I have been a Sirius radio subscriber since January 9th, 2006. I know this, because I “came over” with Howard Stern. These days, I listen a lot less to Howard and more to music via Sirius XM’s internet streaming service which offers MOST of their channels online at a “premium” 128k stream. Sirius, before they merged with XM, did not charge extra for internet streaming; it used a part of the monthly package.

Something happened and now it costs an additional $2.99 per month. For one regular radio and internet streaming radio, I pay over $16 a month. I’m trying to find the value here over services like Pandora, Last.fm, and Slacker which are free. When listening to Sirius XM internet streaming radio, if you go idle for about an hour, a popup comes up and the music stops: “Are you still listening?” But wait a minute, Pandora and Slacker does this as well, but I don’t pay for those services. This is absurd for a pay service. When you turn on a “radio”, physical or otherwise, you don’t want it turning off on its own unless you programmed it that way.

Well Sirius XM must think the added value is in their iPhone app. Maybe if it had Howard Stern and ALL of their programming was available on it, but that’s a different story. And maybe if they paid Jason Millard and Nicemac to use their uSirius app, which by the way was ready for release last year and would STILL blow away many other apps today. But that’s also a different story.

So let’s say I decided to pay for Pandora One. That costs $36 a year, which breaks down to what I already pay for Sirius XM internet radio. With Pandora I would get a 192k stream, no ads, no interruptions for 5 hours, and a well developed and cripple free desktop and iPhone app. Wow. That’s beginning to sound like a good deal. Because for my $2.99 a month with Sirius XM, I’m getting a 128k stream, ads on the stations themselves, DJ chatter, interruptions constantly, a crippled and ugly iPhone app and different available content across different platforms. (There is no Howard on the iPhone and a regular radio is the only way to get full NFL coverage.)

I would say it’s high time Sirius XM re-think their internet radio strategy. There are multiple services out there who offer a better listening experience on many levels, most, like Pandora, tailor each station to your liking and have no disc jockey chatter. Services like Last.fm keep track of every song you listen to. Sirius XM would argue that they have better content with talk, comedy, and special events. I’ll give them that, but a service should be built with added value around it from the ground up. If Sirius XM paid attention to their competition and did this, they would have more subscribers.

Unfortunately, Sirius XM puts a higher value on high profile content than the user experience. It’s for that reason that Sirius and XM needed to merge in the first place. They were both blowing exorbitant amounts of money to compete with each others’ latest high profile acquisition. Opie and Anthony and Howard Stern. Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey. MLB and NFL. The list goes on. The merger echoed a win for Sirius and XM. Now they have exclusive rights to all of their acquired content as one company and we are paying for it.

In the end, it’s a loss because the customer experience was put behind all of the other priorities. When you run a business that requires a paid subscription, I would say the customer experience comes first.

Are you a Sirius XM subscriber? Do you pay extra for the internet radio option? What do you think of their iPhone app?

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