Friday, April 28, 2006

Is satellite radio dying?

Some people once feared that satellite radio might kill local radio (myself included).

It now seems that the appropriate question to ask is, is satellite radio dying?

What about market-segmented commercial radio operated by gimongous media corporations? Will it be able to survive in the future?

As a proponent of the more interesting results that free-form, locally-produced broadcast content can provide, I certainly hope so.

I mean, do you really need to hear "More Than a Feeling" with less feeling ten more times today? Or hear the latest fashion tips? Or find out what happened on Teen Idol last night?

The Washington Post is reporting that XM radio is bleeding revenues in order to sign up subscribers faster than its competitor, Sirius.

Sirius is playing the same game, gushing revenues to beat XM to new subscribers.

The investment is futile. Satellite as a medium for content is yesterday's technology. Satellite might be used as a conduit in the future, but as a content provider, it's a goner.

There is a technological transformation just over the horizon which will drive a stake into the heart of satellite radio, while simultaneously jolting commercial radio out of its bland, drive-you-into-the-grave format.

Wi-Fi is the future.

When you can get put a Wi-Fi radio in your car, and listen to any station in the country, there won't be any logic to having a gazillion stations around the country, each formatted identically, playing the same songs, over and over ad nauseum, until your finger gets tired of hitting the scan button.

Instead, you'll be able to listen to unique formats that come out of the far corners of the globe. And people in other parts of the world will be able to listen to unique stations like WWOZ and WTUL out of New Orleans.

What only non-commercial stations once provided, commercial stations will soon be providing as well. It'll be like 70s FM again, when the spawning of new spectrum found DJ's willing to experiment. Bands like Pink Floyd might never have found success back then without the advent of FM.

Wi-Fi is going to create a whole new ball game. It'll be harder for stations to find a niche that pays, and the ones that don't might not find the revenue to survive. But that will just open up frequencies for smaller operations, and possibly non-profit organizations that better serve their communities.

The future sounds great, and I just can't wait!

Now, if we could only beat back the cable company monopolies that are fighting public access wi-fi.


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