Orbitcast - So what is "Satellite Radio 2.0"?

Discussion in 'News & Announcements' started by admin, Aug 9, 2010.

  1. admin

    admin Administrator Staff Member

    [​IMG]With "Satellite Radio 2.0" being more than a year away it's still too early to speculate so... let's do some speculating based off of the clues that we do have.

    Here's what we know about Satellite Radio 2.0:
    • These will be "next generation" satellite radios
    • They'll offer "more choices" to the consumer
    • Contain capabilities "that does not exist today"
    • Next gen satellite radios will be available in both retail and OEM channels
    It's the last point that tells me that this is a complete change to the actual satellite radio services being offered, and not just iterative updates to the receivers (as we've seen over the past few years).

    The fact that we're looking at more choices and new capabilities, combined in both Retail receivers and OEM receivers, tells me that the company is ready to shift it's total product offering.

    Looking At The Past, To Predict The Future

    I've definitely been frustrated by the lack of ground-breaking functionality in satellite radio receivers. Sure, things were great when we started to see split-screen functionality, and then later came the awe-inspiring (insert sarcasm) functionality of upgrading to a color display - but let's face it, color is something that's expected nowadays and not necessarily revered.

    For a while, it seemed that satellite radio was finally catching up to the technological advances made by their satellite TV brethren. And then it all stopped.

    Yes, the XM Skydock was a breakthrough, because finally - finally - Sirius XM decided it was "ok" to decouple the interface from the brains of the receiver. But this is hardly a new concept in the world of consumer electronics.

    So, if we follow the past technological trends, what is it that Sirius XM Radio Inc. will offer to consumers now?

    One More Clue

    There's one more clue that Mel Karmazin dropped during the Q2 conference call that I think will help contribute to the discussion.

    When asked about the company's long-term pricing strategy, Karmazin responded:

    "As you know we are currently constrained by the FCC order where we agree to not increase the basic pricing for a period of three years. That goes throughout August of 2011. We believe that when the FCC looks at all of the choice that is are available in audio entertainment, that they would see no reason to further restrain us, but we will have to wait to see what happens there. And then we will take a look at what our decision will be on any changes that we want to make going forward in offering additional pricing alternatives."
    Interesting. August 2011 is the FCC's deadline for re-visiting the subscription pricing for satellite radio. How convenient, then, that "satellite radio 2.0" will be made public right around the same period?

    Sirius XM can't simply tell the FCC to unlock their pricing structure without showing a significant change to the product offering. They need to bring some new core functionality to the table and ensure that the FCC sees that they're not "offering additional pricing alternatives" without any payoff.

    So great, with all that as inputs, here's what I think satellite radio 2.0 will be about. And they involve two main core pieces of added functionality to the current satellite radio offering:

    #1. Audio On Demand

    Looking at other subscription models, it's proven now that consumers want on-demand services. Video On Demand (VOD) is now pretty commonplace across most providers, and allows consumers to simply pick from a limited selection of shows, movies and other kinds of programming - and watch on their own schedule.

    So it only makes sense that Sirius XM would follow along with this trend and make their own "audio on demand" service available. It's something that AM/FM doesn't offer, and it serves as a melded alternative to some of the "personalized music" experiences from providers like Slacker and Pandora.

    But how would Sirius XM technically pull this off?

    There's any number of ways (and I'd love for my savvy readers to chime in here), but one thought I have is essentially a "push" service. The receivers would need to be equipped with far more capacity than they have today (high-capacity storage is mighty cheap nowadays afterall) and would need to be able to access a "hidden" channel. Through that hidden channel, the receiver would download a limited selection of audio entertainment.

    Then the "on demand" feature would simply call up the pre-stored material on the device. And since capacity is limited, Sirius XM would just need to rotate out the selections on a regular basis (once a week, for instance).

    #2. Love and Hate

    Speaking of "personalized music" experiences like Pandora and Slacker, there's no doubt in my mind that Sirius XM is eying this territory. It's something I mentioned in my roundtable interview for The Motley Fool with my cohort from SiriusBuzz. Mel Karmazin is without question watching these companies and seeing the consumer trends they're creating. The ability to customize your listening experience may soon become as commonplace as channel surfing.

    So again, how would Sirius XM do this?

