SiriusXM

SiriusXM apparently drops stations; infuriates users

Monday, October 21, 2013 - 11:00am

SiriusXM appears to have modified its channel lineup on Sunday morning, to the acute displeasure of subscribers posting to the satellite company’s Facebook page. One ex-subscriber on the Facebook page who claimed to have canceled his membership remarked, “I’d rather use a crystal set in a thunderstorm” than continue receiving the service.

Affected channels noted in the comments include talk radio programs, Fox sports programming, and some terrestrial stations. RAIN has reached out to SiriusXM for information and comment; there was no response at the time of this post.

In August, RAIN and many other outlets reported that Clear Channel stations might disappear from SiriusXM, corresponding to Clear Channel’s divestment of SiriusXM stock. Indeed, several of the Clear Channel stations mentioned in that reporting (WHTZ/New York, WLTW/Chicago, WSIX/Nashville) do not appear today on the web listing of SiriusXM channels. Each of those stations is available on Clear Channel-owned iHeartRadio.

Likewise, station numbers corresponding to missing talk stations mourned by Facebook commenters do not appear on the channel list.

RAIN will follow up as additional information becomes available. Follow us on @RAINtwitter.

SoundExchange wants "$50 to $100 million or more" from SiriusXM for back royalties

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 12:55pm

SoundExchange, the record industry body that administers sound recording performance royalties for digital (Internet, satellite, and cable) radio, has filed suit against SiriusXM for what it calls "a massive underpayment" for the period between 2007 and 2012.

According to SoundExchange, SiriusXM "took a number of impermissible deductions and exemptions in calculating its royalty payments... including deducting for pre-1972 sound recordings and certain channel packages containing music."

Federal law didn't protect sound recording copyrights until 1972 (older recordings are protected by state laws). As The Wall Street Journal explains, "Because of that, Sirius has never paid to use these songs, even though such oldies account for an estimated 10% to 15% of the satellite-radio company's total airplay, according to SoundExchange Inc. Sirius sets aside the revenue generated by these pre-1972 spins before it calculates the royalties it owes rights holders."

Last year the federal government (Copyright Royalty Board) set new statutory licensing terms for SiriusXM to cover a five-year period. According to that decision, the satellite broadcaster is to pay 9% of gross revenue this year, rising to 11% by 2017. Read more here.

Part of that settlement was an amendment that explicitly allows SiriusXM to cut its SoundExchange payment by subtracting the share of revenue from pre-1972 recordings from gross-revenue. This allowance for older recordings was not explicitly part of the licensing terms for the 2007-2012 period, however. The Journal reports that SoundExchange plans to present the new regulation (which it's appealing) as "evidence that such an exclusion didn't exist before."

The suit was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. SoundExchange says it is seeking to recover "$50 to $100 million or more." We haven't yet seen a public comment from SiriusXM on the matter.

Read more in The Wall Street Journal here.

New connected cars put listeners in the driver's seat

Monday, July 15, 2013 - 7:00am

This week in RAIN we're featuring contributions from various industry executives, journalists, and experts on the state and future of Internet radio.

BY JENNIFER LANE
Pandora will be installed
in one-third of the new cars sold this year, which represents an impressive effort on the part of the leading Internet radio station in the U.S. That fact appeared in The Wall Street Journal's WSJ.com recently [more in Audio4cast here].

Pandora’s strategy of gaining automotive deals also gets them lots of listeners -- Pandora says they have seen more than 2.5 million unique activations through integrations from the 23 major automotive brands and eight aftermarket manufacturers with whom they have partnerships.

Meanwhile, the popularity of streaming and the connected dashboard is not being overlooked by SiriusXM. Despite deals that already have their satellite service installed in a long list of vehicles, SiriusXM has been improving its streaming offering of late, and just announced a deal with Ford that will pair both its satellite and online radio offerings in new Ford cars with Sync AppLink.

