Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, December 10, 2006
By: Mike Austerman
Is your shopping done yet? Unfortunately for satellite radio companies XM and Sirius, it looks as if getting a new satellite radio for Christmas is way down the list for most people this holiday season. According to a Bridge Ratings survey, satellite radio placed a dismal 45th out of 48 things on electronics wish lists.
Not surprisingly, Apple’s video iPod was on top, along with digital cameras, portable DVD players, plasma TVs, GPS navigation devices, camcorders, DVDs, cell phones and two other Apple music players in the top 10. Bridge Ratings projects that combined, XM and Sirius will sell 700,000 fewer satellite radios this October, November, and December when compared with those same three months a year ago.
Talk about a lump of coal.
Sirius has already this month bumped its expected subscriber count lower, blaming some of the consumer apathy on a dramatic cooling of the Howard Stern effect. That Bridge report also states that last year Stern influenced 52 percent of Sirius subscription decisions on average just before the launch of his uncensored show on Sirius in January as hard-core fans jumped aboard en masse to follow the dynamic jock.
Nearly one year later, the Stern effect is an influencing factor for about 17 percent of Sirius purchases since October. An estimated 1.3 million Stern fans are subscribers through November, or about 13 percent of the audience he had when he signed off terrestrial radio.
As dismal as those numbers might appear, the news over at XM is far worse when looking at the number of subscriptions its highest-profile morning team is generating. According to the Bridge survey, only about 3 percent of XM subscribers join to hear Opie & Anthony, who are now back on free radio in several markets across the country. Even though what you’ll hear from O&A on stations like talk WKRK-FM (97.1) is the censored version of what XM can run, it doesn’t appear that consumers are too worried about what they might be missing from the duo’s XM feed.
While there was some good news from XM this week with General Motors Corp. estimating that it will install 1.8 million XM radios in its 2007 vehicles, just putting the radios in new cars might not be enough to sustain either XM or Sirius as separate companies in the long run. Although I personally still enjoy the product, the rumblings will likely grow louder for some kind of merger if consumer demand continues to trend lower than what it has been in the past.
Maybe we should say, “Hoho-uh-oh ...”
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There’s only 15 days until Christmas, and I’ll betcha most fans of Detroit radio wouldn’t mind seeing the Dick Purtan & Purtan’s People 2007 calendar under the tree. Available now at 70 area Kroger stores, the calendar sells for $12 with proceeds benefiting Children’s Hospital of Michigan as part of classic Top 40 WOMC-FM’s (104.3) annual “Christmas is for Kids” campaign.
Each month features the gang pictured in seasonally appropriate garb and situations (my personal fav is April’s “flowers”). There also are coupons at the bottom of each month’s page.
And calendar owners will find that planning for the 20th anniversary of Dick’s Salvation Army Radiothon to benefit the Bed and Bread Club is made easy with a note on the event’s scheduled date, Feb. 23. Last February, Purtan helped raise $1,808,440, a total that will be tough to top unless plans to contribute are made now. In this season of giving, why not set aside something to help out our community when the call goes out in two months?
I know that Mr. Purtan is very modest about his role in raising all this money every year. Could there be a better way for us to show our appreciation for all he’s done these two decades than to help set a new record for the 20th anniversary radiothon?
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That was just an example of one of my favorite things about radio, which is the medium’s ability to reach out and help those in need. News-talk WJR-AM (760) is continuing a holiday tradition of its own by assisting Volunteers of America Michigan with an on-air “Adopt-A-Family” drive with the goal of adopting 2,500 families throughout Michigan, which will include more than 10,000 children and 200 seniors.
A donation of $140 provides toys and warm clothes for the children and food for the family’s Christmas dinner. Even if you are unable to afford the $140, other donations are still encouraged. To help, call (248) 353-4VOA through Dec. 24.
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Radio listeners in the northeast part of Oakland County can enjoy listening to Christian WMPC-AM (1230) from Lapeer. On Dec. 6, WMPC celebrated its 80th birthday, making it one of the oldest radio stations in the country. WMPC has featured essentially the same format since it hit the air in 1926, and it’s also always been commercial-free, supported by listener donations. Who says radio can’t be a stable business?
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Set your dial: Charlie O’Brien will play “A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector,” one of the top rock Christmas albums of all time, in its entirety starting at 11 a.m. today on oldies CKWW-AM (580). Originally released in 1963, the LP features Christmas classics by the Crystals, the Ronettes, Darlene Love and Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans. It just wouldn’t be the holidays without hearing Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” the Crystals’ “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” or “Sleigh Ride” by the Ronettes ... XM will air “Radio Hanukkah,” featuring Jewish music and culture, from Dec. 15-23 on its Channel 108 ... A special program of holiday music featuring Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians is this week’s focus on “Somewhere in Time,” airing at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5).
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Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.