Satellite radio jockeys for Canucks
With the imminent launch of satellite radio here, both Sirius Canada and direct competitor XM Canada are prepping their troops for battle. This week, in a move that coincides with their programming grid launch in Canada, XM in the U.S. plans to trump Sirius with, well, Donald Trump in its first product placement deal on tonight's episode of The Apprentice.
On this side of the border, XM is trumpeting its programming lineup -- Sirius unveiled theirs two weeks ago -- and of note is the former's announcement of an NHL channel, called Home Ice, that promises to broadcast 1,000 games per season. 'Advertisers would be interested in this as it's all original content. We've invested a lot in it and, for the beer brands for example, it makes sense,' says XM's VP of programming Ross Davies. The real winners in this war?
With the imminent launch of satellite radio here, both Sirius Canada and direct competitor XM Canada are prepping their troops for battle. This week, in a move that coincides with their programming grid launch in Canada, XM in the U.S. plans to trump Sirius with, well, Donald Trump in its first product placement deal on tonight’s episode of The Apprentice.
On this side of the border, XM is trumpeting its programming lineup — Sirius unveiled theirs two weeks ago — and of note is the former’s announcement of an NHL channel, called Home Ice, that promises to broadcast 1,000 games per season. ‘Advertisers would be interested in this as it’s all original content. We’ve invested a lot in it and, for the beer brands for example, it makes sense,’ says XM’s VP of programming Ross Davies. The real winners in this war?
‘Mostly males, 25-54, affluent early adopters,’ says Davies, naming satellite’s bullseye demo. ‘And with all the specialized content available, satellite is going to build tremendous loyalty.’
Despite restrictions allowing only six minutes per hour of advertising on talk stations, and music channels remaining commercial free, it’s still good news for advertisers, according to industry folk. David Bray, SVP of Toronto-based Hennessy & Bray Communications, says advertisers should be proactive and get involved early with sponsorships and branding programs.
‘Now is the time when the opportunities are the greatest in terms of innovative approaches. Advertisers can participate in the talk stations, sports or comedy. Comedy by the way is one of the most popular [genres with] broad demographic appeal. Sports has a very fixed target group – and there are those that are rabidly passionate about it.’
Sirius’ competition to XM’s Home Ice is The Score. Sports fans will be able to tune in to game play-by-play broadcasts, the latest scores and stats, and many of The Score’s prime time television personalities, such as Greg Sansone, Steve Kouleas, and Sid Seixeiro.
Peter Smith, VP of marketing for Score Media, says The Score has sponsorship and radio spot opportunities. He sees satellite radio as an extension of The Score‘s TV, Web site and new Score Mobile properties, with the possibilities of taking advertisers across all platforms.
He adds: ‘We could begin a program on radio and extend it on TV and on thescore.ca through blogging and [other] interactive activities- and integrate brands throughout the circle so it doesn’t seem too intrusive.’
‘It reminds me of the beginning of specialty,’ says Kevin Shea, departing CEO of Sirius Canada. He also predicts a number of sponsorship opportunities arising from satellite, though advertisers here will demand ‘show me your listeners, show me your numbers first,’ he says.
In the U.S., the numbers are showing. XM has more than five million subscribers with Sirius having just over two million.
‘At this point [Canadian] consumers have heard of satellite radio but they haven’t yet been given a reason to listen and subscribe,’ opines Cynthia Fleming, executive VP at Carat Canada. ‘Satellite radio [companies] need to improve their marketing efforts. To date the only thing newsworthy about satellite radio content is that Howard Stern is not being carried in Canada.’
Indeed, Christmas promotions for satellite radios (suitable for home, car, boat, etc.) at consumer electronics retailers have just been announced and incentives such as free sub-trials in order to increase subscriber base here will likely abound. Plus, as cars get replaced the installed base will grow automatically. Select 2006 models of GM cars will have XM already installed, and Sirius will come with some Chrysler and Ford models. Shea says: ‘By the end of 2006, every car will have satellite radio built in.’
‘I think the more people try it, the more it will grow exponentially,’ Davies adds.
As for casualties? ‘It might mean the demise of AM,’ cautions Shea. ‘I’m also predicting that there will be mergers of local radio stations. Someone’s going to have to cover local content. This is where the gap will occur.’
Davies doesn’t see it that way. ‘Terrestrial radio won’t be lost. Satellite’s just offering another option, another service available to consumers.’