RAIN 5/2: SiriusXM personalizable radio service coming later this year

Michael Schmitt
May 2, 2012 - 11:40am

SiriusXMFor those keeping score at home, there are now at least four major music companies looking to emulate Pandora-like personalized Internet radio. The latest addition is SiriusXM. Though the satellite radio company has for years now been hinting at some kind of "personalization" features (RAIN coverage from November 2010 here), details were nowhere to be found. Until now.

CEO Mel Karmazin said during SiriusXM's earnings call that, "Late this year, we plan to debut a SiriusXM version of personalized music online, allowing subscribers to tailor their favorite SiriusXM music channels to their tastes."

The web radio stations will be available to SiriusXM's Internet radio subscribers. And they will of course be commercial-free.

"Free and freemium competitors online will have a tough time matching the commercial-free aspect of SiriusXM-branded music combined with the unique sports and talk content we offer," argued Karmazin. Clear Channel's own personalized radio service is commercial-free, while Pandora and others offer to remove commercials for paying users.

"Make no mistake, SiriusXM is targeting the likes of Pandora and Spotify," writes Billboard. "SiriusXM's entry into personalized Internet radio shows this is a very competitive space." In just the past few weeks, its bee reported that Spotify, Rdio and Turntable.fm are also developing Pandora-like Internet radio services (RAIN coverage here, here and here).

Karmazin also took the opportunity to attack streaming radio royalty rates, which he says are "extraordinarily high." And Billboard writes (here) we can expect SiriusXM "to become even more vocal about the webcasting royalties paid by services such as Pandora and iHeartRadio."

SiriusXM is already unhappy with its current royalty rates. The company has been trying to secure direct licenses with rightsholders, thereby avoid SoundExchange and the statutory license (RAIN coverage here). Then SiriusXM sued SoundExchange and A2IM for allegedly interfering with its attempts to obtain those direct licenses (RAIN coverage here and here).

Finally, SiriusXM recently updated its Android app to include more interactive features. The upgrade allows mobile users to replay up to 5 hours of content, start songs and shows from the beginning, skip ahead and access SiriusXM's new 2.0 channel line-up. You can find out more here.

Paul Maloney
May 2, 2012 - 11:40am

A Cambridge, MA company that analyzes mobile app usage offers some interesting findings about how listeners use  radio mobile apps.

Perhaps most interesting is Localytics finding that over half (54%) of a station's listening via its mobile app comes from within the station's broadcast range [note: for this figure, Localytics used only listening over wi-fi -- not mobile data networks -- since it is more accurate for determining a user's metro area location].

Apps (and Internet streaming in general) have long been considered most useful for listening to out-of-market broadcasts. So much so, in fact, that for a long time many local broadcasters didn't find value in streaming efforts, as they seemed to only benefit out-of-market (and thus, not of interest to local advertisers) listeners.

But broadcasters should be aware of this Localytics' data point on radio app usage. Certainly, local listeners might turn to a mobile app when in spotty coverage areas within broadcast range, or in those situations where an AM/FM radio isn't convenient. But perhaps more importantly, radio should recognize the mobile platform as a means to enhance their brand with interactivity and additional content.

"Radio stations with associated smartphone apps can give their listeners a more varied and flexible experience both within and outside of their normal broadcasting region," says Localytics.

Jacobs Media and jacAPPS president Fred Jacobs agrees. His company recently presented the findings of their TechSurvey8 study on radio listeners (see RAIN's coverage here). Jacobs told Localytics, "When we asked our respondents which type of radio app they prefer, more than half opted for individually branded apps which allow for more features and customization. This is where radio is going.”

Read more at Localytics.com here.

Michael Schmitt
May 2, 2012 - 11:40am

Bridge RatingsA new study from Bridge Ratings looks into the user satisfaction levels of Pandora users over time.

The survey found that "over time [from 2006 to 2012], satisfaction levels are decreasing among users 12-34 years of age and improving among adults 35+... over time, expectations delivered initially through Pandora brand marketing and word-of-mouth turned to disappointment." Bridge Ratings hypothesizes that younger listeners may be turned off by commercials or Pandora's music choices. The company also found that among Pandora Prime subscribers, usage rates decrease over time.

"This is a common consumer psychology," writes Bridge Ratings. "Most products experience this type of satisfaction decrease over time because original high expectation experience is reduced by over exposure." Bridge Ratings' Dave Van Dyke tells Inside Radio "it's likely other streaming apps face similar usage patterns."

Moreover, Pandora has attacted more casual listeners over the years and the streaming music market is quite different today than it was in 2006. There are now many services (Spotify, iHeartRadio, Turntable.fm, Rdio, MOG, etc. etc.) vying for Pandora's listeners. Indeed, after as few as 8 months, Pandora listeners "begin seeking other sources for a similar experience," found Bridge Ratings. But those listeners "will continue to use Pandora as their primary source for the customized Internet radio experience."

You can find more from Bridge Ratings here.

Michael Schmitt
May 2, 2012 - 11:40am

Koss Striva TapsThe Striva headphone line from Koss interestingly stream Internet radio stations directly via a built-in Wi-Fi chip. You can also send music from a cellphone via Wi-Fi (not Bluetooth, as most wireless headphones use).

Koss offers both an over-eare Pro model at $450 and $500 "Taps" in-ear buds (pictured).

Engadget has more coverage here.