Smaller Internet radio stations that don’t have the brand power to create their own automotive deals have options as well. Harman’s Aha Radio and TuneIn are two aggregators that have deals with car manufacturers to offer access to a wide variety of content through their platforms, and Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio has announced deals with Toyota, GM, and Chrysler.

While market leaders like Pandora and Sirius XM make deals that put them front and center in your next new car, the truth is the dashboard of that car will probably have a unit installed that will enable you to access any content you want.

At the Connected Car Conference during CE Week in New York recently, Audiovox President Tom Malone discussed the automotive aftermarket products his company is bringing to market, which are all about letting the consumer bring whatever content they want into the car. Solutions that enable the consumer to connect to their content wirelessly through a variety of options -– smartphone, USB, cellular, and stored content in the car, for example -– are the focus now.

Connected car discussions are about more than just the dashboards these days too. Today’s consumers share listening less, and personalized content solutions are coming to the car as well, with rear seat docking solutions. Content delivery to cars is diversifying, putting the consumer in the driver’s seat when it comes to choosing what they will listen to. Receivers that are dedicated purely to AM/FM or satellite are quickly becoming a thing of the past, replaced with devices that enable easy access and endless choice.

In a way, you could say that it’s a game in which content is king...

Jennifer Lane is president of RAIN Summits, which produces the premiere conference series for the Internet radio industry. She blogs at Audio4cast.com (where you can read this and other industry analysis), and is founder of Katz Net Radio Sales (now Katz360).

Ford to add SiriusXM Internet radio app to cars with SYNC AppLink

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 12:50pm

Satellite radio broadcaster Sirius XM Radio announced today Ford will add the SiriusXM Internet radio app to cars with its SYNC AppLink.

This means that for the first time, features available previously only on the web -- SiriusXM's customizable MySXM streaming radio and SiriusXM On Demand programming -- would be available in certain Ford vehicles. The New York Times says Ford's app support would also, for the first time, allow subscribers to use the SiriusXM Internet radio app on iPhones and Android handsets. 

Obviously, satellite radio began as a medium primarily intended for the in-car audience. But SiriusXM has evolved its streaming technology in recent years to enable features that would likely be unfeasible via satellite broadcasting, like custom music streams.

Ford's SYNC AppLink will enable voice command, steering wheel, or dashboard control of the SiriusXM Internet Radio App.

The Times writes, "Sirius XM will have plenty of streaming-music competition on Ford Sync dashboards, which already include Pandora, Rhapsody, Spotify, Slacker and Mog. There are also traditional radio stations offering streaming channels through TuneIn, plus independent station apps and Clear Channel’s iHeartAuto, which streams more than 800 stations from 150 cities."

Read the SiriusXM press release here. There's more from The New York Times here.

TargetSpot, SiriusXM name new CEOs; HuffPo exec joins CCE digital team

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - 11:50am

TargetSpot's Eyal Goldwerger (pictured) has stepped down as CEO as part of what's being called a "planned reorganization." He will continue to advise the company's board, and he remains a shareholder.

TargetSpot is the largest online audio sales network. Goldwerger delivered a "POV" address at RAIN Summit West earlier this month in Las Vegas (coverage of his speech, and audio, is in RAIN here). Goldwerger joined TargetSpot as CEO in 2009. CRO Mitch Kline and CTO Leigh Newsome will serve as "co-CEOs" to replace him.

News also broke this morning that satellite broadcaster SiriusXM Radio has named interim CEO James Meyer as Mel Karmazin's fulltime replacement as CEO, effective immediately.

Finally, Clear Channel Media and Entertainment has brought on former Huffington Post executive Brian Kaminsky as EVP of operations for the digital division.

Deeper understanding of listener expectations and preferences key to building audience, say Summit experts

Friday, April 19, 2013 - 1:50pm

Unsurprisingly, the panelists in our RAIN Summit "Accelerating Your Audience Growth" panel stressed the importance of good, "differentiating" content to build an audience -- especially as music (and even news) becomes "commoditized."

