My Note to SiriusXM on How to Improve Their Company.

Recently I wrote an email to Sirius XM on how to improve their company and that I wish they would address these problems before I became a long term investor.  I say long term because I have bought and sold SIRI stock in the past, and it has made me a good amount of money for me.  It would be a drop in the bucked for Warren Buffett but for me it was substantial.  I have been watching their stock price periodically ever since then and I have been wanting to get back in to owning their stock for a long term investment because I have always thought they had huge potentional.  But as it turns out, I think so at least, that they have stopped innovating and  they no longer care about creating any new or exciting products or services.

I have been a longtime fan of Howard Stern – he helps me get through long work days always making me laugh no matter what else is going on in my life.  So when he moved from regular radio to Satellite radio, of course I went right along with him.  I got a Sirius radio and activated it before he even hit the airwaves.  I even invested with the company and made some decent money with it as well.  The stock was worth mere pennies at one time, and right now as I write this it is over $5.  I didn’t make as much as I could have if I had waited to sell it now but needless to say for me it was one of the better investments I’ve made.  I don’t know how long Stern will stay with them, as it is he is already down to only a few live shows a month when he used to be live every week day with only a few breaks throughout the year for vacation time.  But no matter how long he stays, I really think the company could be great even post stern.  Sure it will be a major blow to the company, but as long as they play their cards right they have the opportunity to make great products and services that nobody else can.  They own a certain bandwidth and have satellites in the sky that could be used for tons of diffent things if they wanted to.

For instance at one time they had a product called Sirius Backseat TV that allowed live video streams to be beamed down to cars to entertain the passengers in the back seat.  It was mainly for kids at the time but they didn’t give it enough time to take hold in the market and grow like I believe it could have.  Especially now since Sirius and XM merged, they have twice the bandwidth as they had before.  Not only that but video and audio compression is much better now than it was back then so they could have many more channels now than they did.  Also, the main reason that I think that it failed is because it was only available in about 2 or 3 vehicles, and I think they were all from a Dodge company.  I think it was something like one or two minivans and one SUV.  And it was very expensive at that.  Imagine if all minivans or SUVs that had a rear seat entertainment package had Sirius Backseat TV built in and had a 6 month subscription.   Then also release add on units that include either a drop down monitor or tablet like device that attaches to the back of the seats.  In my opinion I think that it could end up being huge!  Especially back in the day before smart phones and tablets became so prevalent.  I don’t have kids but I imagine that most parents would like something to keep their kids quiet in the back seat while they are driving, And what better way to do this than to have live streaming TV shows beamed straight to your vehicle?  When it was first announced there was only a handful of channels, mostly geared toward children, but as time went on with the increased bandwidth and better compression they could have easily have doubled the amount of channels to include more kids channels, news and/or business channels, general entertainment channels, etc. and then it would be even more of a draw.   Then if they bundled the price with a Sirius radio audio package they could increase their user-base as well as their income per user.

Another thing that disappoints me is that they seem to have stopped creating new and unique radios and other devices.  When Sirius and XM were competing against each other they were starting to get pretty high tech.  And that was almost over 10 years ago.  Sirius had the Stilleto, which I bought as soon as it was released.  It was a portable satellite radio that allowed you to listen to live satellite broadcasts whenever and wherever you are as long as you had reception.  The reception was never really a problem for me and it worked very well.  At that time, XM had their own portable radios that were much smaller and probably had even better reception.  Both companies had rdios ranging form about $40 to over $100 ranging in features and design.  but now they don’t even offer portable radios, and the radios they do offer have not changed much in almost a decade.  Apparently if you want to listen with a portable device you must use your cell phone.  But if you do this not only does it eat through your batter life significantly, not to mention used gigabytes worth of your data plan to listen regularly.  Most data plans these days are between 1 and 10 GB and this can easily be maxed out very quickly, leaving you with no more data to listen to satellite radio or even check your email or watch  youtube – basically anything that uses data is off limits for the next 30 days.

 

And as for the radios, they simply don’t even car about innovation there.

 