    My theory is that it would have to be connected to the internet somehow. Be it through a wireless broadband connection (think of the Amazon Kindle and it's free 3G capabilities) or through a WiFi link (say, when the vehicle is parked or the device is docked).

    If the listener is able to "heart" a song, the receiver could automatically download related music once it gets connectivity. If a song is "hated" then the device calls up the pre-downloaded music, and will queue the live satellite stream in the background. It's no different than pause/replay functionality in current receivers, but with the stored music substituting for silence.

    Are my theories way off, or do you think I'm on to something? I would love to hear your thoughts.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    View the original Article at Orbitcast or discuss it here.
  2. limegrass69

    limegrass69 Confused

    Interesting concepts, and they sound like they'd be in the ballpark.

    I'm assuming that these next generation services will depend either on wifi or wireless networks. After all, there is only so much bandwidth available to Sirius/XM...unless they plan to lease some spectrum from the likes of DirecTV??
  3. HecticArt

    HecticArt Administrator

    I don't know what it is, but I want one!
  4. JoeTan

    JoeTan Well-Known Member

    yeah me too
  5. Vargas

    Vargas Molon Labe!

    Sat. Rad 2.0???? I love the idea.

    Just let it have boombox and let them come out with some GROUNDBREAKING new radios.

    The IPOD is just an MP3 player and not a great one when you compare it to what is out there.

    Yet people keep buying them because they keep coming out with new versions that look cooler and cooler.

    MAKE NEW, COOL RADIOS!!!!!!!!!!!
  6. Jon

    Jon Well-Known Member

    I'd be very interested to see how this works. Maybe their marketing budget will increase with all the new revenue the pricing structures will be bringing in. Could you also see PnP or OEM Radios with storage of their own via a flash drive or hard drive?

    Similar to what ESPN Radio has with their iPhone app and 'Podcenter.' If I don't like what's on one of the many ESPN Radio feeds, I could bring up 'Pardon the Interruption' or any one of the podcasts they have available. If nothing on satellite radio floats your boat at that time, imagine pulling up on-demand Howard Stern or O&A.

    They're certainly getting the hype machine started early. We'll see if they take advantage of it in their advertising.
  7. HecticArt

    HecticArt Administrator

    The way it should be. So many people have been frustrated that it hasn't looked like there's anything going on with programming and equipment lately, this is great to see that something is brewing.

    It looks like the stagnation after the financial worries and merger may be behind us. Whatever it is, I'm looking forward to it. . . . .
  8. semipenguin

    semipenguin Bum Looker

    Love & Hate is something I thought of years ago. Why listen to a song you don't like :hhh:

    A radio that let's you get HD Radio would be a good idea.


    Sim Chip.

    999 Channels :shock:
    Posted via Mobile Device
  9. Jon

    Jon Well-Known Member

    Hell, if it meant getting channels like X-Country, Luna, Beyond Jazz and Music Lab back, I'd jump on it in a heartbeat. I doubt that's what it means, though. Still, we'll see.
  10. Casual Fan

    Casual Fan Surprisingly nice

    It seems like satrad has been stagnant for a while relative to the early years. Change might be good.
  11. IdRatherBeSkiing

    IdRatherBeSkiing This space for rent

    Why would that be out of the question?
  12. Brad Bishop

    Brad Bishop Member

    Sorry to rain on the parade..

    I really don't think we'll be getting Audio on Demand from Sirius. For this to work the radios would have to be on all the time AND they'd have to have a sat-signal on all the time. They may do something like 'plug your radio into your computer and then copy stuff over using our software' but they've already done that.

    Outside of those reasons you also already have a method for delivering these shows 'on-demand' anyway - podcasts. That's your audio on demand. For the music channels, it really doesn't matter for recording because you just turn it on to listen. If it's a Top-20 station you'll get Top-20 music.

    For Pandora and Slacker - maybe. This seems like an awful lot of extra work for them for not much benefit. I know they have a following in the geek crowd, but if I were to ask the average person on the street about them, they would have no idea. I think, for example, with HDRadio I'd at least get back a, "isn't that some kind of paid-satellite radio thing?" With Pandora/Slacker, unless I just happened upon a listener to one of their services I'd get, "I don't know what you're talking about.." I don't really see where it fits into their business model. It puts them back into somehow syncing your radio with a PC (though if they did it with WiFi it'd be nice - get the PC out of the equation). I still think it's highly doubtful.

