andy Cohen, Jenny McCarthy and Sandra Bernhard are now holding forth at the Sirius stable, and it’s also about to add a real-time radio news service, updated at 10-minute intervals (news also is said to be out of the mainstream for the young demo).

“Some seven of every 10 new vehicles come equipped with a trial SiriusXM subscription, and roughly 40% of the buyers pay $15 to $18 a month to maintain the service.”
Twitter: @mrpeterbart

The savvy talent impresario energizing this radio bundle is Scott Greenstein, who once ran indie film companies like October and USA Films. At any given moment, the corridors of SiriusXM rumble with the shouts and murmurs of sports gurus like Stephen A. Smith, preachers like Joel Osteen and a range of vintage disc jockeys like Downtown Julie Brown and Cousin Brucie, who curates ’60s music and prattles about his John Lennon interviews. Also holding forth is a full spectrum of political advocates ranging from far left to far right, from Progressive to Patriot (the list includes Variety’s Ted Johnson).

Greenstein’s mission is to generate more energy and controversy than commercial radio does, and thus satisfy the cravings of his 29 million subscribers, most of whom are locked in their cars during traffic jams. His major advantage: Some seven of every 10 new vehicles come equipped with a trial SiriusXM subscription, and roughly 40% of the buyers pay $15 to $18 a month to maintain the service. The upshot of this, according to analytical firm Gabelli Research, is consistent growth of 10% annually, yielding revenues of $4.5 billion last year. By subscribing, listeners can side-step much of the blizzard of advertising on commercial radio, as well as the narrow ideological cacophony of Limbaugh land.

All of this has fueled my proclivity toward bundles, both of radio and TV networks. While I don’t like the cost, I like the choice. And the chaos. But then I also prefer to phone people rather than texting them. And there’s that damn TV habit.

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