And the final nail in the coffin for me is that their website is horrible.  Its hard to navigate, and there are many broken links and as a web designer/developer I can tell that these should be easily fixed but not fixing them makes the company seem very immature to the prospective or current subscribers. Also I tried to sign up for a free trial and it says that my email address is not valid.  I believe it’s because I do not use a free email provider it is automatically deemed to be invalid.  If I am able to receiveand respond to a confirmation email that should be good enough to allow me to get a free trial.  The fact is that getting a gmail, hotmail, yahoo, or other free email account is way easier than owning my own domain and paying for email addresses if my only intent were to get some free internet streaming radio.  The better way would be to blacklist certain known bad email providers (companies like mailinator.com – check it out if you aren’t aware of it)  Aside from the website, I am very disappointed at your lack of diversity in types of radio and innovation in your products.  All the radios are pretty much the same and have not improved in the 10+ years that I’ve been a subscriber.  When I first signed on with Sirius back in 2005 we were promised more high tech radios and great new features.  XM even had better radios at the time than what is available now.  When the Stiletto came out it was very innovative, even though XM had one that was smaller and better, but it was promising.  Then when mobile started getting bigger you guys just dropped the whole idea of portable radios.  Just because I have a cell phone doesn’t mean I want to use it all the time as my radio listening device.  It burns through my data plan and my battery life.  I think that the current radios should all have a single type of connector that can be used for multiple devices like docks and boomboxes.  Then you can make a few different radios with different looks and different features but base them off the same platform to save money.  The same plug would allow only one version of the home dock and the car dock, further saving money.  Then they should make ‘boomboxes’ that come in different versions, one that is cheaper that looks and sounds decent, another model that looks very nice and sounds good that can fit in an office or nice home, and then possibly a top end audiophile version with very good bass response and clear sound quality.  Also I wish SiriusXM didn’t stop innovating, I know you have the airplane and weather stuff but that should be improved upon and marketed better.  If cars with oem headunits and external radios (where possible, obviously they need color screens) all had the ability to show weather and traffic conditions that would be a game changer and another great income stream.  You could upsell customers to get the ‘weather’ or ‘traffic’ packages for another few bucks a month each.  No other device allows you to see the weather on your gps screen.  And if you could add more one-way data communication that would help bring in more income as well.  Imagine if all new cars could have weather and traffic up to date on the screen, that would be amazing.  And on that note, SiriusXM could partner up with GPS manufacturers to sell subscriptions to those services, no music, just the traffic and weather data for a small monthly fee.  Another thing that really bothers me is that you spent all that time and money developing things like Sirius backseat TV for instance and then gave up after like a year or so.  If they would have just continued to work on it and get it into more vehicles (instead of just the 2 or 3 vehicles they supported and then say it wasn’t a success- how can you tell if you didn’t give it a chance to succeed?) and also offer aftermarket devices that could hook into current vehicles with back seat video screens or a stand alone screen that could be installed in the car, or even a stand alone screen that could be used in the car as well as taken out and used by itself- say at a picnic or a soccer game, etc, I believe it could have been huge.  It was right before the smart phone revolution and was in a prime place to take over the market. Parents want their kids quiet and happy in the back seat, business people being chauffeured want news and business data, people in RVs or long haul truckers want TV service while they are in the back not driving.  And with the merger of SiriusXM you now had twice the bandwidth and not to mention compression technology is much better, there could be many more video stations than the few that it was launched with.  And there are tons more opportunities for one-way data services that could be utilized that don’t even take much bandwidth.  Imagine stock quote updates for your favorite stocks.  Or the ability to receive traffic notifications without switching to the traffic channel for your city.  Why even have dedicated traffic stations, when you can make them all universal and just automatically switch to the proper stream you need when your city comes up?  I could go on for days and days how I think SiriusXM could improve their company and products, because I think that if the company sits back and thinks that they can continue to do great because they are now a monopoly since the merger, they are sorely mistaken.  People don’t listen to radio anymore.  They use their phones for entertainment.  And the only reason SXM is still in business (besides Howard Stern’s exclusvity of course) is because of the the fact people want an easy to use solution that is always in their car.  If you require people to use their smart phones to listen, it takes time to load the app, they have to put the phone in the dock, and it uses all their data. With a dedicated radio it turns right on when you get in the car and doesn’t use any of their data plan.  And with most companies capping users at only a few GBs a month this severely limits listening time.  You can’t listen to an hour or more during your commute every day while still having plenty of data left over for normal usage.  You are a SATELLITE radio company and having people rely on their cell phone data justmakes you another internet radio provider.  Then the only thing you have going for you is Howard Stern and once he leaves or retires you have nothing and the company is gone.  Why pay all that money to launch satellites into space just to make everyone stream radio if they want portable content?  Having people move to using their smart phone for everything is a very very bad decision.  And when Howard either retires or moves to podcasting or some other venue, he will very likely take most of the SiriusXM customers with him. Every single person I know with SiriusXM got it only for Howard and probably wouldn’t keep the service if he left. The company needs a contingency plan and they need products in place that will be able to keep people around once he leaves.  He is already down to only a few live shows a month and how much longer do you really think he will stick around?  He already got rid of HowardTV waiting for something better and if he leaves SiriusXM he might just go to one provider that does audio and video of the whole show and leave SiriusXM completely.  The writing is on the wall with and it would be a huge blow to the company to have him leave.  You need more exclusive content and reasons for people to sign up and stick around besides Stern and you need it now. Please, please head my warning, I love SiriusXM.  I joined for Howard Stern and I stayed because it is a good product with much more to offer.  But with the threat of the internet and all the free and low cost solutions for music and talk are a huge threat to SiriusXM.  Other companies don’t have to recoup the cost of the multi million dollar satellites that you had to launch.  So instead of trying to turn the company into an internet streaming service, take advantage of the satellites’ capabilities.  Come up with things that internet streaming companies cannot do and capitalize on them.  You need to really rethink the future of the company and act accordingly.  I’ve been an investor in the past, made tons of money when it was a penny stock and shot up but want to get back in it for the long haul. I want to be a long time subscriber and investor but the way things are going it doesn’t look good from either prospective.  I know this is a long letter but please don’t just throw it in the trash heap. Please listen to a very enthusiastic and dedicated fan who just want to see the company do good.  Thank you.\\\