    My guess is far more mundane:
    - (maybe) they'll move some subscribers over from one service to the other to open up the extra bandwidth.
    - maybe offer some specialty services like: more info for sports like a sports screen so you can watch a scoreboard/graphic of the game being played while listening to it. Think about something more than just the score.
    - start putting the weather/traffic info into their radios. They may not be able to tell where you are (no GPS - I don't think they'll go that route) but why not allow you to go to something like an overall traffic map for your area with incident reports? They're already streaming the data. They're already charging extra for it. Open it up to more people.
    - Radios that support tiered services (better). So they can flip channels on/off as needed per user. They'll sell this as a feature allowing people to get 'just what they want' but it'll really be so that they can have a better system of tiers/premium content. Think of them charging extra for MLB, NFL, NASCAR, etc. Imagine them lowering your monthly price by $1, removing the sports channels, and then charging an extra $1/month for each set of sports channels. "Good News! We've lowered your monthly satellite radio costs" - will be the beginning of the letter/email you receive.. Think about them charging $1/month extra for Stern. Then telling Stern - you get a cut of every $1.. If people aren't listening to you, then they're not paying for you.
    - a mostly standard GUI. Think back when DirecTV started and how you could get different interfaces from different manufacturers depending on features you liked and price you wanted to pay. Then everyone else got out of it and it all became homogenized into the standard DirecTV interface. I think Sirius/XM will likely go that route. They'll have a standard-ish interface for those sold with new cars (depending of if the new car has a graphical interface or not) and a standard interface for aftermarket stereos (you can already see this time of pass-thru interface with GPS's like Kenwood/Garmin) and have maybe one PNP radio from Audiovox (or Directed) with it's standard interface.

    I think it's going to be more that kind of stuff. Things that we'll all argue about like: "I've lost services! If I want NFL, MLB, FIFA, NASCAR, it's going to cost me over $20/month!" and someone else will chime in with, "but I don't listen to any of those sports - why should I pay extra for them?" and still someone else will chime in with the obligatory, "Well, they have to make money. If this is what it takes then..."

    I know - it sounds kind of mundane, I just think it's far more likely in line with what they'll offer. They seem to want to generate new revenue (obviously) which is why they're waiting until 2011. I suspect everything you don't have locked into Lifetime will be split out and any extras not already in Lifetime will not be offered as a Lifetime add-on (like you won't be able to pay $100 to get BoS but, instead, be told you have to pay $5/month for as long as you want it).

    Given how they handled the Internet Streaming with Lifetime, I suspect they'll move some of the extra tier channels out of Lifetime and put them in a Premium section and tell Lifetimer's that they have to pay extra for it and then Lifetimers will complain (and we'll have similar argument to what I mentioned above).

    I'd say use the Mirge as an example of what to expect. Before the Mirge was released when we first got wind of it we thought:
    - wow, nice color display
    - works with both services!

    Then, when it was reviewed we saw it was a kind of weird kludge, not overly horrible and, in many ways, an improvement upon many of the radios currently out, but we all hoped for something better in terms of functionality and services. For the most part we all stayed away from it.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2010
  13. JHDK

    JHDK Release Robin's Bra


    satrad's gotta shake it up (hey scottie) somehow if they want to stay around in the world of podcasting and slacker and all. keeping the big names, and signing new ones will be a big help too.
  14. limegrass69

    limegrass69 Confused

    I'm not saying that it's out of the question at all. I do think that an easier solution involves wireless broadband and/or wifi, and cached content. Leasing someone else's satellite spectrum is a gamble since you would be building hardware that has the potential to become worthless if that deal ends.
  15. IdRatherBeSkiing

    IdRatherBeSkiing This space for rent

    Not if you code it to accept a frequency specification downloaded from your own sats. Should be easy to change.

    Broadband or Wifi won't work too well in a car at least cheaply. They don't want to limit themselves the same way the internet ones are limited (by cost and availbility).
  16. limegrass69

    limegrass69 Confused

    That part should be easy, but not necessarily cheap. The antenna could be a problem. Broadband antennas don't necessarily work that well.

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