More interesting was this point: An important step towards delivering the right content is a more thorough understanding of your listeners.

Edison Research cofounder/president Larry Rosin (left) moderated this first panel of the afternoon half of the Las Vegas Summit. He asked Pandora VP of Engineering Chris Martin about Pandora's "genre" stations

[sidenote: Pandora not only creates channels "on the fly" by asking the listener for a favorite song or artist, it also offers more traditional radio-style channels programmed by genre, e.g. country or pop hits]

Martin (right) explained them as the product of realizing that not all Pandora listeners come to discover new music. Rather, these channels are an "entry point" for those listeners who want a "super simple" experience based around artists they already know.

Rachna Bhasin is SiriusXM SVP/Corporate Strategy and Business Development (lower on the left). She explained SiriusXM is always looking for new content and talent intended to drive more subscriptions. Those efforts are informed by significant amounts of research and interviews with listeners, and an understanding of the expectations of "key audience demographics" to develop that content ("We're doing a lot with Latin right now," she illustrated.)

The Echo Nest CEO Jim Lucchese introduced his company's concept of "audience clusters" as an example of understanding the listener to deliver the right content.

[The Echo Nest is a "music intelligence" service with a massive database on listeners preferences and musical attributes of millions of songs, which is used by services like Spotify and iHeartRadio (and SiriusXM's new MySXM customizable streaming service).] 

Putting "a real keen focus" on understanding the listener, Lucchese explained, means looking at "clustering audiences into different types of music listeners" and examining how different underlying programming rules need to be applied for those different clusters.

"We found different 'rule sets' drive engagement wildly differently based on (listeners') geography, (preferred) style of music... you need to understand your fan base better before messing around with rules."

Rosin followed up with a question on how The Echo Nest client services learn about listener preferences, especially new listeners. Lucchese (right) explained some services can scan a new listener's local media library (by examining their iTunes XML file, for instance) to get a sense of the listener. There's also public preferences expressed on social media (such as Facebook 'likes'). Then, of course, later the services can simply track "what you listen to" -- and, importantly -- "how you react to it and build that up over time."

The Echo Nest CEO spoke directly to broadcasters and advised them to improve their streams by spending more time "focusing on and understanding" their audience: "Online listeners provide you with a ton of information about who they are. We're still in the stone age about recognizing not just what they like, but how they listen. Developing that will make a more engaging experience, and a more profitable one," he said.

Speaking to this very point, ABC News Radio VP/GM Steve Jones (left) described how he wants this guide the development of his service.

For a hypothetical 28-year old country music listener, Jones' company has vast amounts of "non- fiction spoken word" that she'd find of interest (she could learn how to "advance her career, manage her boss, get relationship advice").

"We can't yet, but what I'm excited about is being able to, when that listener is finished listening to a Taylor Swift song to let her know there's an opportunity right now to drive that listening experience into one of those other areas," Jones said. "That, to me, is the future, to control how listeners are going to consume audio beyond any one narrow niche..."

SiriusXM's Bhasin even returned to the theme of "understanding the listener" when discussing Apple's expected entry into streaming radio: "They have lots of data" on purchase history and customer preferences from which they can draw to program the right content. "They're trying to build curation now."

Consultant Alan Burns (Alan Burns & Associates president/CEO) (right) even suggested streaming broadcasters and pureplay webcasters could look to each other for better ways to present content.

"What radio needs to do most of all, the thing that would boost online listening to (music) radio streams," Burns said, is to "make broaddcast streams skippable" (that is, replicate the ability of most Net-only streaming experiences in which a listener can instantly skip to the next song).

For pureplays, his advice was that "jukeboxes don't hold up as well" as programming with "deeper branding and content." Pureplays need to create experiences "that will help them develop the personal bond you get with traditional radio," he suggested.

You can listen to the audio of "Accelerating Your Audience Growth" from RAIN Summit West. Go to RAIN's homepage to find all the RAIN Summit West audio in the right-hand column.

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