It’s almost hard to believe that satellite radio is a decade old this year. Actually the XM service launched in September, 2001 while Sirius launched service in four states in February 2002. I remember clearly the hoopla around the debut of this new radio service, and devouring a feature article about XM in Sound and Vision magazine. I actually first heard Sirius on satellite television when I subscribed to Dish Network around 2003, and then after that primarily heard the service in rental cars.
As I’ve noted before, it always seemed to me that the service didn’t quite live up to its billing as a richer, more diverse and commercial-free alternative to the declining quality of commercial terrestrial radio. For example, the XM Unsigned channel, which focused on up and coming artists who didn’t have big record contracts and was featured prominently in that 2002 Sound and Vision article, effectively disappeared in 2005 when it was merged with the more conventional indie rock XMU channel. As well, many listeners were disappointed when satellite talk stations first introduced advertising (although music stations remain free of commercials).
That said, I do understand how satellite is an attractive option for people who spend a lot of time on the road, especially outside major radio markets, and for listeners interested in exclusive specialty programming, like Howard Stern. And while it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, and it required a previously verboten merger of Sirius and XM, satellite radio appears to be on relatively solid ground as it hits its tenth birthday.
We’ll know more about just how solid that ground is on Thursday when the company will report its fourth quarter 2011 earnings and year-end results. Analysts expect revenue to be up around 6%, while its stock (SIRI) price sits at $2.12 as of close on Tuesday. While a little more than two bucks doesn’t sound like the best stock performance, it’s a significant gain from two years ago when SiriusXM was under threat of delisting from the NASDAQ as its stock dipped below a dollar.
Perhaps the company will have good reason to celebrate a month later, on March 9, when it throws a birthday concert with Bruce Springsteen at the Apollo Theater in New York City. The concert will air live on Sirius’ E Street Radio channel, three days after Springsteen drops his new album, “Wrecking Ball.”