Land vs. Air (Pandora vs. Sirius)

Pandora radio will kill Sirius and any other form of satellite radio.  Let me explain how I know this.  I recently got a new phone with 3G service rendering my old phone obsolete.   As I was trying to decide whether to sell or keep my old phone, I plugged it into iTunes, blanked it out, and put on all my music and apps for the kids.  I was thinking that I could still use it as an MP3 player and the kids love all the game apps.  Even though the phone doesn’t have phone service anymore, it still connects to the internet through my home wi-fi.  That’s when I thought to myself that I could put the Pandora app on the old phone.

This is the first time that Pandora really hit me as a badass application.  I mean, I’d used it in the past on my desktop & laptop and it was cool.  Even cool enough that it was up there with the cooler things on the internet.  But, this was different.  This was mobile Pandora.  My old phone was kicking out sweet music on my old Bose docking station – FOR FREE!!!!   This is music that is as easy as flicking on the radio and there’s no monthly fee.  The depth of the library is enormous.   This was one of those epiphany type moments of how cool technology can be.  My wife and I had been talking about selling our old phones and now there’s no way that I want to do that.   I can also just yank the phone out of the docking station when my kids want to play games too and they won’t be killing the battery on my new phone.

This is absolutely going to kill satellite radio.  Why would you pay money for something  that you can have for free?  You might say, yeah well you’re limited to your wi-fi zone.   That, however, is not true because I have Pandora radio on my new phone too and I can listen with my headphones while on a walk or plug a jack into my car on the road or work or wherever because I’m 3G now.  How can a ‘for pay’ service compete with that?  The answer is that they simply cannot.  They’re done.  It’s game over for satellite radio.  It was a brief stint they had and give them credit for trying, but it’s over.

This presents a rare case where terrestrial technology is going to slay the airborne (or in this case space) technology.  Normally in modern warfare (real war) air superiority reigns supreme.  If you don’t control the air, you can’t control the ground.  I don’t know if this is a first (i.e. ground is going to dominate air) but it is definitely an interesting twist.

What does satellite radio have that Pandora doesn’t?  DJs.  DJs are pretty cool and definitely add some life to the satellite scenario.  People do want to hear their favorite DJs or any DJ for that matter that is going to engage them.  There are, however, many satellite stations that are just music.   I don’t think having DJs necessarily will stay exclusive to satellite radio, however, because Pandora could always add DJs too.  There’s no reason they couldn’t offer a similar service to their users.   Pandora might not be starting out of the gate with the revenue stream to be able to support a personality like Howard Stern, but I’m sure the satellite companies are struggling to afford their fixed overhead.  The question is not whether Howard Stern attracts a following, because we know he does.  What is in question is how long Sirius can afford a fixed cost structure that includes: launching rockets, maintaining and purchasing satellites, paying the fat cats in the front office, and covering salaries like Howard Stern’s.   It would be my guess that Howard Stern is a huge benefit to the satellite platform and that it was a wise business move to hire him and worth every penny.  The issue, I think, is one more of fundamentals and whether satellite radio is fundamentally viable in the future.

Now let’s talk about the bastards at Comcast and how a similar type of fate might be waiting to befall them.  Comcast is scamming.  They are making money hand over fist.  Do you know why?  Amid this economic downturn and people’s personal finances going into ruin, they’re ripping off the general public with their outrageous fees.  They have a monopoly and they’re extorting money out of people that desperately want access to their TV shows and movies.  But, just like the Pandora radio example, people want this stuff for free .  And it should be free.  You still have to watch commercials, so why do you have to pay through the nose for the service?  You don’t (or won’t rather) just like you never used to have to in the days of the antennae.  Eventually, the internet will take down Comcast’s monopoly too.  I don’t know if Comcast can be extinguished because they are hedged well with their infrastructure.  So kudos to them for at least having good positioning.  But, I will be filled with joy if they go down in flames because they are stealing from me and millions of others.  If one day, the general public can get wi-fi towers that enable mass amounts of people to get the internet at a good bandwith, there is no reason why your TV services won’t be through your computer rather than a Comcast box.  Imagine getting 1080P television service through your computer with no hiccups or pauses for buffering.  The day is coming.  It might not happen as fast as satellite radio disappears, but it’s coming.

So good-bye to you satellite radio.  And let’s hope Comcast is not far behind you.  Power to the people.


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