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Suddenly, Satellite Radio is about the Stars

Have you noticed that, in the wake of the Howard Stern move to Sirius, XM is stoking its image of offering superstar personalities?

A visit to their website shows Ellen DeGeneres flashing on their front page, along with Snoop Dogg, and others. And they’re also featured on XM’s recent TV spots, which are a long way from B.B. King.

If you roll back the clock a couple years both XM and Sirius would have been crowing exclusively about music, lots of music, lots of no-commercial music.

Now, the emphasis at Sirius is on Howard Stern and, to a lesser extent, Martha Stewart.

Missing from any front-and-center emphasis at XM is the illustrious radio team of Opie & Anthony. Despite their audio pedigree, could that be because O&A are essentially unknown to the vast majority of current and potential Satellite subscribers? No doubt.

This tidal change in emphasis is only the beginning of what I see as a broader trend. To survive and thrive the Satellite networks will have to provide premium content, and by “premium” I do not mean music without commercials. I mean entertainment that’s one-of-a-kind. Superstar entertainment.

Satellite is not the place to create stars. It’s a place to let them shine. The job of the Satellite folks is to induce trial, and only established names will do that.

Contrast that with Radio’s approach: Let’s find a show that’s affordable, that’s “good,” then give it two years to gel all the while hoping it gels in three months. The audience yawns. And more often than not the show fails – at least according to the immense expectations placed on it.

Radio’s competitive challenges are no different from those of our Satellite brethren. You can create stars if you want, but the risks are as high as the costs are low – and the time it takes to make stars is long indeed.

I could show you confidential documents I wrote several years ago for one of the two Satellite companies urging them to move in the superstar direction – at a time when they were obsessed with how many channels they could pack into the network and how many ways they could say “commercial free.”

Times change.

Peer into the emerging strategies of Satellite Radio and you’re peering into your future.

Can you see it?

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