Dear Mel Karmazin,
: I’ve been a Sirius satellite radio customer for three months now and a Sirius shareholder for twice that time. I’m a happy customer; I’d far rather have satellite radio than not. But still, I have some advice for you, Mel:
: First, you are not a satellite company. You are not a distribution company. You are a content company in the age of consumer control. So let me control my content.
You already stream your channels online — though you make it a real pain in the ass to get into it (you have to send me passwords when I should just be able to get there from the account I already have). Just last week, AOL and XM agreed to replace AOL’s sad online radio with XM channels. See also how millions more people watched MSNBC’s pope coverage via streams instead of cable.
Streaming’s OK, but it’s not enough; it’s already so yesterday. Listening to a PC just doesn’t cut it.
So when Howard Stern finally gets fired and rejoins you, I will want his show as a podcast I can download so I can listen to it when and where I want. I’m paying for it, so give it to me that way.
And when I get a broadband phone, I’ll want to stream my favorite shows over the phone instead of your satellite (since it doesn’t work everywhere and it’s bulky and balky).
: As for your music channels, why not let the DJs create iTunes playlists according to their nichey tastes so I can buy from them (and you get a cut, Mel).
Why not also let your audience program some channels: Let various communities submit their playlists and may the best taste win.
: The programming you have now needs work. Lots of work. That’s what I’m paying for: the content. And the content is iffy.
The Elvis channel is a cute idea but it’s a sinful waste of spectrum. Some of the rock channels don’t have clear identities. The classical channels are pap.
Sirius also does a crappy job explaining what the channels are and what’s on them. You should treat every channel as if it were a radio station with clear format and strong marketing.
: I’m glad I can listen to cable news channels in my car. But the obvious killer ap would be to listen to broadcast channels. I’d listen to Today. I’d be happy not to miss Desperate Housewives (though, of course, I would be missing the nicely tight fashions). Go do the deal.
: Your technology — how do I put this? — sucks. In my car, I lose the signal too often. I don’t know what you can do about it, but that’s unacceptable. If you have to microwave my car, get me a stronger, more reliable signal.
At home, the room where I want to listen to Sirius doesn’t happen to be on the right side of the house and so I have to put the silly little antenna on top of bookshelves and wear tin foil to listen; it reminds me of the old days of rabbit ears, man. You need to come up with wireless antennas that can send the signal anywhere in the house. Think wi-fi, Mel.
The design and user interface of my radio is the worst of it. It’s dreadful. The buttons operate differently on the radio and on the remote control (honestly: hit the “up” button on one and the display goes one way; it “up” on the other and it goes the other way… didn’t anybody use this thing before they started selling it?). The screen is impossible to read in the daylight. It takes a damned engineering degree and skill, patience, and time I don’t have to hook and unhook the radio in the car (it should just pop in and out, damnit).
No, I lied, the worst of it is getting the satellite signal into my car radio. Now I have to transmit an FM signal in the car and in a market like New York, where every bit of spectrum is taken, that simply doesn’t work. The sound is awful. I could use a cassette adapter but in my car, the cassette play makes a terrible racket (again, not your fault) and, anyway, cassettes are going the way of dodos. That’s not your fault, Mel. For years, I have wished that car radios came with a simple input plug, like any cheap stereo. You don’t make the cars but you can lobby car manufacturers to fix this for satellite radio… and iPods…. and even using stereo speakers with cell phones. And, no, buying a car radio with the receiver built in doesn’t do the trick since I don’t want to have to buy another radio for my home and pay another monthly fee.
: Which reminds me: Charging me additional fees for additional radios is the mistake the cable industry and the phone industry before it made: Don’t penalize me for wanting to use your service more.
: Now about your advertising: It is unbearable! Sirius is not commercial free — only the music is — and I didn’t get that message when I signed up. I understand that you have to put something in the spots when CNN goes to commercials on TV. I could even tolerate commercials then if it lowered the cost of my subscription. But the commercials and promos you put in there are all for a truckdriver demographic and they’re repeated to the point of getting me to turn back to broadcast. Mel, you’re a salesman, so go sell some real commercials. Anything would be better than that junk.
You’ve been on the job for only a few months. You don’t even have Howard — and his new channels — yet. I’m patient. But I thought a few suggestions might be helpful….