A recent report from Inside Radio caught our attention and we wanted to showcase it for our readers, especially our ones from overseas that might not have access to it. As is detailed below, the article espouses the need for broadcasters to mine for differentiated content that creates increased engagement between the consumer and the brand. This curated and unique content enables broadcasters to remain relevant, particularly in cars, as they compete against the likes of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which predominantly play similar music.
As researchers, the need to make sure that this content is as relevant and differentiated as possible is at the core of what we do. Here at Global Media Research and Consulting Partners, we utilize a wide range of research tools to enable our clients to offer the most relevant, appealing, and unique content for its target consumers. This is how we ensure that our clients, both with their linear and digital broadcasts, remain leaders in their respective categories and markets.
Common Thread For Broadcast And Satellite Radio: Differentiated Content
While they both compete with each other for listeners, SiriusXM and broadcast radio face many of the same competitive challenges from emerging audio platforms. The growing number of new cars rolling off dealer lots with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto baked into the dashboard is stiffening competition for both free and subscription-based radio.
In a world where music has become commoditized and all the streaming services essentially offer the same music library, differentiated content has become essential for remaining relevant. On that front, SiriusXM is using a playbook similar to that of AM/FM radio.
“Everyone has the same music on their platforms for the most part,” said Sean Sullivan, who replaced longtime SiriusXM CFO David Frear last year. “My real focus and energy is around how do we curate the content, how do we create engagement? Engagement can come in many different forms,” Sullivan added, including radio personalities that accompany the music.
While each monetizes differently – broadcast radio from selling advertising, SiriusXM from about 30 million paid subscribers – the key to survival is being more than just a jukebox. “I don’t know that CarPlay and Android Auto in and of themselves are competitors,” Sullivan told the Evercore ISI Inaugural TMT Conference Tuesday. “We've been competing for premium in-car entertainment for 20 years.”
Both companies enjoy a competitive advantage from being integrated into the dashboard. For broadcast radio that is just about every car while SiriusXM has an enabled fleet of 130 million vehicles.
“With the marketplace and the competitive landscape, it becomes harder and harder to differentiate,” Sullivan continued. “Differentiation does require some level of exclusive content. Curation matters a whole lot and the ability to make sure your listeners have the ability to discover and recommend – that’s important.”
Sullivan said the company feels “very good” about its position in the vehicle as it continues to invest in content and consumer hardware, like its new 360L interactive receivers.
Exclusive Podcast Deals
While exclusive content, such as “The Howard Stern Show” and Kevin Hart's Laugh Out Loud Radio channel, is key for differentiating its satellite radio product, SiriusXM is also looking to exclusive podcast deals with content providers like Marvel Entertainment to help it stand out in an increasingly crowded podcast industry. “There are exclusives that are required,” Sullivan said of the podcast space. Yet most of the most-listened-to podcasts are available widely.
Moving ahead, the company is looking at “windowing” options for some of its exclusive personalities and content. Windowing is the practice of releasing media content that is only available over a certain period of time and/or at a particular destination or source. For SXM, that could be via its satellite radio service or Pandora or Stitcher. “We have the ability to window across multiple platforms,” Sullivan said, adding that the debate over exclusives versus wide distribution in podcasting is “not a binary answer… In order to work well with these creators and publishers, we have an obligation to help them maximize the monetization and distribution of their offering.”
One of the biggest challenges the company faces is the consistent downward slope of monthly active users for Pandora, which it bought for $3.5 billion two years ago. Monthly active users dropped 8% to 55.9 million in first quarter 2021, down from 60.9 million in Q1 2020. Total ad-supported listener hours fell 8% to 2.87 billion from 3.13 billion.
With its cume continuing to decline, Pandora is working on getting its existing audience base to listen more by using content from across the SiriusXM platform to enhance the user experience. Despite the shrinking audience, Sullivan said advertiser demand is strong and the company has been able to grow ad revenues with rate increases instead of fattening up ad loads.